Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Wishes

I love Christmas.

Christmas is simultaneously a time of joy and sometimes sad nostalgia.  I can't help but think about Christmases past.  Often times those memories include people who have passed away, and I can't help but have a small heart ache for their loss.  However, Christmas present is such a joyous time.  My four year old daughter keeps saying, "Mommy, this is going to be the most wonderful Christmas ever!"  Her enthusiasm and genuine excitement and wonder, are so heartwarming that I know that Christmas present is by far the happiest of all Christmases.

Christmas past

I grew up in deep South Texas.  That is to say that it was never really cold.  We had a faux fireplace in our house, and no snow for sleighs or reindeer.  I have both a brother and a sister, who are, and I say this proudly, both older than me. ( Insert evil-smiley smirk here!)  One Christmas, I have no idea how old we were, but I am guessing around 4, 7, and 8.  On Christmas Eve the three of us all slept together in one room. We were NOT going to bed.  We were going to wait for Santa and his reindeer. We talked, laughed, and planned on how we were going to catch Santa leaving our gifts.  My mother had come in several times to tell us to go to bed, because Santa could not come unless we were sleeping.  On her last attempt, the most AMAZING thing happened, we heard Santa land on our roof.  There was a definite sound of running, and a very realistic sound of a sleigh.  To hear my mom tell the story, three children had never been to sleep faster than that night.  That was the night that my dad, took branches, and ran up and down our roof pretending to be Santa!  Of all my Christmases, I think this is the one I remember the most.  I don't remember the gifts but  I remember Santa landing on our roof.  Thanks Mom and Dad, for making it fun!

Christmas Present

I find that I sometimes am sad over missing the Grandparents who have passed and the family too far to visit, wishing that I could share Christmas with everyone I love from all ages of my life.  The reality is that Christmas present is for making new traditions and celebrating Christmas the way we want to celebrate for our daughter.  Even though I am called an adult, most of the time I don't feel like one.  It is foreign to me, to be creating new traditions for MY family to start and celebrate.  I keep thinking how much Santa is too much Santa?  How do we properly emphasize Jesus, but still have fun with Santa?  Other simple decisions like do we have turkey, prime rib, or ham seem to have me in a quandary. 

That is when the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit puts things into perspective for me.  Jesus was born in a manger!  Mary and Joseph had no room at the inn, and probably no fancy meal.  They had something so much better, than stockings of candy, gifts, and big meals.  They had real joy and heavenly love.  They had the newborn baby, Jesus, the Savior of the world.  They weren't focused on earthly stresses like their hotel, or their meal, they were focused on LOVE.  With this in mind, I am thinking that we may just change the way we do things.  I want stress-free and love filled!  I think that this year, while we will still have a meal, and gifts, we are going to take it easy.  We are going to Church, then home to relax.  This year there will be no major table setting, no fancy crystal, no unnecessary stress, just family and love.  Who cares what the table looks like, or if I am in my pajamas!  Jesus came as a gift.  He came to forgive of us our sins, he came to show us great love.  This Christmas, that it what I want for my family.  I want smiles, lots of hugs, I love you's all around.  I want to live out loud the call to "love one another as I have loved you."  This Christmas will be a celebration honoring Jesus, and His unfailing love for us.

To each of you my dear friends, I pray that you will honor Jesus by showing love and mercy where you haven't been showing it.  I pray that love overflow your homes, and hearts with the knowledge that Jesus came to save us, and show us love.  Finally I pray, that if your heart does not have a home with Jesus that you will hear his knock and open the door, to the best Christmas gift ever given.

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2: 8- 14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 1112 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

My top 5 favorite Christmas Songs

I decided to do something a little different.  I have had many things floating around that I wanted to write about but decided to try something new.  When I can complete a thought that is not about baking, wrapping, and figuring out all the family stuff, I will let you know!

O Come Emmanuel.

I think this may be my absolute favorite Christmas song.  First may I just say, I love Third Day, and think Mac Powell can sing the Oscar Meyer Hot dog song and I would love it.  However, I find this song to be incredibly powerful.

I admit that growing up, I was like, Silent Night again?  Really can't we mix it up?  I believe this might have been the only Christmas carol that my Pastor must have liked, because it seems like it was all the time, and frankly, I grew tired of it.  Now when Mercy Me came out with this version, I found a new love for it.  I enjoy Mercy Me, and I like the guitar, and "folky" sound they give this carol.

It is all about the simple guitar.  You can hear the words and they are heart felt.  Love it!

Again acoustic rock sound, you just can't go wrong.

One word: Elf
"Cotton headed ninny muggins!"

Bonus Track:

I hope this helps you get in the Christmas spirit.  As you rush around this week to prepare for celebrating, I pray that each of you will remember the gift of the baby Jesus.  I pray that you will remember that, Jesus was the most important gift ever given.  God Bless each of you and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Naughty or Nice: Good vs Evil

 I wonder why it is sometimes hard to do the right thing.  This has been echoing in my mind for a few days now.  I keep thinking about the age-old battle of good vs evil and the war on Christianity.  After listening in Sunday school today, I am certain that this should be the topic of my blog. 

I believe there is a war on Christianity.  I believe as Christians we are constantly under attacked by those who do not believe and want to end the hope and love found in Christ Jesus.  However, I will propose, that while this is a very important battle, we also need to address the other parallel and equally important war.  That is the war within us, often pictured as the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

Here is an example of why sometimes doing the right thing, can be hard.

This week I visited a friend in the hospital.  I previously wrote about this same family.  This couple is watching their child die, and they have shown the most amazing faith and courage.  I only had a few minutes to visit.  I wanted to show God’s love, I wanted to pray with them, and I wanted them to know they have support.  I walked into the hospital room, and was greeted with a warm smile from the mother.  I gave her some chocolate because frankly, that is what I want in times of crisis.  Then I felt this overwhelming sense of what do I say now?  What do I do now?  How can I really help?  All these questions began flooding my mind filling me with doubts about my presence being there.  This gave way to nervous small talk about irrelevant stuff.  I prayed with her, and then I left.  I left feeling as if everything I said and did was all wrong!

Now, as you read that paragraph, what did you notice?  Once at home, I had an epiphany.  The epiphany was two fold.  First, there is way to much “I” in the paragraph above, not nearly enough God.  Secondly, was that I let the “devil on my shoulder” convince me that what I was doing was not good enough, and unnecessary.  You see, I think that we often don’t do good things because of the awkwardness of the moment.  I believe that most people want to do good things, but often hear that voice saying, “No don’t do that YOU will look stupid or YOU will look fake.”  When the truth is, God calls us to love one another, and to take care of those in need.  Any small gesture is better than no gesture at all.

John 13: 34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Romans 12: 9-10
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

2 Corinthians 11
 11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

The verses are so convicting to me.  Love sincere, honor others above yourself, encourage one another, and the God of love and peace will be with you!  After my epiphany, I thought, regardless of what my own insecurities are I know I did the right thing.  God calls us to love, to take care of one another, to serve each other, and provide needs when someone cannot meet their needs.

I believe we are in fact at war.  I think that the devil creeps up on us in so many more ways than we even realize.  He uses our guilt, our past, and our insecurities to keep us from moving forward.  While we easily see the war on Christianity in the media, out of Hollywood, or the Middle East, it is the war on our shoulders that may be the biggest threat to our souls.  In this season of Christmas, when the birth of Jesus is celebrated, I think it is easy to find myself on the naughty list.  It isn’t because of an abundance of naughty deeds, it is because there are few sacrificing nice deeds where there should be an abundance.  There are whispers in my ears from my shoulders telling me to show more love, give more fully, and live with more Christ and less me.  These whispers are not just for Christmas, they are for all the time, when Jesus, the one who counts is watching.

As Christmas quickly approaches, I ask these simple questions, which shoulder are you listening to?  Are you on the naughty or nice list?  Where is Christ in your celebration?  By your love, can anyone tell you are a disciple of the God of love and peace?  The answers for me, if I am being honest, can sometimes change from minute to minute. My hope is that as I continue to seek God, my consistency will change from minute-to-minute, to week-to-week, to year-to-year.

This is my mindset, now let me hear yours!