Tag Archives: Christmas

Days 22 & 23: What IS the Real Meaning?

Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!

Luke 2:12
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Wow!  I cannot believe there are only two days left until Christmas!  It is finally snowing here in Michigan and quite beautiful!  This has been quite the journey towards Christmas for me with this blog.  It sure has brought me back to the basics and I have learned many things.  Today we discuss the star and the manger, two items which can be easily traced back to the birth of Jesus.  The star of course led the wise men and the shepherds straight to the place were the King lay in the hay.  The star plays an important role in Christmas in the meaning we all need something to lead us where we are going, now that Jesus has been born, we no longer need a star to guide us, we need the Holy Spirit.  The manger was the most humblest of beginnings for a King but it shows that no matter where we begin, God has great plans for us.

What are you following?  Are you following the star still in search of Jesus?  Have you yet to come to the realization that He is calling you to journey with Him?  Those who were following the star back then really had no clue to what there were headed for.  They were seeking because of a story that God would send us a savior who shall save us from sin.  We today already have seen the miracles which have occurred because of this wonderful birth in Bethlehem.  Today our focus should be on Jesus, not the star if we have been led to accept Him as our Savior.  If we are still searching for Jesus in our lives perhaps we are not on the narrow road where we should be.  Jesus is in love with us and He desires for us to know the Father, therefore, we need to keep our eyes on Him alone and focus on doing what He is showing us to do for others.

Can you imagine being born in the middle of a stable and being placed in a manger?  How strange it must have been in all respects, yet I am sure Mary and Joesph were just fine with the idea, after all they knew God was behind all of this.  If God wanted His only son to be born in a palace then He would have done so.  If God’s desire was a house or a tent, then too it would have happened.  No, God chose a stable.  A humble beginning for such a great King, yet any other place just would not have made much sense in the way God works.

So as I begin to wrap up this blog series, I realize that from the moment I stopped following the star and chose Jesus to be in my heart forever, things changed.  Even though I was young when I found Jesus, I began to have an urgency for decency in my life.  I wanted my life to mean something and I wanted to do good for others.  Sure my journey has had its’ ups and downs, yet they have all been worth it.  As now my focus has purely begun to dwell on Jesus, I see more clearly than ever why Jesus was born in a manger.  We start out just a humble as our King and He is calling us to greatness.  He is choosing us to be overcomers and this means even in the realm of understanding what His original agenda is for everything.

What I mean by agenda is simple this:  do we really think God intended for Christmas, which is suppose to be a celebration of the birth of His Son, to be this big of an event?  With all of the hustle and bustle do we really have our focus in the right place?  Sure we have followed the star to the manger but what have we done since we arrived?  Wow, that bore heavy in my spirit just now.  Have we really filled the call that is upon our lives? Have we truly sought out a Savior or is He just a way out of our troubles?  I urge us all to stop following the star and pause for a moment at the manger to discover what the real meaning of Christmas is to us.

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Days 19, 20 and 21: What IS the Real Meaing of Christmas?

Presents, Presents, Presents!

1 Peter 4:10
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

As once again I find myself behind in posting, I am choosing to use these three days to speak out about presents and gifts.  Partially responsible for the insanity of the season, gifts take us through many journeys this time of year.  We go from store to store looking for just the perfect gifts to give to those awesome people in our lives.  Then of course we have the lists of “have to get gifts” which sometimes leads to temporary insanity because we are at a loss as to what to get.  When we feel obligated to buy for certain people just because they are on a list, the presents lose their value.  And of course what about those who just want a few things and are very difficult to buy for?

Every year we spend more and more time and money getting just the right items for people.  We want to make things bigger and better than the year before.  We did this with our two children.  As we struggled under our circumstances, we never did much for our children throughout the year so we felt like we had to make up for it on Christmas.  We spent our bonuses and our last paychecks before Christmas going all out so there would be a spectacular display on Christmas morning only to have Santa Claus get all the glory and be broke for months afterwards.  We would spend hours wrapping and taping and usually ended up getting into an argument which led to me wrapping by myself and laying my head on the pillow just as the first kid was getting up in excitement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Christmas.  The look of amazement on the faces of my children just made me all warm and fuzzy inside. We always had cinnamon rolls right out of the oven for breakfast and then we started the unwrapping one by one only for it to be over in a matter of less than a half hours time.  I still to this day feel like I can never get enough for my kids yet I have come to realization that they never loved us for the gifts and more than anything they probably just wanted our time and love.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that we cannot make up love with gifts.  Getting things for people is fun when it is done out of love not obligation.  We spent money trying to make up for the lack of the year only to find our children losing interest quickly in the “gotta have it” toys as they moved quickly on to the “next best thing” and they began to look forward to their birthdays.  Christmas in our house was about the magic of Santa and the pursuit of temporary happiness while in the background we were losing out on so much more.  My kids would have been happier with us spending time playing family games or reading books but because we felt guilty from not getting them things during the year, we over compensated.

This year as I am getting back to the basics, I told my now teenage children, there was not going to be much as finances were truly tight.  This year there is no bonus and it’s just me and things are tight.  I told the kids I would only be getting a few things and you know what? They are okay with that.  It isn’t always about getting material things, sometimes it is just knowing there is love involved and that you have not forgotten about them that matters the most.  I do not have many to buy for this year and I am choosing not to put myself into debt over gifts and presents.  Sometimes the greatest gifts are in what we can give when we least expect it, something we did even have to plan.  Let me give you an example from a recent event in my life.

My daughter and I were eating a a nearby restaurant and this young family wandered in as they were waiting for the city bus.  As they were coming into the building we overheard someone talking about them and judging purely based on just their appearances.  It was a set of young parents walking with a little bundle of joy in a stroller in Michigan in the cold.  The mom had to finish her cigarette before coming into the restaurant and this seemed to bother the people behind us. As I tried to ignore the ramblings of this group of people, I felt God laying on my heart to give this family some money as they looked to be in need.  Funny part is that someone had blessed me just that very morning and I was rather tickled that God wanted me to bless this family.

I took a money from my wallet and wrapped in this paper I had received recently from a visit to a live nativity that said, “Your debt has been paid in full, Jesus paid the price” and I walked over and told them this might seem strange but I felt they needed this. I handed them the gift I had for them and walked out the door telling them to have a Merry Christmas.  While we were driving away I prayed for the little family and my daughter could see them sitting in the lobby and told me that she thought the mom was crying.  With tears in my eyes I continued to pray.  I knew in my heart, that I was honoring God in that very moment.  I knew He provides for those who love Him and He will make a way for this family.  I also was reminded that in my deepest times of trouble during the holidays I was always grateful when God sent strangers into my life to help.

So this year as I have minimized the craziness of the Christmas season and am discovering what it really means, I am seeing that gift giving is a powerful way to connect others to the real reason, we have just taken it too far.  I encourage you to look at your Christmas list and evaluate it with the perspective of:  Are you really giving out of love?  Perhaps you too give out of guilt like we did for years.  Maybe some of the people on the list are just out of obligation.  Whatever the reason is for your giving, I pray God will show you His way of giving gifts and usually those are very unexpected.

 

Days 17 & 18: What IS the Real Meaning?

Christmas Cookies and Cards

Proverbs 15:30
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.

I find it funny the Lord brings me to these two items today as we are continuing our journey to discover the real reason we celebrate Christmas, especially with the verse He led me to post.  Sorry I missed posting yesterday but with work and some things I needed to do, I simply ran out of time.  Anyway, cookies and cards are very important ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I personally love getting cards in the mail and well, I have never a met a cookie I could say no to.  I have for the past several years made card lists and bought cards to give to my friends and family.  I make a unique angel ornament every year also to attach to the cards, however, this year I have done neither.  Not sure why, perhaps too busy and then this digging deeper into the real meaning of Christmas has just brought me to a place of resting in Him and not getting over worked with the tediousness of the holiday season.  But just as I am NOT making angel type gifts, God gave me one yesterday.

A friend of mine has been inviting me to a live nativity which her church puts on every year and I always seem to have to work.  I went this year and it took my daughter and I down a journey much like the path Mary and Joesph would have traveled so many years ago.  The tour highlighted so many of things I have already discovered through this blog.  Of course the tour ended at the stable with Mary and the baby.  Tears filled my eyes as I reflected on that wonderful birth and as we made our way to leave they handed us each a card and a gift.  As I unwrapped my gift I discovered an angel ornament wrapped inside.  Mine said Faith and my daughters said Hope.  How appropriate God would give us such gifts?

I think with the cards and cookies we give during the holiday season, we can open the doors to faith and hope.  With every Christmas card sent out or handed to someone, there is faith in God that we are giving hope to someone else.  I know the cards and cookies cannot be traced back to the birth, however it is a fitting gesture in a modern day senario.  God wants us to share our faith so that hope can begin to rise up and conquer the fears which have plagued this world.  What if we all sent out one or two extra cards this year to random people that maybe we picked out of a phone book?  Possible it could make a difference?  Reaching out is something we should be doing as Christians and I can almost bet you if I was not a Christian and received a card from someone, I would pay attention.

Not sure if I will get to any cards this year for my regular list, however I think I will make time to send a card or two out to someone God leads me to.  So as you are baking your special cookies and sealing the cards this year, remember to add a little faith and hope to all you do.  As we get closer to the end of our journey towards the real meaning of Christmas I think these will be very important aspects.

Day 9: What IS Christmas Really About?

HOLLY: Holly is an extremely hardy shrub that can be grown in all fifty states of the United States, making it one of the few plants that can withstand temperatures from 110 degrees F to – 40 degrees F. The four hundred species of holly, ranging from dwarf holly plants six inches high to huge holly trees seventy feet tall, are native to all the continents except Antarctica and Australia. Holly plants are noted for their attractive red berries and glossy, sharp-toothed green leaves which remain on the plant year round. The holly bush represents immortality, a trait that God has given to each human being. We are all destined to live forever, either with the Lord or separated from Him. The sharp-toothed edge of the holly leaf reminds Christians of the crown of thorns with which the soldiers mocked Our Lord during His Passion. They laughingly hailed Him as king, never realizing that He is, indeed, King of the universe. As a Christmas symbol, the red holly berry represents Christ’s blood, shed for all people including those who reject Him.

We have arrived at day nine of our Christmas journey and we have discovered holly,  I love the look of holly and it’s red berries.  I love that I fell upon this story of its’ meaning because it fits nicely into the Christmas picture.  Even though not originally in the birth story, it has a nice way of fitting in.  I really enjoy the ending which states His blood was shed for all people for this leads me back to yesterday when we discussed how we should be helping those shunned by society.

God sent His son so that all shall live and none have to perish.  If, however we are not spreading the gospel or living lives according to God’s purpose in our lives, then how is everyone going to know Jesus died for our sins?  So many people feel there is no way out of the messes they are in.  So many lost and hungry sheep to be led back to green pastures.  Why not take this Christmas season and talk about what Jesus did for all of us, let’s not wait until it is Easter time.

We as Christians are called to spread the Good News to everyone we meet.  Why not start a conversation in the grocery line or at the bank?  There are several opportunities daily when a Jesus conversation can be sparked and some times it can start by just talking about what you are thankful for.  So this Christmas I feel God is trying to get our focus off from the “stuff” of Christmas and towards the real reason we even have a holiday to celebrate.  Where would Christmas be without Christ?  Sure we have lots of traditions and ways of celebrating Christmas, but in all reality, it really did start in a manger with a little baby boy named Jesus.

Day 8: What IS Christmas Really About?

Isaiah 61:3
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

As I am beginning to run out of things to check out for their meaning and relation to Christmas, I stumbled upon the Poinsettia plant.  How beautiful the red and green together.  The story I found behind it is also very charming:

Also known as the Christmas Star and Christmas Flower, it’s said that this winter flower’s association with Christmas comes from a Mexican legend. The story goes that a child, with no means for a grander gift, gathered humble weeds from the side of the road to place at the church alter on Christmas Eve. As the congregation witnessed a Christmas miracle, the weeds turned into brilliant red and green flowers.

Named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, first United States ambassador to Mexico and the amateur botanist who introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825, the poinsettia is also known as Mexican Flame Leaf, Winter Rose, Noche Buena and, in Turkey, Atakurk’s Flower, because it was the favorite flower of Atakurk, the founder of modern Turkey.

While considered by the ancient Aztecs to be symbols of purity, in today’s language of flowers, red, white or pink poinsettias, the December birth flower, symbolize good cheer and success and are said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.

The reason behind my picking an Old Testament verse is because as I read this story I was thinking about how God takes something that is often not the prettiest or most desirable and turns it into something beautiful.  As those simple weeds have turned into a wonderful addition to our Christmas decor, so have the multitudes of people God has welcomed into His Kingdom.  By sending His son Jesus to take upon flesh, people were now given the opportunity to accept Him as their Lord and Savior so the great transformations could begin.  Without Jesus, there would be no reason for our hearts to be changed and turned toward heavenly ways.

As I gaze upon the Poinsettia and wonder why it could possibly have been mistaken for a weed, I compare this to our Christian walk and wonder how many are left behind because we as people think they are just “weeds”.  How sad that we did not pick them up and take them to the altar for Jesus to heal.  How many have we just pushed aside or thought someone else can take care of them, it’s not what we were designed for.  We are able because through Christ we have the strength to do all things, so why are we not quick to help the less fortunate, the hurting, the ones shunned by society?

Once again, lots to think about as far as Christmas is concerned, I am glad however that spending a few moments to reflect on a simple symbol of Christmas has caused me to rekindle my compassion for others.  Why not reach out to someone who you thought in your mind that you just could not possibly help?  What if each of just did one act of bringing Jesus into someones life this Christmas season?  What an impact we could make and maybe, just maybe bring Christmas back to reality for someone who has lost the spirit because of being pushed away by society.  Will you join me in this act of reaching out to someone this Christmas?  Maybe it’s a neighbor no one visits or an elderly person in a nursing home.  Perhaps a shut-in from your church.  A teenager who seems separate from the rest.  Maybe you know of a homeless person who just needs a hot meal.  What ever it is, let God lead you to it.  I pray that we each have a Christmas Spirit experience between now and Christmas that would just make baby Jesus smile.

 

Day 7: What IS the Real Meaning of Christmas?

Upon searching out the famous Christmas Stocking and all I found was some traditions for Holland in which they put their shoes out for Santa to fill, some Germans traditions and a few others which all pointed to Santa Claus and not our beloved Jesus.  I then ran across a small article about the Christmas Stockings and I found this info:

STOCKING: The tradition of placing gifts into Christmas stockings come from another tradition regarding Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. In this tradition, the three women who needed dowries in order to be kept from a life of prostitution had hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. When the saint came by to help them, the money that he threw into their house fortuitously landed in the stockings. The tradition of naughty children receiving a lump of coal in their stockings comes from Italy. Because stockings cover our feet, they symbolize our life’s journey. If our journey takes us closer to God, He rewards us with the joys and happiness of eternal life. But if we constantly turn from Him, we will do so in eternity as well. In popular imagination, satan stokes the fires of hell with coal. Hence, coal in the stocking of naughty children is a somber reminder of damnation while the gifts good children receive foreshadow their eternal reward.

I suppose this story fits in better than any other one, however, still wonder why the Christmas stockings are so popular?  In our household we always saved the stockings for last and the children opened them while we prepared for a day of traveling to relatives houses.  We wrapped several little gifts and stuffed them into their stockings,  even the cats and dogs had their own stockings.  It just amazes me how much focus we have placed on such items which do not even pertain to Jesus.

It is time for us who call ourselves followers of Jesus to seriously slow down and take a closer look at our own reasons for celebrating Christmas.  Are we doing it for the children?  Are we spending needless amounts of money on temporary happiness?  Do we try to impress family and friends with our gifts?  Are their persons on our lists that we feel we HAVE to by for out of obligation? How many times did we receive a gift and grumble that we already had three of those or it wasn’t the right color or size?  How much time did we spend on Christmas shopping? How much of that time could have been better used for the advance of the Kingdom or quality time with family and friends?

If God sent His Son to save the world and give us hope, why are we celebrating this birth with stress and over compensation?  Does any of this make sense to anyone else?  I am not at all saying we should not be celebrating this awesome birth, I just think we have it all wrong.  God loves us and in sending us His son, His intentions were to bring lasting happiness, peace, joy, release from sin and happiness like we have never known.  Instead we have made it into this chaotic celebration.  I am sure when He sent Jesus into the world, He did not intend for His people to get carried away with things not of Himself.  As I mentioned in the Black Friday blog, I cannot even imagine how God feels about all the craziness of that day.  People have lost their lives from mere shopping, how does that even fit into Christmas?

I feel we need to get REAL about Christmas and begin to see it for what it really is, a day of hope and joy!  A day to be spent with friends and family.  A day to take a quiet moment and meditate on what God did by sending us His son.  What if you woke up on Christmas morning and everything you had spent hours preparing, the gifts, the stockings and the Christmas tree itself was stolen and all that remained in the rubble was a tiny little ceramic manger with baby Jesus in it?  What would your reactions be?  Anger?  Violation? Despair? Or would you pick up the manger and get on your knees to thank God your family and home is still there?  I know, something to think about but I feel this is the purpose of these blogs, to make us think about what God did the day He sent Jesus to save the world.

Day 5: What IS Christmas Really About?

Matthew 26:28 NLT
for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

1 Peter 2:24 NKJ
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Yes, it is quite obvious that I would not find candy canes per say in the Bible during the time of Jesus’ birth, however I did want to check it out and see why they are such a popular item only during Christmas time.  As I happened upon a neat little story I discovered several meaning for the  candy cane.  I am inserting this into my blog because my paraphrasing would not do it justice.  I will add my two cents in at the end and wrap up my feelings on this wonderful Christmas time treat.

submitted by Laura Witcher Goldstein
One of the most often seen symbols of Christmas is the candy cane. Not only are candy canes used as a sweet Christmastime treat but they are also used for decoration. How did this seasonal candy get its familiar shape, and when did it become part of Christmas tradition?When the practice of using Christmas trees to celebrate Christmas became popular in Europe the people there began making decorations for their trees. Many of the decorations were food items including cookies and candy. The predecesor of our modern candy cane appeared at about this time in the seventeenth century. These were straight, white sticks of sugar candy.

Part of the Christmas celebration at the Cologne Cathedral were pagents of living creches. In about 1670 the choirmaster there had sticks of candy bent into the shape of a shepherd’s crook and passed them out to children who attended the ceremonies. This became a popular tradition, and eventually the practice of passing out the sugar canes at living creche ceremonies spread throughout Europe.

The use of candy canes on Christmas trees made its way to America by the 1800’s, however during this time they were still pure white. They are represented this way on Christmas cards made before 1900, and it is not until the early 20th century that they appear with their familiar red stripes.

Many people have given religious meaning to the shape and form of the candy cane. It is said that its shape is like the letter “J” in Jesus’ name. It is also in the shape of the shepherds’ crook, symbolic of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd” watches over his children like little lambs. It is a hard candy, solid like a “rock”, the foundation of the Church. The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice, and this is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice he made.

Some say the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth. The bold red stripe represents God’s love. The three fine stripes are said by some to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Others say they represent the blood spilled at the beating Jesus received at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

From its plain early beginnings to its familiar shape and color of today, the candy cane is a symbol of Christmas and a reminder of the meaning of the holiday.

So as I would agree with the statements in the article above, one thing I would like to add just for the sake of argument, why don’t we have candy canes all year round if they symbolize the Trinity, the Rock, the healing and the sacrifice?  Should we not be celebrating all of these things in our daily walks not just once every 365 days?  I am again beginning to feel as though we just left poor baby Jesus in that stable and just made our own version of Christmas as we went.  This Christmas maybe we should save a candy cane out and attach it somehow to our refrigerators as a reminder all year long of the significance behind it.  Imagine the conversational piece it will become when your friends and family ask why you have a candy cane on your frig in June.