Christmas is this Sunday! I know, you probably didn’t realize it, did you? Of Course you did! Everyone knows when Christmas is! I’m not sure how it happened, but some how, Christmas became a day that people seem to place a lot of importance on. The common theme I see around is that a perfect Christmas has snow, lots of presents, a lot of family, a lot of food, and sleigh bells in the snow.
For most people this isn’t the case. Christmas is a weird time of year. Lots of emotion. Lots of stuff going on. So, today I am going to share with you a few sure-fire ways to have a great Christmas this year.
1. Remind yourself what Christmas is really about. About 2000 years ago, there was a miraculous event in the middle east where a young child was born. This child (Jesus) was born from a woman who was a virgin (she had never had sex before). This 25th of December, however historically inaccurate the day may be, is a day that we set aside to remember and celebrate that day. Take a few moments and remind yourself that that is the original point of Christmas- to celebrate the Mass (church service), of the Christ (baby Jesus). His arrival announced a completely different direction of the entire planet in regards to our relationship with God. It was a pretty big deal.
2. Go to a church service. This year its kind of different how the day falls on the calendar, but make a decision and go to a church service on Sunday. Christmas on a Sunday doesn’t happen that often, so take advantage of it this year and experience Christmas with a group of people who live for this Christ of Christmas. Its hard to explain, but bellowing out Christmas tunes with other tone deaf people seems to have an impact. Trust me on this. Go to church on Sunday.
3. Expect nothing. That’s right, expect that you’ll get no gifts for Christmas and be OK with it. Seeing how that is not what the day is truly about anyway, having this mindset will do a few things- you’ll have lower expectations, and if you do get a gift or two- it will mean even more. Setting yourself up to be showered with presents is a sure way to be let down. If you are blessed with a present, it will mean even more, because you weren’t expecting anything.
4. Savor the moment. No matter where you find yourself this weekend, savor the moments. If you’re with friends, sit back and soak in the reality of their presence. Watch for a laugh or a meaningful touch. If you’re alone, get around other people. You don’t have to even know them, you can sit in a restaurant or public venue, and watch other people enjoying life and have joy in their joy. Trust me. Seeing people being happy makes people happy, if you savor it.
5. Love people. The greatest gift you can give people is your love and attention. Tell those around you how much you care about them. Share a specific example of what they mean to you. Look them in the eye and give them a hug. Invite someone over that you know would appreciate it.
I know its a short list, but just a few thoughts for you to ponder as you head into the weekend. Trust me. Try a few and you’ll have a better Christmas than you expected.
I struggled on whether or not I should write this post, seeing how the act of writing seems to negate the point I’m trying to make. Indulge me for a moment. I think you may see my point.
I am a facebook guy. I spend a lot of time on there. I see the value of social media as a means for putting forth ideas, connecting with friends, fostering relationships. Its a great tool for interaction. At the same time, I think there are some very detrimental things that can happen from it. One I notice a lot is people who claim to be Christ followers throwing stones at other Christ followers.
Let me explain- often times a post will include such things as attacking other churches, or pastors or schools of theological thought. I assume that these posters are well meaning in that they probably take to heart the call to “contend for the faith” and proclaim “sound doctrine” to those who are following their posts. More than likely they see it as a time to make sure that someone isn’t being led astray by some whack job.
Here’s the issue- everyone who is my friend does not share my beliefs. Because they are my friends, I am aware that even before getting into the Calvin-Arminius debate or the Gifts-cessastionist debate that they don’t even believe the beginning of the story- Adam or Jesus. That being said, any time I spend proclaiming doctrine or theology ‘clouds the waters’ so to speak and portrays our faith as divisive and contentious not unified and loving.
Brothers and sisters this should not be so.
Here’s what I propose- if you have a theological difference that you would like to discuss- start a private group or send a private message. Don’t put a post that attempts to put some doctrine down or prove some theological point. No one is being influenced or brought to your way of thinking by doing this. You are confusing those who do not believe and making following Christ more about getting the doctrine right and not the heart right.
There is a scripture that changed my heart a few years ago- it comes from Philippians chapter one- the Apostle Paul was setting straight some people who were concerned about some other people who were preaching a Gospel they thought was false- this is what he said to them-
” It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
He follows up by saying- “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”.
What is my point? Spreading the Gospel is not hurling stones at someone else’s persuasion. Obviously they are fully persuaded in what they believe or they wouldn’t be believing it. Spend more time spreading the love of God and His truth in a way that directs people towards the Cross and not towards the way that you think or the theology you believe.
There. I said it.
Tebow Tebow Tebow. Man, its everywhere. Talk about Tebow. Videos about Tebow. Terms like “Tebowing”. It seems like every where you turn there is a Tebow reference, or a Tebow Facebook post. This Tebow guy is getting a whole lot of press, with good reason. Tim Tebow is a recent Broncos football phenomenon that is surprising people with some unexpected comebacks and football wins.
Tebow is the flavor of the week.
Front and center in this Tebow talk is Tim Tebows faith. He is unashamedly a believer in Jesus Christ. Some may say that he grandstands it, or that he is to demonstrative about it. Recently he even got some negative feedback from the likes of Kurt Warner, another Christian athlete who asked him to tone it down http://www.theblaze.com/stories/kurt-warner-to-tim-tebow-dont-be-so-bold-with-your-faith/ . There is no denying that Tim Tebow is a Christian. He is not ashamed of it. He does not hide it. He doesn’t make any excuses for it. He is a Christian. You can read Tim Tebows response to one guys view about his faith here- http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2011/11/tim-tebow-responds-to-jake-plummers-comments-on-his-faith/1
Let me throw in my two cents about Tim Tebow and what I think.
I love that Tebow is a winner right now. I love that there is a guy who is a professing Christian who is winning. Often times the current trend in America is to characterize people who are passionately in love with Jesus as losers. They are viewed as people who couldn’t hack it in the real world, so they decided to give Jesus a try. “Christianity is a crutch” they say. A means by which the losers of the world can rally around someone that gives them a sense of purpose.
Tebow is no loser.
I love that Tebow isn’t weird. Often times Christians are portrayed as whack jobs who have odd prophecies and weird practices. They are the ‘snake handlers and poison drinkers’ of the world. I think that some people think that it is odd to believe in Jesus and try to live for Him. There are Christians all over the world that are just as normal as the next guy- what makes them abnormal is their belief in Jesus, not their actions.
Tebow isn’t weird.
I love that Tebow is relentless about his faith. In this multi-cultural-accept everyone-melting pot-America that we live in it seems that it is acceptable to be anything but a person who is a Bible believing Christian, and Tim Tebow is putting Jesus loving Bible thumpers center stage. He loves Jesus and he refuses to back down.
Tebow is relentless.
This time right now is fleeting. Tebow will go away. His faith will no longer be an issue. But right now, its being discussed, and I like it, why? Because I think that faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing in the world, and Tim Tebow is making it possible to discuss it, and for that I am thankful. Sure, it has been possible to talk about Faith before, but in this America in which we live, where we idolize winners and scorn losers, Tebow has demonstrated a faith that produces results that America rallies around- the scoreboard.
Is the hand of God of Tebow? I don’t know. Is God giving Tebow favor over his enemies? Not sure. But of this I am sure- Tebow loves Jesus. He is winning, and I like it.
I’m a Christian if you didn’t know that already. I believe in Jesus Christ and have given my life over to Him. Since I’ve been a Christian, there has always been a real contentious relationship with Christmas and Santa Claus. I think it stems from Christians wanting to make sure that the holiday remains a day that honors and celebrates the birth of Jesus as an important historic day that changed the course of humanity. Not a day that celebrates a fat man in a red suit coming down a chimney.
The current situation is that you see more images of Santa than Jesus during this time of year.
I was watching this program last night about the history of Santa Claus, and a few things occurred to me that maybe I hadn’t really thought of before. Now, I’m not elevating SC at the expense of JC as much as I am just making a few observations about it. Please do not label me a heretic. I am no historian. These are just my thoughts.
The modern day image and idea of Santa Claus comes from an actual person named Nicolas who gained Sainthood for a miracle he performed back in the 900s or so. He was a Christian man who followed the precepts of Jesus. According to this program, he came from a very wealthy family, and was known for his generosity. Who he actually was and who he is portrayed as today are not exactly the same, the process by which we got the modern day Santa was largely influenced by folklore, artists, and the Coca Cola corporation.
It got me thinking, its a pretty amazing feat for a flesh and blood person to have that kind of global influence. What are the chances that 1000 years from now, what you did with your life would some how translate into an iconic image like Santa? Sure, how he is represented today is not the same as who he actually was, but its connected. No sleigh, no reindeer, no “ho ho ho” but the name, the gifts, the giving, its connected.
Whats my point? I guess its this- I used to be in the Santa is Satan crowd pretty strong- but last night I thought about it- its pretty funny that Christians say that meaning of Christmas has been lost and society doesn’t want any images of Jesus around during Christmas. Why is it funny? Because if you really think about it- (I know this may be a stretch) Santa is a religious symbol, even if the world doesn’t know it.
How? It symbolizes that if someone truly allows the love of God into their hearts, it can change them in such a way that their generosity will be known for generations to come. I don’t think that guy Nick ever assumed that one day who he was would be used to sell waffle makers, but he didn’t care, he was doing what he knew in his heart was right- being generous. Being giving. Somehow who he was has carried on way past his life.
So should we worship Santa? no. Is he the reason for the season? no. If you think about how we got Santa can it point to Jesus? yes. Why? because if Nicolas didn’t know Jesus, I doubt who he was would have carried on for so long.
Go be generous today in Jesus name. Maybe 1000 years from now people at some cosmic mall on Mars will be having kids sit on someones lap in your name asking for gifts. Heck, they might even write a song about Jolly ol’ St. you!
Everyone loves gifts, don’t they? Well at least we like the good ones, not the ones that are impractical like jewelry and stuff like that. I know people especially like gifts they can use. That’s why I am getting my wife a blender for Christmas. I think she’ll love it. She blends stuff all the time!
Seriously though, I was reflecting this morning on Christmas gifts this morning and thinking about how when people go shopping for gifts, they typically grab some stuff for themselves, while they are out. So I figured I would share with you some great gifts you should get for yourself this year.
1. Get yourself the gift of forgiveness. Christmas time is a great time to be reminded that the cancer of unforgiveness ruins every relationship. I am sure that there are people that have hurt you and let you down. I am sure that it affects you. Give them a gift while you get one yourself- forgive them. It will bless God and you at the same time. Its a gift that God gives us to be able forgive. Receive it.
2. Get yourself the gift of love. Love comes into our lives in so many forms. Look for it throughout your day and receive it. I’ve started hugging this greeter at wal-mart. Its a long story how it started happening, but now, every time I see them, we hug. Sure, I get low prices at wal-mart, but bless God, I’ve found another place in my life to get the gift of love!
3. Get yourself the gift of joy. This certainly is the most wonderful time of the year, and realizing it will bring you the joy of Christmas. Its not just the presents and the lights, it really is “God and sinners reconciled” when you reflect on it, it will truly give you joy. Receive that gift of joy!
Christmas isn’t really about giving, its about receiving. That little babe wasn’t born in Bethlehem for himself, he was born for YOU.
Relationships. We all got them. Some good, some bad. Some deep, some surface. Listen to the people around you, if you listen close enough, you will find that is what most people talk about- their relationships or the lack thereof.
As a ‘man of the cloth’ I spend a generous portion of my time with people, and many of them struggle in their relationships. Often times it becomes clear that the struggles that they have would be manged more easily if they would put themselves in a position to have a greater opportunity to succeed.
Let me explain- most people do not have a clear game plan for their lives, with that, they have no game plan for their day to day life. For a lot of people, life happens to them, they do not make their life happen. Setting yourself up to win is the beginning of relationship success, and if you’re not setting yourself up to win, well, you’re obviously going to lose.
What is one of the greatest things you can do to help your relationships?
Here is the first and most important one- make time for relationships. If your life is so over scheduled that you do not have time for relationships, they will never happen and they will never improve.
I had a wonderful pastor who told me one time that there is no such thing as quality time, only quantity time. Quality time happens while spending quantity time. What does that mean? It means you can’t plan one hour on a Saturday to have a great interaction with someone you love. You block out the day, spend the whole day together and then turn around and realize that you connected at some point, and it wasn’t planned.
People are too busy. Too many activities. Too many responsibilities. Too many things they ‘have to do’. The truth is that we often over schedule ourselves because we are afraid of having down time, when the down time is the exact time that you have the greatest opportunity to build relationship!
Get relentless with your schedule. Tear off the stuff that soaks up your time and spend more time hanging out with people and find out that your relationships will improve and your life will be less chaotic.
Less scheduled time means more relationship time.