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?

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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?

The Revelations of Christmas: Sharing

I love just about everything about Christmas, I’m even somewhat OK with a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day snowstorm because they come with a special magic. For some reason I’m thinking about the quiet side of Christmas today, those little moments that we have by ourselves as we look at our tree or sit in Church or read Christmas related scripture or watch the snow falling past our windows. One of my favorite Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, has some of these moments as well. The story also takes time to share a very serious side of Christmas with us, one of what can happen if we don’t take time to consider others and spread Christmas Cheer.

In thinking about A Christmas Carol as well as The First Christmas as told in the Bible, I began to reflect on the serious side of Christmas, and something that Mary, Joseph, Scrooge and even Santa have in common: honesty. Scrooge had to face the truth about his life, and then was honest with those in his life about that truth. Mary and Joseph had to deal with the realities of being parents in an unconventional way, not to mention parents to the Christ Child, as well as work through what it meant for them and their relationship plans. And Santa hands out treats to those who are good and coal to those who are bad.

This Christmas I would encourage you to try a little honesty. I’m not talking about ripping the rug out from under people and telling them what you think about them. I’m suggesting that you get honest with yourself and make time to be honest with others. Take time in those quiet moments to share the truth with them, share your heart with them and if necessary begin mending your relationship or your life. What will you share this Christmas?

The Revelations of Christmas: Joy

This month we’ll be taking a look at both Christmas (and Hanukkah) and the topic of revelation, and today the topic I want to talk about is joy. If there’s something that most people can tell you, it’s that the month of December is all about joy. Whether you’re celebrating the birth of a savior, the re-dedication of the temple, or the arrival of Santa, there’s a magic in the air that’s unlike any other time of the year.

I love that December allows us to kick back a bit and really enjoy life and each other. We’ve all got many pressures and responsibilities that weigh on us, and while they don’t disappear in December, it’s like being given a homework pass, and opportunity to let go of the reins just a little bit. We spread cheer, sing joyful carols and hymns, laugh and play with friends and family, celebrate the year that is ending, and give joyfully to the people that make living worth it.

However, for some of us adults the month starts off so joyful and by the time we’ve gotten to the actual holiday we’re very done with holiday cheer and celebrating. We may even start to look at bit like an early Scrooge. If we really want the most cheer in this month I suggest we take a page from the kids of the world. They’re excited up to and through the holidays. Why? Because they don’t let the excitement, joy or magic die. And while they might not fight the lines at the store or have to do all the decorating and cooking, I still think that we can add back into our lives some of their sparkle.

Whether it’s in the baking and decorating of holiday treats together, finding the perfect gift, finding hiding places for gifts, moving the elves, the stories from your childhood, decorating the tree, snuggling up for holiday movies or enjoying the look of surprise and joy on someone’s face as they open their gifts, I think that we adults can find little moments that will keep joy in this month all month long. What little bit of joy will you find in today?

Revealing the Impossible

I’m so excited that December has arrived and we’re quickly approaching one of the best holidays of the year: Christmas. This month on the blog we’ll be taking a look at Christmas, the new year and also this month’s topic: revelation. Today I want to start off with talking about a Christmas related revelation: that of possibilities.

The story of Christmas in the Bible shares of a virgin woman, her soon-to-be husband and a baby that grows up to be the most incredible individual ever born, one who defies all logic and typical human limitations (because He’s more than just human). Even taking a look at the story of Christmas in reference to Santa we find a tale of one individual who visits every house around the world in one night and delivers presents (or coal) to everyone.

Both the spiritual Christmas story and the cultural one have taken the concept of what’s logical and technically possible and turned it completely upside-down. Virgins could not get pregnant in those days and even today it’s simply impossible for one individual to visit every house in the world in less than 24 hours. Yet that’s exactly what these stories tell us.

We know that the birth of Jesus happened with divine intervention and that Santa doesn’t really exist, but both stories challenge us to see beyond what we logically and physically can do and understand. Logic and facts are great, but sometimes what we need to do, especially when it comes to spiritual things, is look beyond what we know to be possible. Sometimes what we need most, and what we need to believe in most, is what others may see as an impossibility. And sometimes we need to not accept what others know as fact or logic, but find a way to make it happen. It may take years and lots of help to make it happen, but just about anything is possible, especially with God.

What impossibilities do you need to make possible in your life today?

Grateful the Day After

Thanksgiving has passed, the turkey is carved, stuffing and pies have been eaten and you’ve possibly (probably) moved on quickly to grabbing those great Black Friday deals and decorating for the holidays. Are you still thinking about what you’re thankful for or have you moved on to celebrating Christmas? There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, but I’m not a fan of how quickly we always move on after a holiday. Whether it’s passing the turkey dinner leftovers off to your guests so you don’t have to eat it, or turning off the holiday music at 12:01 am the day after Christmas, it seems like we only have buildup and not any real time to appreciate.

Why are we willing to celebrate up to the holiday and not after? Is it because we have such a focus on the future and moving forward with our lives? I’d argue against that being the reason, or at least the only reason, because there are too many people who are stuck in or trapped by the past and can’t move forward. I do understand the excitement of looking to the future and what’s coming up like Valentine’s Day and summer. But for some things the moment they’re here isn’t really long enough.

I’d like Thanksgiving and Christmas to stick around a little longer than we let them because both represent and encourage values, practices and emotions that we don’t tap into as much or at all during the rest of the year. Some people do have a daily thanksgiving practice, but what about Christmas? What about that joy, peace, and goodwill to all mankind? I don’t think the days or weeks we spend in anticipation are really the same thing as the experience we have on the day of Christmas or Thanksgiving, or bringing that forward into what happens next in our lives.

So my encouragement to you today would be to work on tapping into that feeling of thanks and blessing that you experienced on Thanksgiving and bring it forward with you into December. Take time to appreciate the blessings in your life and the people who have blessed you over the past year, and choose love and peace whenever possible.