Beyond Christmas

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I’m the queen of distraction. I easily get caught up in the tinsel and carols and cinnamon smells of the season, but this year God used a squirrel-like husband and a box of old ornaments to center me in Him and the essence of Christmas. You can read more about that crazy yet emotional morning here.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NIV)

Before there was time, the God-head envisioned His creation, a universe filled with radiant light as millions upon millions of stars glimmered throughout infinite space. The earth, now but a vision in the mind of God, would soon abound with life.

Ice-capped mountains would glisten in the sun and gently flowing streams would weave through flower-filled meadows. Jay Larks and Robins would fill the air with song while newborn cubs tumbled over grassy plains.

But the crown of His creation? The creature that brought a song to the Creator’s lips and tears of anguish to His face?

Man. Humans, just like you and I. People that would fight against Him at every turn and ultimate drive Him to the cross.
God made man, knowing man would betray Him. Knowing man’s rebellion would result in His death. And yet, He created humans anyway, molding flesh from a mound of earth, breathing life into a lifeless body.

The first man to be created was named Adam. In the beginning, God and Adam enjoyed sweet fellowship, an intimacy unparalleled by any other creature roaming the face of the earth. An intimacy that penetrated to the very depths of the soul.

Fear was unheard of.

Loneliness was unknown. Everything was bliss, like a melodious love song echoed in united hearts.

But then something happened and this heavenly union was shattered. The creature God had created, the creature God loved infinitely and immensely, turned on Him, and the perfect love-bond was broken.

Suddenly the child created to rest in His arms fought against Him, spurning the very love scream-924206-mthat would save Him.

In the depths of man’s heart, bitterness took root, weaving its entangling web around everything that was once good and pure and lovely.

And all the while, God watched with breaking heart, knowing the day of total restoration would come.
But it would cost Him everything.

His cross-church-1386416-mvery life.

Merry Christmas, my friend! And as you and your family unwrap your Christmas, pause to remember the Christmas story, from beginning to the glorious, victorious end.

Watch Out For Those Gimmes

As I look around my house, wrapping paper strewn across the floor, packages lined on the shelves, and shopping lists still waiting to be fulfilled, a twinge of conviction nabs my heart. Each present, each tinsel, each afternoon shopping spree has the capacity to send our daughter a message–to train generosity or materialism. Each holiday celebration can either draw her heart further to Christ or center it more firmly around herself.

A while back I realized if I truly wanted to train compassion, I needed to pull her out of middle-class suberbia once in a while. It’s easy to long for X-boxes and other trinkets–to feel entitled and deprived–when you’re surrounded by friends who have those very items you lack. But surrounded by extreme poverty, by those who have little if anything to call their own, those wants begin to fade as something else rises in their place–compassion. Realizing this, my husband and I started to make determined efforts to place her in serving roles, around those who had far less than her. And we’ve noticed a definite change–less of the gimmes and a stronger desire to give.

What about you? What will you do to actively train compassion and contentment this year? Don’t buy into the lie that your children need one hundred gifts under the tree. In fact, those gifts you fought for, stood in line for, scrimped and saved to give them, could very well do more harm than good. Our children don’t need more cause to think of themselves, but instead, encouragement to look beyond and into the hearts of others.  

As parents, may we remember our greatest call is to train not the next CEO but instead, a fully-devoted follower of Christ. With each activity we plan and conversation we initiate, may the lofty call outlined in Philipians 2:1-8 burn fresh in our minds as we remember this call is not for us alone, but for our children as well.

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 6 Who, being in very natureGod,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very natureof a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

Lord, this Christmas remove materialism from my heart and home. Remind me to demonstrate it’s true meaning in how I spend my time, the things I buy, and the words I say. Prevent me from spreading the cancer of materialism into the lives of others and may I instead encourage radical obedience and full surrender.

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to show our children the true meaning of Christmas.

Materialistic Mania

If you’ve ever visited a department store the day after Thanksgiving, you’ll understand the title. Materialism is one of my greatest struggles. I’ll do well for a while, practicing Philipians 4:11-12 (through an oft spoken mantra) but the minute I let my guard down, greed takes hold.

The holidays certainly don’t make it easy. If you spend much time perusing the mall, watching television or sifting through the mounds of spam mail, you’ll likely begin to feel rather discontent. Your sweaters look a tad shabby. Your car, much too old. Your home in need of a remodel. And the more you think about all the things you don’t have, the more discontent you’ll be.

My greatest struggle is with our daughter. We long to give our children the best, to see their face light up when they open that perfect gift, to watch them gather around the tree in anticipation…but before we know it, Christmas has flipped. It’s no longer about Jesus. Now it’s all about them–and us.

And we don’t realize our mistake until twenty years down the road when our children are consumed with self.

The best solution for materialism is to spend a day with those in need. We lived in Louisiana when Katrina hit. Seeing entire families lose their home and everything they hold dear had a way of curing the gimmies. Our church became a donation center. Congregation members and local grocery stores donated food, toiletries, clothes–you name it. And everything was stacked on clearly identified pews. There was a toiletry isle, crackers isle, underwear isle, you get the idea. This way, Katrina victims could peruse the isles and take what they need without having to ask. (These people were humiliated enough and the last thing we wanted to do was place them in an even more humiliating position.)

I was very impressed with the generosity our church displayed, but two young boys in particular touched me deeply. They were both from Russia and had been adopted from an orphanage a few years previously. I believe they were five or six. They approached their parents, toys loaded in their arms, and asked if they could donate some of their most beloved belongings.

It made my meager, skim-off-the-top donations look rather pitiful.

Why were they so willing to give? I believe it is because they related on a deeper level with these displaced families. They knew what it was like to have very little, and perhaps to lose what little you have. But their past experience didn’t lead them to hoard their treasures. To the contrary, it moved them to extreme generosity.

I like that term–extreme generosity. Listen to my husband’s favorite song:

I remember the fist Christmas we participated in Angel Tree. In one hand, I had a bag filled with games we’d purchased for our daughter. In my other hand, I had a paper angel with a name and a simple request printed on it. The girl was nine, and all she wanted for Christmas was a coat.

Wanna bless a child this Christmas? Wanna show him/her what Christmas is really about?

Here are some great ministries that can help you do that:

Operation Christmas Child

Angel Tree Ministries

Harvesters

Christian World Adoption

And give the best gift of all, Jesus Christ: Christ to the World

This video really resonated with me. CTTWIndia

Challenge question: What’s one thing you can do this Christmas to demonstrate the love of Christ?