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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

Jesus’ Mama

23 Dec

“Students in an advanced Biology class were taking their mid-term exam. The last question was, ‘Name seven advantages of Mother’s Milk.’ The question was worth 70 points or none at all.  One student, in particular, was hard put to think of seven advantages. However, he wrote:

  1. It is perfect formula for the child.
  2. It provides immunity against several diseases.
  3. It is always the right temperature.
  4. It is inexpensive.
  5. It bonds the child to mother, and vice versa.
  6. It is always available as needed.

And then the student was stuck. Finally, in desperation, just before the bell rang indicating the end of the test, he wrote:
7. It comes in two attractive containers and it’s high enough off the ground where the cat can’t get it.

He was awarded an A.”

My mother-in-love sent me that, and I laughed so hard when I read the line about the cat!

MaryAndBabyJesus_blueI hope this won’t seem insensitive, but a few weeks ago, I surveyed some pictures of the Nativity ~ of Mary with baby Jesus ~ and I was reminded that Jesus had a real flesh-and-blood Mama. As is portrayed in many works of art (though I did not choose to show them here), Mary likely suckled Jesus at her breast and smiled as he cooed with contentment.

They had a normal mother and baby relationship. She probably was frustrated with him if he cried in the wee hours of the night. She had to change soiled diapers (or whatever little Jewish babies wore back then). She watched him play with simple toys … maybe something Joseph carved from a chunk of wood.

She likely stared at her son from time to time … awed by her little one. His birth announcement certainly was out of the ordinary! I wonder if, when she cradled his little hands and feet, she understood that his calling from the Father would take him far away from home, touching and healing so many people.

I love what Erin Davis wrote in her book, Beyond Bath Time: Re-imagining Motherhood as a Sacred Role (Moody Publishers, 2012): “Being fully God, Jesus chose to come to earth. He chose to come as an infant and He chose to be mothered… ”

I often speak in Mothers of PreSchoolers groups (MOPS), and the complaints and concerns of these young moms are all pretty much the same, but they also have similar aspirations for their children. I wonder what Mary’s aspirations for Jesus were. Did they line up with God’s plans? Did she and Joseph teach him purposefully?

Did Mary want Jesus to attend school with the priests as well as work alongside Joseph in the carpenter shop? Certainly she watched him develop relationship skills; but did she understand that Jesus ~ a special child with a mission from the Father in heaven ~ would never marry on earth and have children? (Yes, I know that we are “betrothed” to Christ at salvation … but I’m talking about earthly marriage and little children like those Jesus told the disciples not to forbid to come to him ~ Matthew 19:14).

We worship Jesus the King … the divine Son of God. But we must never forget His humanity. Because He came as a wee babe and grew to manhood with character and strength (Luke 2:52), we have an example to emulate as well as a Savior who understands us, our temptations and struggles. He became our righteous substitute (Isaiah 53:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

So I like to think about Mary, right before Christmas … to think about the mission God entrusted her to complete ~ to raise Jesus from babyhood to manhood, all to the glory of God and for His purposes. Put yourself in her place today.

Mary was part of God’s big picture for the world. As Erin Davis said, “Yes, Jesus chose a womb. But that was a little choice. The bigger choice was to make a way for you to be saved from your sin. Remembering that has the power to move you from the little things that make mothering tough to the big idea that you are a critical part in the larger story.” Mothers, take heart. God has a plan for each mother’s life … your life. A mission.

This woman who cradled Jesus at her breast pondered many things (Luke 2:19) and eventually watched him die a terrible death (John 19:26-27). And we know Mary recognized her own sinful nature and proclaimed Jesus to be her own Savior (see Luke 1:46-55, especially verses 46-47).

We do not worship Mary, but we do praise her. We can thank God today that young Mary was His willing servant (Luke 1:38), and at this Christmas season we can commit to obeying Him in all He asks us to do.

– Dawn

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