The Revelations of Christmas: God in Christmas

I hope that you had a blessed Christmas with family and friends and that you were able to experience even just a little of the First Christmas many years later whether in your own personal quiet time or in church services. As we wind down this year and this Christmas season, today I want to talk about what Christmas really is: it’s a reflection on who God is.

God is big and bold:
It’s kind of hard for the shepherds to miss the big announcement regarding Jesus’ birth. With the stars and the angels and the heavenly chorus you would have to be an excellent sleeper to miss that. The wise men who also knew what they were looking for were able to track the star that God put in the sky to announce the birth as well.

God is in the little things:
God chose to send Jesus to earth as a baby, not as the ruler/master/king as some expected. God also chose to send an Angel to Mary so that she would know exactly what was going on and reassured Joseph in a dream that Mary (and the baby she now carried) was the right choice for him. These are pretty clear indications that God isn’t just about the big showy revelations, but is present in the little things, and attends to the little details.

God makes everything work out as it should:
A big part of the Christmas story is the journey to Bethlehem. The census journey that Augustus, the emperor, forced everyone on was a huge inconvenience for everyone, including Mary and Joseph. But it happened and fulfilled what was predicted many years before Jesus was born: that the savior would be born in Bethlehem.  Without the census that’s not where Jesus would have been born.

God has a plan for the future:
The book of Matthew shares the genealogy of Jesus. It’s a bit tedious to read through, and all it is is just a list of names. But what it says is that there were some pretty important people that we read about through the Bible who had a direct connection to Jesus. While anyone could have been in Mary and Joseph’s ancestral line, God planned that each of these special people brought the Bible a step closer to Jesus.

As we finish out this Christmas season, I would encourage you to spend a little more time reflecting on someone who wasn’t really the focus of the story, yet can be seen in every step of the journey: God. If God could line all of this up to lead to the birth of a baby, what miracles could He do in your life?

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10


The Revelations of Christmas: Love

With Christmas only hours away, today I want to talk about one of the most important things that Christmas reveals: love. Especially through the Biblical Christmas we see examples of love everywhere, what else would drive people and God to the lengths they were willing to go? Without love God never would have sent Jesus. Without love Mary would not have had the faith she did. Without love Joseph would have separated from Mary. Without love we would be a very sorry group of people because we never would have had the gift of Jesus being part of us. Let’s take a look at a few keys to love (with some inspiration from Neale Donald Walsch):

Decide: ultimately love is a decision. We’ve all got the ability to choose what to do with our lives, which means we’ve got the ability to choose if we’re going to love with our lives, or not. Yes, sometimes it can be a more challenging decision, but in my experience it’s always worth choosing.

Define: what does love look like to you? Love can look like many things. It can look like a baby in a manger, being delivered breakfast in bed, a trip to the alps and/or moments alone with your significant other that just feel so right.

Declare: if it’s true love you should have no issue declaring that love to the world. Yes, sometimes it can be a little intimidating to share your love with the world because you have had previous negative experiences or know that someone you care greatly about has a very specific opinion on the thing (or person) you love.

Demonstrate: around the world there are countless demonstrations of love, in the US we’ve taken to dedicating a specific day each and every year to those demonstrations: Valentine’s Day. One of the things that’s so important to remember about love is that it’s alive, living and visible.

Delight: love should be a delight to you and to those you love. Love should not feel like a chore or struggle or evoke lots of fear in you. Jesus may have felt some fear when He approached the cross, but it was the overwhelming love He has for us that encouraged Him on.

This Christmas, above all else, I encourage you to give love. There’s nothing better than knowing without a doubt that you’re loved and valued by someone, especially someone you care greatly for. Who do you choose to show love to this Christmas?

The Revelations of Christmas: Separate and Together

I’m enjoying our look at Christmas this month and learning what it reveals to us about this holiday and about each other. A recurring theme we see in the different Christmas stories is that they all talk about both separation and togetherness. Scrooge is famous for being separate, he lived alone and didn’t like others. Joseph planned to separate from Mary when he heard about her pregnancy, and Herod separated families and friends so that a census could be performed. Even Santa leaves the North Pole for his Christmas Eve sleigh ride.

But that’s just where the stories begin. Scrooge learned, 3 ghosts later, that it was better to give than receive and better to be with friends and family than to be alone. Joseph stayed with Mary and they were even joined by shepherds and wise men. Santa brings presents to good boys and girls, toys they can play with and share with each other. Today most of us have a Christmas tradition that involves being together with friends and family. Many also have the tradition of putting ornaments on a tree, ornaments that have been passed down through the generations or ornaments that were purchased to honor an event, gathering or memory. And many groups get together to visit the shut-ins and those in nursing homes or hospitals to bring them some Christmas cheer.

With Christmas just a few days away you may be getting a bit tired of all this togetherness and all the hustle and bustle that goes along with it. If that’s the case I would encourage you to hang on a bit longer because in just a few short weeks you’ll be wishing we were back in December and sharing, giving and laughing together. But, as the story of Scrooge teaches us, Christmas doesn’t have to be a 4-week or one day thing. It should be something that we keep in our hearts all year long. Who will you share a little Christmas cheer with today?

Lighting a Candle This Christmas

I’ve gotten over my first hump of December, I’ve got lots planned for the last 2 weeks of December, but a big part of that is taking time to celebrate Christmas and enjoy time with family and friends. As I was finally sitting down tonight to cross a few things off my list and plan the rest of the week out, I paused a moment to look at the Christmas lights hung in my office and reflected on the lights of Christmas, as we talked about last week. It also got me thinking about exactly how long it’s been since I lit a candle.

One of the lights that always says “Christmas” to me is the candle light. Countless churches around the world do a candlelit service, during which candles are lit, often while singing Silent Night. Some churches also offer regular opportunities to light a candle for someone, a visual representation of the prayer you’re saying for them. Years ago (before we had all the modern lights) people would put lit candles on their Christmas trees, and candles used to be the main source of light for everyone. Candles still grace many windows today, although they come in the form of plastic with batteries or power cords. There’s something magical about a candle that can’t be duplicated by any other type of light. Many companies have been trying for the past decade or so, but I just don’t feel the same emotion looking at a battery operated candle (or any other type of light) that I do when I look at a true flickering flame candle. I love the opportunity that they give us to put candles where we really shouldn’t, but it’s just not the same as having the real thing.

The candle is such a great reminder for this season of how unique Jesus is and of the light that He brought to the world with His birth, and even of the light of the star that shone on His birth and led the wisemen to Him. It’s also a reminder that each of us has a light to shine in the gifts we give, conversations we have, how we treat others, outlook we have on the world and how we use and develop the gifts and talents we’ve been given by God. You may be in a unique position at this moment to shine your light and guide someone through a dark period in their life, but you won’t know unless you let that light shine. How will you shine your light this Christmas?

“…This is the time of year
We hold our families near
But God let us be a friend to the hurting

Oh Emmanuel, God with us
Spirit revealed in us
That we may be your hope to the world
Oh Emmanuel, God with us
With a light to break the darkness
That we may show your hope to the world
Emmanuel, God with us
Be God in us…”
“Emmanuel, God With Us / O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Point of Grace

The Revelations of Christmas: Secrets

One of the fun and often frustrating things about Christmas are the secrets! From the wrapped presents to the Santa costumes to the shopping in secret to the secret Santa’s, secrets are all around! Even the First Christmas had secrets, as the birth of Jesus was kept secret so He wasn’t killed by Herod or anyone sent on Herod’s behalf. Often the secrets are fun, like when we’re surprising someone with something awesome. Other times they’re tough because we wish we could share the joy and excitement with others.  Other times we’re so overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessing of others, even if they’re keeping their identity a secret.  Other times the secrets remind us about the other secrets that are being kept from us or we’re keeping.

The fact is everyone has secrets. Maybe it’s just about a little guilty pleasure or weird habit like what you enjoy putting on your french fries or the TV show you watch when no one is around. Maybe your secret is a little bigger or even a lot bigger like fears about your capabilities at work or a relationship in your past or a health issue or an addiction to shoes.

In a way it’s normal, healthy and good to have secrets, there are things that should belong to just you or just you and a close confidant like your partner or doctor. Everyone in the world doesn’t need to know everything about you. Sometimes secrets are absolutely necessary, like in the case of Jesus or the witness protection program. And sometimes secrets are even fun to have for a short time, making the reveal all the more exciting. So are your secrets the OK kind, or is it time to share the truth with someone?

The Revelations of Christmas: Peace

Where I live we’re experiencing a bit of winter, we’ve had a couple of minor snow storms, which have made it look a little like Christmas. I know the kids have been excited and have enjoyed playing in it, but it’s not my thing. But as an adult I really don’t enjoy the piling up of the snow and how it screws with plans. However, I still can find some magic in it and even peace.

There’s this bit of magic during a snow storm, especially at night, if you sit very quietly and listen. There’s a shushing sound as the snow is blown around a bit, and a silence that can’t be described when there’s no wind and just snow falling. I’m sure a scientist could give you some reasoning or explanation behind the silence and the sound that snow makes in the wind, but that kind of takes away some of the magic. While rain does have some magic, I can’t say I’ve felt peace like I do when I watch or listen to the snow fall.

The ironic thing about how people often connect Christmas and peace is that I don’t think the First Christmas was very peaceful, and most Christmases we have aren’t very peaceful. I imagine Mary and Joseph were going through a fair amount of panic, frustration, fear and even excitement on that First Christmas. Our Christmases are filled with joy, celebration, laughter and satisfaction. There’s nothing wrong with either of those scenarios, it’s important to celebrate life and within reason we should live life to the fullest.

So why do we connect peace with Christmas anyway? Is it because of how peaceful it is when it snows? Is it because it’s often a time that people put aside their issues and differences to be together? Is it because we feel peace when we think about the birth of Jesus? What brings you peace at Christmas?

Christmas Light

You really can’t miss one of the main ways that people show they celebrate Christmas, whether secular or religious; the lights. They’re on houses, trees, businesses and light poles.  People drive many miles just to see what a particular house or street has created this year.  For people of faith though, light means many things.

Light helps us see our way:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”  Matthew 3:1-12

Light should fill our lives:
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”  Colossians 3:16

Light is meant to be shared:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Light means hope and promise:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

Light begins with Jesus:
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””  John 8:12

As you look around you and enjoy the sights of the season I encourage you to take a look at your life.  Are you shining light with the words you say and things you do? Are you teaching your kids what it means to be a light, even if that light is just about being a kind, considerate and loving person?  Are you focused on the darkness around you or on what the light shows?  Are you sharing a kind smile, a helping hand, a little love or even a little hope with someone?  Are you giving someone a reason to smile? Are you smiling at the surprises and holiday cheer that you see?  Are you sharing the message and story of the First Christmas?  Are you hanging lights and decorations to bring a smile to someone?

Yes, the holiday season has created many a grump, and there are plenty of reasons to be grumpy. But I believe that being grumpy is a choice, as is being filled with Christmas cheer.  Will you choose to spread light or darkness this Christmas season?