Tag Archives: Christmas

Reflections on Christmas

Some of my favorite stories/thoughts on the season:

  • The carol reads: “O come let us adore Him” not “O come let us ignore Him.”
  • The pastor and his wife had bundled their kids into the car for the trip to church for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service. The youngest of the bunch piped up from the back seat: “Hey, Dad, are you going to let us enjoy this Christmas or are you going to try to explain it to everybody?”
  • From a song recorded by Point of Grace: “We’re alive, we can breathe, but do we really care for this world in need? So close your eyes and share the dream. Let everyone on earth believe. The Child was born, the stars shone bright, and love came down at Christmas time. So let your voices fill the air. Everyone, watch and pray that the sun will shine on a brighter day. Join your hands, lift them high for this gift of life; for love came down at Christmas time.”
  • Willa Cather’s “The Burglar’s Christmas” is a story about a young man who left home much like the prodigal son in Luke 15. Leaving his family behind back east, he winds up in Chicago without a job or friends. Things go from bad to worse as he finally resorts to breaking into a house to find some food on Christmas Eve. He is caught in the act by the home owners, his parents. They had moved to Chicago when they lost all trace of him. His mother weeps as he begins to confess the mess he has made of his life. Turning to flee the house, his parents beg him to stay so he can start over. He pauses and looks at them, “I wonder if you know how much you have to pardon.” His mother responds, “O son, much or little, what does it matter? Have you wandered so far and paid such a bitter price for knowledge and not yet learned that love has nothing to do with pardon and forgiveness, that it only loves, and loves, and loves?”
  • December seems to be the busiest month for plastic surgeons. A report in plasticsurgeryportal.com mentions December as the busiest month for many plastic surgeons, with some of them performing almost double the number of procedures on any given day during December. Some suggest that plastic surgery makes the perfect Christmas gift. Try that out on a loved one: “You need to get a lift or a tuck. Merry Christmas!”

Your night may not be silent. Hoping for calm may be a pipe dream. But I hope you will experience the joy and wonder of God’s gift. Open your Bible and find a quiet place, if but just for a few minutes. Read Luke or Matthew or John or Isaiah and give thanks for your Savior.

Merry Christ-mas!

Another Christmas

After 43 years in ministry, what more can I say about Christmas than I’ve already said … some would say more than once. Has it become too formulaic? Do you resort to the same themes and talk about the same characters which with people are so familiar? Can anyone come up with an original thought, a fresh word?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon in Barcelona during Advent 1928 in which he spoke about how casual we can be in the observance of the Incarnation: “It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously people trembled at the day of God. We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse us, We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”

If the news that our default condition of separation from the Righteous God because of our sin has been cancelled by the grace and mercy shown in Christ doesn’t shatter us, then we should check our pulse. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ died for us,” Paul wrote to the Romans. Destined for and deserving death, we were giving a status we couldn’t earn: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 3:23); “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Ephesians 2:8); “You are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s own family” (Ephesians 2:19).

Prisoners set free? Slaves liberated? The guilty forgiven? Adopted as joint heirs with Christ?

Stop me when this gets boring. A baby, wrapped in love, hope, and peace, came into this world to state forever that God was willing to do anything required to reclaim the lost. His Son would say, “I came as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

If Christmas becomes ho-hum for any of us, we should be ashamed. The first Christmas present was also the best Christmas present. Joy to the world! The Lord has come!


Almost made it

I had it all figured out. If I sat on the stairs and was quiet enough, my parents wouldn’t even know that I was there. I was determined to stay awake until Santa came. Almost made it. I woke up on Christmas morning in my bed. My attempts at stealth had not worked. I fell asleep on the stairs, and then dad picked me up and deposited me in the bed. That was hard since I was 16 at the time.

Kids don’t wait well. Do you remember thinking that Christmas would never get here? As children, we knew something was up. Whispers when they thought we weren’t close enough to hear … mysterious rustling near closets … vague answers to pointed questions.

Some of us were pretty good at snooping. Some could open a package and reseal it, believing that no one could detect the damage to the wrapping. Charles Swindoll told the story of checking out the gifts under the tree. He had given repeated hints that he wanted a basketball for Christmas. Seeing a round package with his name on it assured him that his wishes were about to come true. He didn’t bother to examine the present any closer. To his chagrin, when he opened the package the Christmas morning he discovered a brand new globe. Almost made it.

Our impatience spills over when we consider the condition of our world. Few of us like to wait for anything. We look for the shortest line, move toward believing we get through faster. Almost made it. The person at the register decides to go on break or the person in front of you pulls out a folder full of coupons. We (as in me) are in a hurry too much of the time. It affects us (as in me) when we drive so we lean on the horn or have conversations with people in cars ahead of us who cannot possibly hear us.

If I could give us all a gift this Christmas, it would be one of shalom. It is a wish for well-being, for contentment, for confidence that we can rest in the amazing love of God. After all, Christmas is really all about His gift, not ours.

Light out of darkness

 A young German soldier was shipped to the front in the last days of World War II. Aware that his army was in desperate straits and the outcome was certain, he surrendered to the first British soldier he met. He was sent to a prisoner of war camp for the duration of the war.

He came from a family that had no interest in religion. While in the camp, he came to know some fellow soldiers as well as some Allied personnel who were Christians. Far from home, discouraged by his circumstances, and horrified as he learned of the ghastly horrors of concentration camps much different than the one where he was held, he began to consider matters of the spirit for the first time in his life. An American chaplain gave him a New Testament that he read with great interest. His life changed.

That young man was Jürgen Moltmann. He became one of the foremost theologians of our time. One of his greatest contributions was his classic work, Theology of Hope. He spoke of the transformation he experienced: “Many of us then, and I was one, glimpsed the light that radiates from the divine child. This light did not allow me to perish. This hope kept us alive.”

He knew the power of darkness, but he also knew that light was stronger still: “Today I see before me the millions of the imprisoned, the exiled, the deported, the tortured, and the silenced everywhere in the world where people are pushed into darkness. For it is on them that the divine light now shines.”

More than ever, the world needs the light, the life, the hope of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who proclaimed Himself the Light of the world, called His followers to be light and salt in the world He died to save. The season of Christmas gives us many opportunities to push back the darkness!


The Best Christmas Ever

It’s Christmas week. For some, it took forever. For others, it arrived in the blink of an eye. Your positioning in the two groups probably has something to do with your age.

We can list all the reasons we might not enjoy Christmas. We can complain about the increased traffic or the mob mentality at the mall or the overdose of Christmas movies or music.  We overspend, overeat, and overschedule. We can worry about what to get for people who don’t really need anything. Erma Bombeck found a solution after wondering:

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find the one gift that you didn’t have to dust, that had to be used right away, that was practical, that fit everyone, that was personal, and that would be remembered for a long time?” Then she answered her own question: “I made a gift certificate for a flu shot.”

The sights and sounds of the season are awe-inspiring until about December 26th. For some, their favorite Christmas lights are the tail lights of their relatives. Christmas can bring out the Scrooge in us, but I’d rather contemplate what makes the season so meaningful. It would certainly be helpful if we were better at remembering whose birthday we are celebrating.

Mike Slaughter pastors Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio. He wrote a book, Christmas Is Not Your Birthday, where he challenged readers to experience the joy of living and giving like Jesus.

I think of how Jesus laid down the glory of heaven to pick up the grime of earth. All the glitter and lights in the world cannot cover up the desperate need in the human heart. In humility and obedience, the Son would follow the Father’s plan while it leads to a manger, a cross, and a tomb.

I think of a frightened young woman, still in her teens, carrying a child in her womb. She is far from home. She finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings. The only place available to place her newborn son is a feeding trough for farm animals. Perhaps a local midwife has been summoned to assist in the birth.

I think of a man entrusted with a daunting task. He has been asked to provide for and protect his young wife and the child. He has been told of the child’s identity, which has added overwhelming responsibility to the stewardship of the lives under his care.

It seems to me that the best Christmas ever is any Christmas when I choose to remember what matters most … who matters most.