Christmas


Merry Christmas to all!!  May we all celebrate the irrationality of the season and allow the bright and wild blossoms of love to unfurl within us!

This has been an interesting Advent/Christmas season for me.  As people came to our house during Advent, the huge Jesse tree always became a topic of conversation.   Friends and acquaintances had a tough time wrapping their minds around what we are doing with this rather large bundle of twigs and branches on our kitchen table.  More than a few, however, when we explained that we were reading through the Scriptures with our family in order to see the waiting, longing, and need for a Messiah, thought it was pretty neat.  (What I found interesting is that those who would not claim to be followers of Jesus found it more intriguing than those who were.  Perhaps, there is a certain numbness that comes within any religious circles…we think we already know the story, so why would we have to read it over and over, year after year?)

But whatever sort of responses I got to our Advent activities, it was nothing compared to trying to explain that Christmas is a season and not just a day…and that we would not be opening presents on Christmas Day (although we did a few little ones) but rather spreading them out through the whole 12 days to celebrate the Incarnation.  All around as we’ve seen people at church, the grocery store, or our neighborhood, the question we consistently get is “what did you get for Christmas?  what was your favorite  present?”  (I am a little cheeky and so I want to answer that I got Jesus – God with Us – for Christmas…but I’ve restrained myself!!)  I am simply getting used to explaining the 12 days of Christmas and getting some glassy-eyed stares and polite smiles!

However, I do have a favorite present from this year (and I know it will remain my favorite even though there are still presents under the tree to be opened.)

This last year we have been trying to teach our children about how to handle money and so we’ve helped them come up with a system of giving, long term savings, and short term savings (ie. spending).   All year long they have added up each of these categories and kept a record of them…and watched their money increase.   They had to give at least 10% to giving, but our daughter, who was born with the gift of generous giving, almost consistently put between 35 and 50% into her giving category!!  Not bad for a 12 year old!!!)

A few weeks ago, the World Vision catalog arrived at our house and as our children went through it, they became giddy with excitement.  They realized that they could buy goats, chickens, clothing, soccer balls…really whatever…for people in other parts of the world!!!  They had the money and they set out to write their “Christmas List” of what they wanted to do with their giving money.  ( In fact, we had a birthday party for our son a week or so ago and he asked that instead of gifts people could give him money toward his World Vision fund!)

So on the 23rd we went down to World Vision’s headquarters (we live very nearby) in order to give the money.  We stopped by the bank beforehand, pulled out the cash for each kid and gave it to them in an envelope to carry.  As we walked in to the lobby, both of our children were bubbling over with excitement!!    They both ran up to the counter and announced that they had money they wanted to give and they wanted to “buy” things from the catalog!!  I think the little lady sitting behind the desk was a little overwhelmed!

What insued over the next 20 minutes or so brought tears to my eyes.  Our children deliberated and calculated just how best to spend their money.  They agonized over where the money would go and even verbalized that they felt like they didn’t enough to give as much as they wanted to.  They knew the money was God’s but they wanted it to be used to the “most it could be”.  Then they gladly marched up to the counter, told the lady what they wanted to “buy”, gladly handed over their money and walked away with a huge grin on their faces!!

THAT was my best gift!!  I don’t even think I need any others.  To watch my children give generously and so gladly fills my heart!!  To see them want to give money for Kingdom Work is a part of my desire for them.  To get to be present as they experience the joy of giving to God is priceless!!

Later we walked through World Vision’s visitor center where our hearts were torn by the immense poverty and needs in this world and the hope that some followers of Jesus are just audacious enough to bring into dark places.   And I asked God, then and there, to not only let my kids know the joy of giving money to His work around the world, but to take them there as well, letting them participate firsthand in how these monies are making a difference in the lives of people.

Although the rest of the world celebrates the turn of the year, I am trying to remain in the reality that a new year began back on the first Sunday of Advent.

Although the rest of the world is ready to move on, clean up the Christmas decorations, try to get back to life as usual, the Christian calendar reminds me that I am still in a season of celebration.  I am trying not to “move on” but rather like Mary to “ponder all these things in my heart” or like the shepherds, remain “amazed at all I have seen and heard”.

I wonder what that first week was like for Mary and Joseph.  Did they find themselves staring at this Baby and remembering angels’ words, reatives’ reactions and the long journey they had traveled – both physically and emotionally?

And then, perhaps when it was time to return to “life as usual”, they take this new Baby up to the Temple.  In an act of getting back to “normal life”, they take the Child to be circumcised and to name Him Jesus.  It was a “normal ” action for every Jewish boy, but this day would not remain normal.  Instead, it would recapitulate them back in to the wonder and celebration.

<Read Luke 2:25-38>

Both Simeon and Anna remind me that because of this Story – because of this Child – I cannot ever fully move on and go back to normality.  Everything has begun to change.  An old man’s eyes have seen God’s salvation for all peoples.  In the tiny body of this Baby is found “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel”.

Then he is joined by an old woman, rejoicing and giving thanks, who can’t stop talking about this Child.  She takes me back into celebration and reminds me not to move too quickly away from rejoicing and giving thanks too soon.

So it is my/our challenge – to remain in this season of celebration for a few more days.  While the rest of the world moves on to “buisines as usual”, I am called to remain in a state of awe and wonder, rejoicing and thanksgiving, pondering and treasuring.  This is tough work.  This is the great privilege of those of us who follow this wonderous and amazing Child.

While many of us participated in some sort of shopping escapade in the jam-packed malls and almost vicious parking lots, perhaps we who follow an “alternative” calendar would do well to add “Boxing Day” as part of the celebration of Christmas.  Instead of December 26th being a “shopping-frenzy holiday”, perhaps we could participate in a generous giving…

What is Boxing Day?

“There seems to be two theories on the origin of Boxing Day and why it is celebrated. The first is that centuries ago, on the day after Christmas, members of the merchant class would give boxes containing food and fruit, clothing, and/or money to trades people and servants. The gifts were an expression of gratitude much like when people receive bonuses, from their employer, for a job well done, today. These gifts, given in boxes, gave the holiday it’s name, “Boxing Day”.

The second thought is that Boxing Day comes from the tradition of opening the alms boxes placed in churches over the Advent season. The contents thereof which were distributed amongst the poor, by the clergy, the day after Christmas”

Some practical ideas:

Operation Christmas Child – brings hope and joy to children across the world with gift-filled shoeboxes

Shoebox Ministry – collecting and distributing personal hygiene kits to the homeless in the Greater Phoenix area

Keep shoebox (or Kleenex box) for collecting all the spare change you have in your pockets or wallets during the Advent Season.  After Christmas, donate it to a charity of your choice.

After the Christmas season, box up all those extra toys, clothes, and stuff you don’t use anymore and take it to a Goodwill or local thrift store that benefits the community.

Brainstorm with your family, kids, friends and community and come up with some way to fill a box to bless someone else.  (Post them in the comments to share with us all!!)

_mg_5733

I woke up this morning to a quiet house, which is a true sign that our children really are growing up!! We have gone from the “younger” years of them waking us up far too early on Christmas morning to now when we all wake up at relatively the same time. I am sure there will be a day when David and I will have to actually go into their rooms to wake them up and drag them out of bed!!

So, as I lay in bed, I was thinking about the past season of Advent and this new season of Christmas. I pondered how we are now shifting our focus from a time of listening and waiting into a time of jubilant celebration. I prayed that God would help me to celebrate all 12 days of this Christmas season with full joy and delight, and not move on too quickly into a working season.

As I lay there the Spirit brought to mind 2 words: ABOUT and WITH. He reminded me that during Advent I listened to a lot of stories “about” God and His interaction with the Israelites. I thought a lot “about” Him and wrote poems or created slideshows “about” Him. But in this season of celebration, He wants something different from me. He wants me to celebrate “with” Him. He wants me to practice His presence in each present moment – not looking back to the past nor moving into the future. He wants a “with-ness” with me.

So for the next 12 days, by the power (and reminder) of the Spirit, I want to practice that “with” in everything I do. After all, it is the very celebration of God-with-Us that we enter into.

Jesus, thank you for entering our world by the name “God-with-Us”. Would You teach me what it is to celebrate that? Would you enter into all my daily activities – my time with my kids, friends, husband, and all I have to do – and remind me of Your immediate Presence there. And when I remember Your “with-ness”, may it cause me to celebrate all the more!!

This is what we will read together each evening around our dinner table…

Christmas Evening Prayer

Yours is the day, O Lord, Yours also is the night….

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,

And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Call to Celebrate (Psalm 24)snow07

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.

He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.

Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Selah

Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Selah

Stories _mg_4266-copy

Luke 2

Each night unwrap a book and read it together as a family

Song (Psalm 148)

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all stars of light!
Praise Him, highest heavens,
And the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.
He has also established them forever and ever;
He has made a decree which will not pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
Sea monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills;
Fruit trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and winged fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and virgins;
Old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above earth and heaven.
And He has lifted up a horn for His people,
Praise for all His godly ones;
Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him.
Praise the LORD!

Blessing

img_0043Sweet Jesus, King of glory!

Now You sleep in a manger, in a stable poor and cold;

But for us You are the highest King, making our hearts into Your palace.

This season is born Jesus, Son of the King of glory.

This season is born to us the root of our joy.

This season unites heaven and earth together.

This season was born Christ, the King of greatness.

Here is a great resource for daily readings.  They are adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.

(I will post our Christmas Evening Prayer in a day or two.)week1-32

CLICK HERE

Next Page »