It’s a Family Tradition

Christmas CrossI heard some interesting stats yesterday morning on the radio:  About 30 million rolls of wrapping paper will be used to wrap Christmas presents this year, and right at 376 million Christmas greeting cards will be sent out.  Aside from the stats, multitudes will be traveling this weekend and into the early days of January 2013.  Christmas trees are up and decorated, pies are being baked, meals are being prepared, presents are being bought, and kids are certainly ready for the break in school.  Are the parents?

These past 5 years now, I have paid a little more attention compared to years past, in some of the “traditions” I hear, read about, and see people engage in and continue.  I even have reflected on those that seem important and “must do’s” in our own family.  Consider these few things:  (1) Jesus Himself was probably not actually born on December 25.  (2) The magi brought gifts to the Christ child – there is nothing in Scripture that records that anyone exchanged gifts among themselves.  (3) Depending on what you read regarding the Christmas tree, it came much later, like in the late 14th Century.  Get this, the custom of the Christmas tree is noted to be that in which “devout Christians brough decorated trees into their homes” (wikipedia, Christmas tree).  It also states that Martin Luther was the first to have a lighted tree in his home, at Christmas.  It was candles, of course.  (4) And finally, the “yule” log originates with the Babylonians who burned a yule log in a fire, then, the very next day, they would bring an a symbolic evergreen into the house to honor their god of crops and farming.  An early forerunner for the Christmas tree?  Perhaps.

Jeremiah 10, vv.1-4 touches on this ritual – read it and you decide.  However, before you get too stressed or anxious over all of this, I do want to say that we have a Christmas tree in our living room and there is a large Christmas tree planted right in the Worship Center at our church (thank you Aaron and Lenee’ for getting it up and decorated).  You see, most people in our nation, in the 21st Century, have no idea on the origin of these things.  They aren’t paying homage to Babylonian gods or instruction.  They aren’t following pagan rituals in order to follow pagan rituals.  It’s not about this.  It’s about much, much more.

But a question that perhaps some struggle with, and questions that inquiring folks want to know, is this:  What do we do and what are Christians to do, with some of these traditions?  Well, the best place to start is in the Word of God.  It should be the primary resource we go to for instruction, correction, assurance, and light – to name but a few – not a secondary default when other things seem to fail.  In Scripture, we learn that Jesus Himself faced a festival with much tradition – some tradition which may have been true and some not so true.  We are referencing here John’s Gospel, chapter 10, and the Festival of Lights (or Hanukkah).  This celebration dates to the period between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament – in that period that is referred to as “The Silent Years.”  To me, though it may have been “silent” compared to what they were used to, God was very much active.  In fact, He was preparing the world for the coming of His own Son.  Galatians 4:4-5 claims this.  Anyway, getting back to the festival:  there is nothing in the Bible about this festival we read of in John 10, yet, Jesus was celebrating it:  “It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.  He was in the Temple walking around the area known as Solomon’s porch” (vv.22-23).  I like how one pastor described this:  “He used the Festival of Lights to shine the light on Who He really is.”  If you read vv.22-30, you will see this plainly.  What a great way to capture that truth!

This is just my take on what we should do with Christmas.  Though many people don’t want to have any part of the celebration, both inside and outside the church, and will say:  “It’s too commercial!” “It’s too stressful!”  “I have nothing to give!” “It’s not true!”  “Bah humbug!” – we have to celebrate His coming, and we shoudl desperately want to!  You see, there are only 2 choices with Christmas:  (1) You run from it and help extinguish His light, or (2) You use it to share and lift up the truth of Jesus Christ and point others to Him.

Think or ponder on some of your favorite Christmas tunes and carols, or at least, the ones you hear in this season.  Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, Silent Night, O Holy Night, Mary Did You KnowMary’s Boy Child, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, etc. etc. etc.  They echo in stores.  They are on the radio.  You’ve bought some CD’s.  People are singing and humming and playing these popular chords and choruses.  Many people are singing songs that we proclaim, teach, share, and live by each week in the church.  Some don’t know all the words and others don’t know what we are singing.  That is exactly where we are to come in.  No better opportunity to share “the boy who brings eternal joy!”  You see, it only matters that Jesus came!  His coming has made everything possible — His coming completed all that God desired in redeeming and restoring us.  Prophecy fulfilled.  Hope distributed.  Joy catapulted.  His love, accessible.  So even as some may celebrate Christmas for all the wrong reasons – utilize this precious time to remind the world, others, strangers, your family, and your friends – of Him, of His love and grace, of His provision in your life, of His undeniable truth and promise.  Let them see “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”

Help raise His banner, this Christmas.

Love and joy,


These Guys

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea when Herod was king. After Jesus’ birth wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem.  2 They asked, “Where is the one who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star rising and have come to worship him.”-Matthew 2:1-2, GWT

Anyone who claims to be, and is, a Christ-follower, would naturally love and deeply appreciate the entire birth narrative of Jesus’ coming to planet earth, as one of us, on that first Christmas morning.  I really can’t imagine, and don’t want to think it possible, that a sincere Christian would not rejoice and fall to their knees over “God with us,” “Immanuel.”  It is revelation and truth of our great and awesome God giving His very best while we were at our very worst.  What provision!  What hope!  What a marvelous God He is! 

I have come to really appreciate the record above, that speaks to the arrival of the “magi” or “wise men from the east.”  I realize that their timing on the scene has been examined, and some have even suggested it could have been 2 years after Jesus’ birth.  But that is not what’s important to me.  Also, the number of wise men has been historically represented by 3, which seems to capture 1 for each of the 3 gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  While the Christ-child was no doubt deserving of our very best, and these gifts capture honoring Him as King – what stands out to me, by far, is the motivation of these wise men in coming.  In making a long journey.  In seeking truth.

Consider this:  They were the top of the top in their position, social status, wealth, and education.  They would effectively have been in the top 1-2% of the population of their day.  Yet, in realizing what had happened and what God had done on that first Christmas, they left everything behind – their comfort, their riches, their way of life, to go and “worship him.”

Get this:  The wise men knew and believed something incredible and miraculous had occurred.  Something that couldn’t be explained away or minimized.  Notice that they didn’t go to “verify” or “conduct their own “litmus tests.”  They didn’t go to try and prove that it didn’t happen, or to try and undermine it in any way.  The Word states that they went “to worship him.”

I pray that we, like the wise men, will seek to worship HIM this Advent and Christmas Season.  In all that we do, in all that we say, in all of our planning and execution.  Let us not lose perspective of what this is all about.  Let’s not fail in beholding the Christ-child, Who came to take away the sin of the world.  It started in the manger and continued all the way to, and through, the Cross.  A few questions here:  Who or what are you following?  Is it time for a course correction?  Has the other “things” in your life let you down? 

How about following His star with the same ambition, heart, and motivation that the wise men demonstrated?  The wise still seek Him.  He is accessible.  He is available.  Call on His Name this Christmas!  Let’s worship Him! 



Great Expectations

We are approaching the 2nd Week of Advent.  Christmas Season is here, and Christmas Day is nearing – we are reminded daily that it is upon us, approaching rapidly, and around the corner.  In fact, it is less than 3 weeks away.

Just today, while at Jarrett Bay Boatworks for our weekly time together and devotional, I started to ponder over many things surrounding the Advent and Birth of Jesus Christ on that first Christmas morning.  What an amazing and powerful account.  The Gospels explain the humility and meekness that settled in over (and in) the Bethlehem nativity scene .  No lights.  No camera.  No newspaper.  No facebook.  No satellite coverage.  No internet.  No earthly powers, government representatives, or politicians.  Rather, a cold winter’s night in a cave with a horse feeder serving as a manger.  This is how the King of Kings and Lord of Lords enters His creation, personally.  Note:  When He came, He made sure He was accessible to all!  I love that.

In discerning the message that God was laying on my heart for our devotional, I was led to imagine the great expectations that no doubt surrounded His coming.  There was prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in the Old Testament.  Some 300+ prophecies recorded and found in Scripture centuries before He came.  But the expectations I found myself saturating on were those that people placed on Him after He embarked in public ministry (30 years after His birth).  Expectations that He would do this.  Expectations that He would do that.  Expectations that He would reward seats beside Himself in Heaven.  Expectations that He would come sooner than He did to Lazarus’ side.  Expectations that He would deliver God’s people from Roman oppression.  Expecations that He would not eat with sinners and tax collectors.  Expectations that He would not go through the crucifixion.  Expectations and more expectations.  Expectations galore!

Yet, His grace was and is, sufficient.  His first priority was following God’s will and glorifying His Father – He came for this purpose and to usher in His Kingdom.  Not to meet all of man’s expectations, no matter what it cost Him.  And as a result of His “being about His Father’s business,” many rejected Him, criticized Him, gave up on Him, followed initially and then fell away, and ridiculed Him from the shadows.  In all of it, Jesus was obedient to His Father and He is our example and standard.  He prayed.  He sought.  He loved.  He challenged.

May we draw close to Him in this precious, holy season.  May we truly seek the Father’s heart and concern ourselves with decreasing, that He would increase.  That is my prayer.  More to come in this Advent Season.  Let’s commit to journeying through it, together.

Joy to all, and to all, a good night :)