I’m sharing with you my meditations from Christmas Eve and Day the day after Christmas because if you’re like me you won’t remember a word the preacher said and just want a long winter nap.
So, for both of us, a chance to reflect on what yesterday meant for us.
Christmas Eve Mediation- The End of Childhood?
My friend called me last week and said she and her husband were coming close to having the conversation. The big conversation.
Which big conversation?
The one about the big guy in red with their 5 year old.
I didn’t envy her one bit, that was not going to be a good conversation. Though as I’ve heard about other conversations from friends usually the conversation happened when their child came home from school and they heard one of their friends say something or their older brother or sister had told them and the news was met with disbelief, tears or with some a “I already knew that” kind of attitude.
I’ve seen this conversation being labeled with things as like: the end of innocence, the end of childhood and the end of believing in dreams. That is a lot of emotional blackmail all piled up on that particular belief.
It brought about the conversation with my friends with kids about whether or not it matters how you celebrate Christmas. Talking about it most of our thoughts initially were that some of those ways of celebrating Christmas that we just talked about were harmless fun, that we could just immerse ourselves in and teach our kids about. But then we really started asking if these things are simply harmless fun then why the tears and the emotional scarring and the “end of childhood” when all of these beliefs are revealed for what they are-sparkly on the outside but with no real substance, kind of like a wrapped Christmas present with nothing inside.
But for us adults I’ve been listening on the radio about how we should celebrate Christmas and I keep hearing phrases like the “most wonderful,” “most magical” and “most decadent” time of the year. If we try to celebrate every Christmas as if it is the most wonderful time of the year what do we do with the rest of the 364 days or we wonder what kind of magic are we suppose to be producing or watching for and if it is the most decadent that leads to some of the more sinful indulgences that are usually associated with an office holiday party and a little too much spiked egg nog. Is that how Christmas or this strange and vague and amorphous thing called “Happy Holidays” should be celebrated?
Maybe… how you are celebrating this holiday season really is a reflection of what you are celebrating just like the perpetual frown on the Grinch’s face was a reflection of his heart being an empty hole, a brain full of spiders and garlic in his soul.
That is a disturbing thought that means maybe some of the ways we are suppose to be celebrating this holiday season is really a reflection of an empty hole filled with garlic flavored spiders.
So, what is a guilt inducing man in red that produces the end of childhood and emotional blackmail really a reflection of? Or for the life of them, when I seriously ask my friends what exactly they are celebrating that is the most wonderful, magical and decadent they honestly cannot say and quickly change the topic with a reindeer joke.
Like the presents we will be opening, maybe tonight, most tomorrow and during the week, the wrapping and ribbons and bows look pretty on the outside but what is on the inside?
This week we got a FB post with a helpful Christmas tip to keep your kids in line this Christmas. Wrap a couple of empty boxes with Christmas paper and bows and put their name on them. If they are misbehaving take the empty wrapped box with their name on it and throw it on the fire in the fireplace.
If any of you do that, I will find out and I will know, just like Santa Claus. Unfortunately for the kid’s childhood you just ruined, all of that pretty wrapping and ribbons and bows leads you to believe that there is something really special on the inside when it turns out to be nothing at all. Seriously talk about emotional blackmail and the end of childhood!
But it’s really what’s inside the box that matters not the wrapping on the outside. (That is a lesson all of us need to learn, sooner rather than later).
What’s inside your Christmas present this year? There are many things you can fill the box with including nothing at all, but let me suggest you start with the first Christmas present ever given a long time ago in a stable in the hay. It may be one of the oddest Christmas presents you have ever seen. There is no wrapping or bow, ribbon or string. This present doesn’t look like much at all and many would simply walk away from this present because it’s not shiny on the outside but kind of smelly in that stable filled with animals. But while that very first Christmas present might not look like much on the outside, like we’re learning, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. If we listen to the message that the angels sing and the shepherds hurry to tell and the wise men come from afar to share we might begin to see that the inside of this present is more than we could ever imagine. This nothing to look at present in the hay is born the very love of God and that gazing upon the face of the baby Jesus we are seeing God and can know God and the great love that God has for us by receiving in faith this Jesus born on Christmas day. This hope filled present has for some 2,000 years given humanity a real reason to celebrate, a reason that when god’s love fills your own life it changes everything on the inside, on the outside and forever.
If that is who you are celebrating this Christmas, the very gift of God’s amazing unending love given for you so you can be filled with that love and give that love, if you are celebrating Jesus this Christmas inside that Christmas present then that changes how you are going to celebrate Christmas on the outside.
Think of it this way. If you were going to wrap Jesus Christ to be given again to yourself and to the people you love how would you wrap God’s love? Would you wrap God’s love with emotional blackmail and trauma inducing men in red? Or will you wrap Jesus with spiked egg nog and the decadence akin to a holiday office party or with expensive tinsel and paper that will not last?
I don’t think so. How will you wrap God’s love? How will you celebrate Christmas rightly if you are celebrating Jesus. It will be with the love that comes from above in honest and real ways that show others how much they are loved by God. Wrapped with prayer and worship, love and Christian compassion. Decorated with kindness and filled with the Good News that God loves you so much that He gave you Jesus to save you from your brokenness and give to you a life with Him that never ends.
How will you celebrate Christmas tomorrow and all year round? It matters, because it is a reflection of what you are celebrating. Celebrate Jesus. +++
Christmas Day Meditation– You Are Beautiful this Christmas
It was after a Sunday morning service that a stranger to the congregation visiting that Sunday walked through the greeting line in the back with tears in her eyes told me that I was a beautiful, beautiful man and thanked me as she hurried out the door.
It’s really easy to say that I had absolutely no idea what to do with that one. Never been called that before, certainly consider myself “beautiful” and felt kind of weird receiving that compliment.
Because that simply does not describe me or much that I see.
I’ve walked around a lot this Christmas in my town and drove around our streets here looking for something beautiful this Christmas. Because I seem to be missing it honestly. When I keep hearing how wonderful and beautiful this season is and when you don’t feel it inside you start to wonder if maybe I’m missing something, or if something is wrong with me or maybe it’s out there somewhere and I didn’t see it yet. So, I’ve spend a lot of time looking for something beautiful this Christmas. I saw a lot of pretty things because that’s one of the definitions of beautiful, aesthetically pleasing.
I saw some aesthetically pleasing brightly colored lights and tasteful decorations (I also saw some that were seizure inducing and just plain ugly). I saw poinsettias and Christmas holly and berry, fireplaces with roaring fires warming stockings hung above. I saw people dressed as Santa and pretty elves and I also chuckled when I saw some terrified children not wanting anything to do with that while their parents forced them on the poor guy’s lap. I saw some really pretty trees that just glowed with holiday cheer. While all of these things were pretty and sweet and had a beauty about them I didn’t find anything beautiful in the lights and decorations.
I think that’s because while something that is pleasing to the eye can be considered beautiful it’s not really a good definition of it at all because the world has many “beautiful” people on the outside who are aesthetically pleasing but then they open their mouths and your see their actions and their is nothing beautiful there at all.
Because something that is beautiful, a much better way of defining it, is that it is good. Not just good like a candy cane is good. But that which is excellent, is right, is holy, that makes other things holy and good. That is what is truly beautiful and you’re not really going to find that in a candy cane, no matter how tasty it is.
So I didn’t find anything beautiful out there this Christmas in the trees and lights crowds (especially when the crowds tried to sideswipe me in the parking lot!) But I also had a hard time finding anything beautiful in here either, that is in me. I know I complain about how grumpy people can get during the holidays and how crazy they can be in the stores when all you just want to get is a can of cranberry sauce and it feels like the apocalypse just happened in Walmart but I haven’t been much better. I know I’ve been grumpy and easily frustrated, I know my words have not always been kind and often I’ve fallen a lot more on the naughty list then the nice. I like to think it’s only the holidays but this is a year long condition for me. I know I’m not alone on that one, sometimes the holidays don’t always bring out the best in us but often the rest of the year doesn’t bring out the best in us either!
That is why when that stranger to shared with me that kindness I knew it really had very little to actually do with me. So, of course, I talked to my wife about it. (she has all the answers) Without a second thought she said, she heard the good news about Jesus that day in your sermon. I couldn’t remember that sermon being any different from any other sermon, but I know that is how God’s Word works. I’m simply the waiter delivering the meal it is Jesus who has bought, made and prepared the meal and it is His touch that someone feels when they taste the goodness of what God has prepared. Then she reminded of this passage from Isaiah 52.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
There really isn’t all that much beautiful about feet. Especially thinking of the feet in this passage without shoes or socks or showers or pedicures but covered in dirt and sand and animal dung, these would not be pretty feet but they were beautiful because what they carried was beautiful.
So I couldn’t find anything beautiful on the outside and I couldn’t find anything beautiful on the inside this Christmas but I did find that which is truly beautiful right in these words “For today is born in the city of David, our savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The message of God’s salvation in Jesus born on Christmas day, born to make us holy and save us from our sins. Jesus is the beauty of Christmas and Jesus makes us beautiful.
We who are bearers of the beautiful message of the Christmas story, today, tomorrow, all year long, we might struggle to find something beautiful on the outside and the inside but it doesn’t change that God makes us beautiful because we Jesus Christ is born in us in faith and dwells within us and covers us from all of our less than beautiful ways.
Jesus is the beauty in Christmas and you are beautiful because of Jesus this Christmas and all year long.