Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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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.

Day 4: What IS the Real Meaning of Christmas?

The Wreath

When made of evergreen leaves/branches the wreaths symbolize everlasting life with the green color symbolizing hope and new life.

Matthew 12:21
And his name will be the hope of all the world.”

2 Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Day four of my journey into discovering the real meaning of Christmas and I arrive at the Christmas wreath.  Upon some needed research, I again discovered no mention of such an object in the story of the birth of Jesus, but rather a tradition started by the church to teach of the birth of Jesus.  Okay I get this one and I respect its’ purpose, however again I am baffled as to how much us as Christians have put into making Christmas more than what it really is.  I am beginning to feel as though Christmas, though very important as it marks the birth of Christ, has just grown into this mass media production trying to draw our attention instead of towards Jesus, but to see all the flashy things we have made it into.  Once again we arrive at the bigger and better displays.  Does one feel that the bigger the display, the more they love Jesus?  I think not.

I must agree I enjoy the concept the wreath represents because Jesus did indeed come to bring hope to the world and give us new life as we accept Him as our savior.  I also saw in one of the explanations that the wreath symbolizes a ring, infinity, circle of life and commitment.  All these things are true when it comes to Jesus, therefore I feel this wreath has more value in the Christmas of today than perhaps the Christmas lights, but is it what God wants us to see?  Do we really look at a wreath and think of all of these symbols?  No we just see the beauty of it whether it is simple green boughs or adorned with lights and bows.  We simply see it for another symbol of Christmas, yet another item to drag out of storage to place on our doors or over our mantels for a month or so only to be placed back out of sight for the rest of the year.  Should we not celebrate hope and new life year round?

I feel as I am taking this moment in my life to really seek the meaning of Christmas that God is drawing me away from every concept I had of Christmas and showing me the real deal.  I am beginning to feel like we left Jesus laying in a manger and wandered off to make Christmas what we wanted it to be instead of what God purposed it to be from the beginning.  As I am searching for answers God is showing me there is so much more than a donkey, Christmas lights or adorned wreaths.  He is teaching me to appreciate what I have in this life.  He is showing me how far off we are in today’s traditions of Christmas and is calling us back to the manger so we can see this birth for what it truly is, a gift of Hope in a broken world.

Advent Wreath

Further information: Advent Wreath

Since the classical use and symbolism of wreaths, the meaning and representation has taken on differing views, depending on the culture. In Christianity, wreaths are used to prepare for the Advent season or the “coming of Christ.”[6] The first known association with these now modern day wreaths dates back to the Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. In 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern used a wreath made from a cart wheel to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count its approach. For every Sunday of Advent, starting with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, he would put a white candle in the wreath and for every day in between he would use a red candle.[7] The Advent wreath is constructed of evergreens to represent everlasting life brought through Jesus and the circular shape of the wreath represents God, with no beginning and no end. The Advent wreath is now a popular symbol in preparation for the coming of Christ, to mark the beginning of the Christian Church’s year and as décor during the Christmas festivities.

Day 3: What IS Christmas Really About?

The Christmas Lights

“[Jesus, the Light of the World] Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”” John 8:12 NLT

Here on day three (sorry it’s after midnight, however I was busy hanging out with Jesus) I feel compelled to speak about the lights.  As we decorate for Christmas we seem to be obsessed with the lights.  More and more people seem to be in competitions with their neighbors to have the bigger and better displays of the Christmas lights.  We take our children out to see the displays others have up.  Lights come in all shapes and sizes, colors and options, some blink, some stay on constantly, some get really hot, some blow fuses and still others are just a tangled mess.  Now this blog could go in a total different direction if I chose to compare people to Christmas lights but that is not the reason I write.  My focus this 25 days of blogging is to relate Christmas now to the birth of Jesus.

Once again, just like the donkey, there is no mention of “lights” in the telling of the birth of Jesus.  Sure there was the star, and that will be another blog, however, the first mention of lights in Matthew 5:15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  So again, how did Christmas lights get to a place of such importance in our celebration of the birth?  Jesus was born in a stable.  The only light was possibly some candles or a lantern, nothing blinking or colorful.  Nothing flashy or distracting.  Just natural glowing light to surround our King.  Where did we go so wrong?

I remember so many times my mom would spend HOURS trying to untangle lights and find out which one did not work. She would get so angry and frustrated and them hand them over to me and get mad if I couldn’t get them to work either.  What a crazy waste of time!  Why not spend some extra time reading the story of Jesus to your child or making a batch of cookies to take over to the neighbors.  We so needlessly tend to things which in the end are just a source of frustration we begin to lose out on the true meaning of what we are doing in the first place.  Sure the lights are pretty, but what if we spent that much time trying to mend our relationship with God instead?  What if we focused on trying to find the “broken bulbs” in our lives and untangling the twisted messes in our lives?

I truly believe Jesus, the LIGHT of the world would think the Christmas lights are beautiful, but I fear He himself would wonder what it had to do with His humble birth.  I challenge us all to view Christmas lights in a whole new “Light” this Christmas season.  Begin to relate how we can fix our broken bulbs and replace them with more Jesus.  Begin to heal so that our lives will no longer be tangled in sin.  Show others the “brightness” of the Christmas season by simply being who we are in Christ.  Let Christmas “shine” through us instead of outwardly displays of color.  I urge us all to replace the Christmas lights this year with The Light and see if Christmas begins to have more meaning.

Day 1: What IS Christmas Really About?

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!]29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israelforever; his Kingdom will never end!”34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Definition of ANGEL

1a : a spiritual being superior to humans in power and intelligence; especially : one in the lowest rank in the celestial hierarchy

Definition of CELESTIAL HIERARCHY

: a traditional hierarchy of angels ranked from lowest to highest into the following nine orders: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim
So, I have been hemming and hawing about how to start this magical journey to find out what Christmas truly means to me.  I decided to begin from the start and choose an angel as my first picture.  Can you imagine Mary when this awesome angel from God came to visit her in the middle of the night?  I personally have never seen an angel, but what a great sight it must have been.  As I was looking trough a quick search of how many times angels appeared in the Bible I noticed they appear quite frequently.  God uses these wonders to help guide and protect us.  He uses them to protect His people from wrong decisions.  He guides them in end times to show the signs of what will come.  In my eyes angels are pretty essential to our walking it out with the Lord.
As I turn my attention to Christmas, angels are prominent to me in the respect of having the right attitude.  Here is Mary now having to face her family and friends with the news that she is pregnant.  Now imagine if you will having to trust an angel and God that all will be okay, that she will not be persecuted or looked down upon.  Instead she simply states that she is a servant of God and moves forward in faith.  Why can we not be more like that when things arise in our lives?  We lose our jobs and freak out about bills and then Christmas arrives and we have not money.  Do you think this is walking in faith as a servant of the King?  Do we not trust God enough to take care of our every need just as the sparrow?

I feel the lesson to be learned here for me on day one of this journey is simply this, if I am calling myself a servant of the Lord then I must act like one.  I need to cast out all fear and doubt and simply know God is working on my behalf.  I need to further accept that I am a carrier of the Presence of God where ever I go, just like Mary as she carried Jesus in her womb.  How do I get to this point in my life?  Well, for the most part I think I have a good grasp on this concept, I just need to apply it to ALL areas of my life, not just the places where I think I can fit God into.  God should be active and involved in all aspects of my life and it is up to me to choose this for my lifestyle.

So to wrap up lesson one, I will concentrate to see where I need to improve on listening to the voice of God and let Him show me where I need to seek Him more.  I will begin to have more faith in both the little and the small and this faith will go with me to every situation I encounter.  I feel the angel was sent as a great sign to Mary that she will be rewarded for her faith.  We know that we all need more faith because what would happen if an angel appeared to you tonight and spoke into your life something that they outside world would never understand. How would we actually react?  “Okay God, as your servant, I will accept and follow” or “Um I need some time to pray and think this over?”  God is calling each of us to have the faith of Mary and to become great carriers of the presence of Jesus.

 

Knock, Knock

Matthew 7:8
For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Why are we so afraid to knock on doors?  Further more, why are we so fearful of opening doors?  God says for us to knock and ask so we may receive, why do we not?  I know in my situation, I felt as though I did not deserve more than what I already had.  I made the choices I did and well, where I was in any particular moment in time was where I was meant to end up.  So many times we just accept what we have in life instead of searching and opening doors to see what is behind them.  How many times are we missing out of what God might have for us?  He tells us to knock which means it is an invitation of sorts.  Let’s look at this for a moment longer, shall we?

We get to choose our houses, cars, food, furniture and clothes.  There are so many options for lifestyles, however, are we choosing by what we want or what God has for us?  Now I know God knows the desires of our hearts, but sometimes I think it is His protecting nature which prevents us from receiving what would be harmful to us.  How often do we go to God before we purchase major things in our lives?  Do we take the time to be sure it is affordable or what we really want?  Here again is an example of buying just because we want it only to put it in a yard sale later or have to downsize because we really cannot afford it.  What if we let God lead us to our desires?

For me this is a new home.  I feel the last step in over coming my past is a new home, a fresh start and new beginning.  A second chance to prove I can be organized and careful about the things I have been given.  My daddy pretty much bought this trailer I live in.  We have been here for 20 years and it has taken a beating.  Holes in walls.  Missing wall between the kitchen and bathroom.  Smoke stains from the kerosene and 20 years of smoking.  Rips in the carpet.  Broken doors.  Cracked windows.  In need of painting and new floors.  Missing skirting on the outside.  It is just not where I want to be anymore.  I know it may seem selfish but I feel I was left with this mess and do not feel I deserve to be left with the clean up.

I have tried several times to make this place a home again and it just breaks me every time.  I want to just go buy a home and move, leaving this place far behind me, however I know God has a plan.  I have not the finances to move on my own and because of terible credit a loan would be out of the question.  My true desire is to sell my dad’s house and together buy a home where we both can live as my dad is almost 80 and lives in too big of a home for him; yet not large enough for my daughter and I to move into.  If dad was to sell his home we could use it towards a new place.  Not sure if this is God’s plan as well for me, but it sounds good!  I know I need to be patient as God is bringing great order to my life.

As I have grown in my relationship with God I can look back and see all of the doors He has pointed out to me to open.  I also have witnessed the ones He has shut to keep me from harm.  I often wonder where some of these doors will lead me.  Here again I get to choose, yet God is leading me in a particular direction and will certainly open doors where and when necessary.  Do you have doors in front of you which you are hesitant to knock upon?  You want to change careers but feel stuck where you are at because it is what you have chosen? Are you afraid to knock because you are afraid of the changes you may have to make?  If God leads you to a door, knock and open up the possibilities God has for you.  Sometimes God can not move you to the next avenue in your life until you are willing to open some strange doors.  God is knocking with an opportunity, will you open it?

 

The First Black Friday

John 19:28-30

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Death of Jesus

 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

Matthew 27:45
[ The Death of Jesus ] At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.

Okay, after reading the verses for this blog, you may think it strange and maybe I have my holidays mixed up, nope I am using it to make a valid point, trust me!  God showed me something today as I was trying to figure out why this man had a tent set up a day before Thanksgiving in 40 degree weather waiting outside an electronics store in anticipation of a Black Friday sale.  This really got me thinking about Christmas and all the lost truth of the season.  God showed me how our focus is way off base.  This holiday has become nothing more that a materialistic chance to get the best deals for some.  Almost every year a life is lost in the struggle to get the items up for grabs.  How have we gotten to this point when it all started in a manger in a stable in the middle of nowhere?  I just cannot wrap my mind around it.  In fact, some times getting the best Black Friday deal isn’t even for a gift that we are going to give to someone else, but for our own selfish gain.  Sorry if I am offending anyone, but this is what the Holy Spirit is laying on my heart, totally not the direction I had planned to go with this. (funny how that happens)

As I entered the electronics store, only there for information on my daughters ipod, I saw all these fabulous material things everywhere trying to grab for my attention.  As we began down an isle looking for someone to help us, we were approached by a cable television salesperson who graced us with a wonderful spiel about the newest and greatest offer that we should hurry and take advantage of.  I had to stifle a giggle as I quickly explained I had given up television watching 2 and half years ago for lent and have not returned to watching it.  The look on his face and the pause in his speech was priceless and he finally stammered to me that if I ever changed my mind to come check it out and walked away quickly.  Sometimes people just cannot understand my choice not to be controlled by tv and that is okay, I gave it up and God filled it with more of Him and I am excited about that.

Anyways, the point I am trying to convey is that material things cannot be taken with us when we leave.  We spend so much of our times “gathering” things we think we need when in reality we are just filling voids in our lives.  We think sometimes the more we have or the more up-graded our gadget is, the more popular we will become.  We fill our house with things and stuff that later end up in a yard sale after they lose their relevancy in our lives.  As we focus on collecting these material things we lose sight quickly on the importance of the non-things in our lives.  While this man is standing line for the best deal on a television or other gadget, he is missing out on precious time with family and friends.  He might miss an opportunity to make a difference in someones life.  He is missing Thanksgiving dinner which usually entails a gathering of family and friends, a chance to make real memories.  I have never been a fan of Black Friday shopping and pretty sure I never will be,  I just cannot see the sense in waiting in long lines and especially in Michigan where it is usually snowing!

Now I understand for some it is just a thrill, but let us go back to the First Black Friday for a moment and relate it somehow to present times.  On a Friday Jesus died for our sins.  The sky turned black and dark.  The earth shook.  God was showing up in a fury.  He was about to crucify His only Son to save us.  How do we repay this dark day?  By celebrating the birth of this Only Son by spending hours in long lines, traveling miles out of our way, camping out in the snow and spending money just to make someone happy.  How on earth did we make such a wrong turn?  We have lost our focus on Jesus in the process.  Let me make it real for you in my family life.  If you have read my testimony, we struggled financially because our finances went to support my husbands drug addiction and our smoking habits, however Christmas was always spectacular in our home.

We decked the house with shiny trimmings a well decorated tree.  Stockings were always filled with individually wrapped gifts.  Even the pets in the house had stockings. We would spend all night wrapping gifts only to be awakened early so they could be ripped open.  Now my husband felt that since we did not spoil our children throughout the year, we should give over and beyond our expected income to make them happy come Christmas morning.  We spent my entire bonus check every year plus our last two checks combined.  We spent ALOT on gifts for our two children.  They had every new thing out there.  Sure it was fun to them, but let us look behind the scenes for a moment.

Fights broke out between me and my husband every Christmas, I actually began to dread it.  We were broke for weeks afterwards trying to catch up as we borrowed money to get through the weeks.  Really?  Did we stop to think for a moment that all our children really needed was a loving home and a few gifts under the tree?  Every year it got worse and I am thankful now that my children are older and understand the value of the dollar bill.  I am way less stressed and much less broke!  I feel we need to get back to the reality of the season.  For unto us was GIVEN a Savior who would save us from all of our sins.  He died on a cross so that we could be free from sin forever. So this year, as we approach yet another Black Friday, what is our real reason behind the season of Christmas?  The best deal for us or the best deal we were ever offered, Jesus.