Archive | Christmas RSS feed for this section

A Christmas ‘Stamp’

21 Dec

Matilda went to her local Post Office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. “I need 100 stamps,” she said.

“What denomination,” the postal clerk asked.

“Oh good heavens,” the old lady said. “Have we come to this?” She thought for a few seconds while the clerk patiently waited, then Matilda said, “OK. Give me 50 Baptists and 50 Methodists.”

LOL!

There’s been lots of controversy lately about holiday stamps. A flyer advertised Kwanzaa and Hanukkah stamps and a gingerbread house ChristmasMadonnaStamp2013stamp … but no “Christian” stamp.

The USPS responded to angry posts on Twitter, explaining that they do sell a Christmas stamp (Madonna and Child) as well as a Poinsettia stamp – but they weren’t on the flyer because they weren’t the newest stamps available.

You know, I’m a lot more concerned about another kind of stamp this Christmas.

It’s not a stamp you put on an envelope.

It’s not a stamp you use in baking, to press an image into cookies.

No, this stamp is found in a song:

“O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

It’s a stamp that is possible only because Jesus humbled himself to become baby, live a life of obedience to the Father, and die as our Savior (Philippians 2:5-8).

Have you ever asked these questions?

  • How much of God’s image is stamped on my life? Do I resemble Jesus?
  • Do I wear his likeness so naturally that people sense His presence?
  • If people can’t “see Jesus” in me, why not?

This is one of God’s goals for my life – for every Christian: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:29a, ESV). The Father wants us to look like His Son … in holiness, in love, in kindness, in power … in so many ways.

Being “conformed” to His image is first a point in time … and then a process … and it’s an ultimate reality in heaven.

He made us a new creation when we first trusted Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we are being changed and renewed (Colossians 3:10) every day. We are God’s workmanship, His creative expression. And we are designed “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 13:21).

God says He will complete this work in us (Philippians 1:6). It’s His work, but we have the blessing and joy to cooperate with Him in our faith, surrender and obedience. And someday, when we stand in God’s presence, the Father will declare the transformation complete (I John 3:2). We will bear the image of His Son forever.

What does the world see as it watches your life. Does it see the stamp of Jesus’ image? If not, what “image” does it see?

— Dawn

Better Than an Elf on a Shelf

7 Dec

The Elf on the Shelf craze has caught on big time in recent years, driven by marketing wizards and fun-loving families everywhere. According to those who know about elves, this special scout elf is sent from the North Pole to help Santa manage his “naughty and nice” lists. Families adopt these elves, name them, and then discover the elves hide in different places around the house, observing their lives. But they can be quite naughty themselves!

Some Elf on the Shelf antics:

  • Mischievous Artist Elf: Use a dry-erase marker to draw funny faces on the glass protecting some tilted, framed family photos – and post the Elf nearby with the marker in his hands.
  • Santa’s Helper Elf: Place the Elf in your kitchen cabinet next to a Ziploc bag ElfAngel_framedfull of “Reindeer food.”
  • Clever Marketing Elf: Prop the Elf near bottles of water with the labels, “Melted Snowmen for Sale.”
  • “Snow Angel” Elf:  Create a Snow Angel from flour on the counter, and then place the Elf in the middle of it.
  • Roasting marshmallow Elf:  Put a mini-marshmallow on the end of a small stick and put the stick in the Elf’s hand. Then place the marshmallow over the end of a tea-light candle.
  • Naughty Elf: Toilet-paper the bathroom and leave the end piece of the paper from the roll in the Elf’s hand.

Family Christmas traditions can be such fun … whether it’s The Elf on the Shelf, funny melted “Frosty the Snowman” cookies, or making bags of “Reindeer Food.”

But we must make sure our children understand it’s all fun that has absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.

ElfAndJesus_cropped_WhiteEdgeI laughed hard this week when I saw a daughter-in-love’s photo of my granddaughter’s Elf – “Cupcake” – reading the Christmas story! LOL!

At least the family is trying to keep first things first during this Christmas season! I admire their creativity!

Some people will do away with all secular celebrations during the holidays – that is their conviction before God. Others will incorporate what they can without compromising truth. They will clearly distinguish between fantasy and reality, and always point their children to the Savior and why He came (John 6:38; 1 John 4:14; Luke 19:10; John 3:16-17).

In our home, we chose the second alternative – believing we’re in the world and we can learn to relate to it in positive ways, but we’re not of the world. So we enjoy the natural beauty of pine trees, snow and snowmen, holiday treats, concerts and special holiday programs.

We can have clean family fun, but we always keep an eternal, Gospel-centered perspective.

While the world conspires to shut Jesus out, we’ve tried to be creative in ways to place Him front and center in our lives, our homes, and our celebration.

One thing is for sure: Christmas is more than making room for an Elf on a Shelf. Much more. Let’s be sure the world and especially, our families, see Jesus and know how to make room for Him in their hearts.

What are you doing, in your Christmas celebration, to point others to the Savior?

— Dawn

Six Ways to Reclaim Christmas

30 Nov

Have you noticed how many funny Christmas decorations have evolved that have nothing to do with Christmas? ChristmasDinosaur_cropped

This animated Tinsel Dinosaur made me LOL.

But it really has nothing to do with Christmas.

ChristmasYoda_croppedNeither does this Christmas Yoda I snapped at our local mall. (I think the mall was trying to blend Thanksgiving and Christmas with that purple Pilgrim hat!)

Some of the “Christmas” songs we sing have nothing to do with Christmas either.

Like “Jingle Bells” – I mean, who is “Miss Fanny Bright,” anyway?

Or Jingle Bell Rock. (Ri-i-i-i-ight. I’m sure adding the word “Rock” makes anything Christmas-y.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love all the fun of the holiday season – peppermint bark and gingerbread men, reindeer, Hallmark Channel holiday romances, twinkling lights outside and on Christmas trees, caroling, snowmen and sleigh rides (not many of those in Southern California), colorful packages under the tree, mistletoe ….

But the word is “CHRISTmas.” And though many in the media and the politically correct do their best to change the meaning of this holiday, Christians celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah). Christians believe Jesus is the prophesied Anointed One who came to be the Savior of the world (Psalm 2:6-7; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9).

Christmas is all about Jesus, not Father Christmas … or a tinsel dinosaur.

Let’s keep the meaning of Christmas clear. A statement (author unknown) that has guided my life since college days is especially true during this season:

“The world waits for a daily demonstration of the Christ who lives in you.”

Don’t believe me?

A few years ago, an atheist in Britain, brought up “in the Christian tradition,” wrote about Christmas. He said, “… the birth of Christ, while a nice story (the manger and so on) isn’t really central to the Christian belief system.” (I would argue with him. Jesus had to come before he could die and be our Savior.)

But he continued: “All the important stuff happened at the other end of his life, when we celebrate Easter.” (At least he recognized the importance of the resurrection of Christ!) But then he noted even the message of Easter is muddied with “rabbits and chocolate.”

His argument was, Christians’ actions don’t make the Christian message clear.

At first, I thought I’d ignore the man’s sarcastic remarks as just an atheist’s worldview. But he did have a good point. The world is watching to see whether we live – whether we demonstrate – what we say we believe.

“If Christians cannot work out what Christmas is about,” he said, “then how can they expect anyone else to? … once the Christianity goes entirely, we are left simply with bad shopping and bad telly, and that would be a terrible thing. But it is up to Christians to reclaim this festival.”

Ouch … and Amen.

So, I thought, how can we Christians “reclaim” Christmas? I thought of six ways:

  1. We can carefully examine our hearts – how might we have let the world’s definition of Christmas color our lives?
  2. We can faithfully return to our Bible – the scriptural account of the birth of Jesus – and set it center-stage in our hearts.
  3. We can intentionally magnify the reason for the season in our families (in our conversations and activities).
  4. We can willingly support our churches in sharing the message of Christmas and the Gospel.
  5. We can creatively present Christmas in its truth and beauty to our neighbors.
  6. We can lovingly respond (not react) to attempts in our culture to strip away the meaning of Christ’s birth.

Reclaiming Christmas involves awareness of what is going on around us, and commitment to attitudes and actions that are biblical so our lives glorify God not only during this season, but all the year long.

I recognize there is controversy among Christians concerning Christmas celebration. I believe individual Christians must go to the Lord and determine how much of the secular trappings and celebration to include; but every Christian can celebrate the birth of Christ and consider fresh ways to incorporate biblical truth in the heart, home and culture. Are we doing enough to make the message clear? Do our children understand? Our neighbors?

Luke2-14_ChristmasCardFor example, the world is quick to speak of the peace and goodwill of Luke 2:14, which is on many Christmas cards, even secular ones. Peace is a longing in every soul. But people ignore the first part of this scripture: “Glory to God in the highest.”

Christians recognize this truth: there is no lasting peace without the Prince of Peace, Jesus. One of the ways we honor God and bring Him glory is to publicly recognize His Son and why He came. He came to save.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins … For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost … For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (Matthew 1:21; 18:11; John 3:17).

Another example … the word “believe” is often seen during this season. The world wants us to believe in Santa and the nostalgic “magic” of Christmas. But it’s not about the magic; again, it’s about the message.

When we reclaim Christmas, we will remember the one thing we must believe: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Ultimately, Christmas is not about a day. It’s about a decision.

It’s a decision to embrace the Savior who came to bring the life, peace, joy and hope we would never have without Him. It’s a decision to make Him known and glorified.

Which of the six ways to reclaim Christmas inspires you the most? How will you demonstrate the reality of Jesus’ birth this holiday season?

Credits: Dinosaur from Improvementscatalog.com & Christmas Card from Zazzle.com

— Dawn

%d bloggers like this: