Happy Holidays?

Christmas-giftsWhile walking the aisles of a home improvement store, I was miffed by the sight of a wreath emblazoned with two words:  Happy Holidays. This frustrates me because it’s an impotent message that castrates Christmas of it’s substantial significance.

Christmas is not in need of some slick marketing campaign; it’s message might be centuries old, but it’s hardly antiquated.

The secularization of Christmas reminds me of the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!

The message of Christmas is filled with love and full of hope. God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of His son and as Phillips Brooks said in O Little Town of Bethlehem: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

The hope of Christmas is not some neatly wrapped gift that is placed under a tree. It is the gift of Jesus—the baby of Bethlehem.

As the day of Christ’s birth draws closer, I encourage you to give some thought to these words of Peter: Prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed (I Peter 1:13).

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Black and White

santaSeveral years ago Phillip Bump wrote an article for The Atlantic that examined the Christmas Eve workload of the jolly old elf.  Using data from the CIA, Bump focused his article on Santa’s deliveries to the world’s 526,000,000 Christian kids 14 years of age and younger.

To get a present to all of these kids, Bump determined that Santa would need to deliver presents at a rate of 22 million kids an hour for the 24 hours of Christmas Eve. If you run the figures on your calculator, you’ll find that equates to 365,000 kids a minute or about 6,100 a second.  Not to worry though, we are talking about Santa.

Do you remember your perceptions of Christmas and Santa when you were a child?  Did your eager anticipation of Christmas consume you?

I remember how quickly I would hurry home after school, so I could watch Santa’s Workshop in black and white on an old TV.  The days from Thanksgiving to Christmas would pass by with the agonizing speed of a turtle.

As a child, I thought Christmas would never come; and, truthfully, I gave very little thought to its significance.  The desire that I had for the brightly wrapped gifts carefully placed beneath the bright lights and icicles hanging on the Christmas tree, had little to do with the Christ of Christmas.

So, what is Christmas?  It certainly isn’t big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, or the pushing, shoving, and elbowing of frenzied shopping.  Christmas is the birth of Hope.  It is a time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the mobs and the malls to find a moment of solitude to reflect on the miracle of the manger.

Christmas is that day long ago when Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger; to live a sinless life; to die the death of the cross; to rise again on the third day; and to return to heaven to intercede on our behalf.

The essence of that babe from Bethlehem is summarized by Paul in the colorful language of I Timothy 3:16:

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  Jesus appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

May you have a Merry Christmas is my wish for you.

The Year of the Naked Christmas

xmasI’m growing weary of the societal onslaught designed to strip Christmas of its dignity and clothe it in the seams of secularization.   One of the latest examples is the action of the “Executive Leadership Team” at the Salem VA Medical Center.  These mindless minions have banned Christmas trees, Christmas celebrations, and Christian speech, including the traditional Season’s Greeting of “Merry Christmas.”

Should the traditional Season’s Greeting be restricted to the “Ho, Ho, Ho,” of Santa Claus or should two letters be added to “Ho” and the greeting be: “Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” as we celebrate the gift of God’s Son?

Is Christmas to be the inflated plastic toys that line the shelves of stores like Home Depot who want your money, but deny the message of Christmas?  Is it to be a way for stores to profit while they reject The Prophet who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6)?

I realize that Thanksgiving is this week and Christmas is still a month away, but I’ve come to loathe the commercialization of Christmas.  When we forget the rich Christian history of this holy day, it becomes a remnant of empty boxes and crumpled wrapping paper.

The hope-filled Spirit of Christmas has transformed lives throughout the history of mankind.  One such incident is the World War I story involving Charles Brewer, a 19-year-old British lieutenant.

On Christmas Eve of 1914, Brewer and other soldiers of the Bedfordshire Regiment of the 2nd Battalion were shivering in a trench when they faintly heard the sound of singing coming from the trenches of the German soldiers.  After a moment, Brewer recognized the song was the familiar Christmas carol, “Silent Night.”  When the Germans were finished singing “Stille Nacht,” Brewer and other soldiers began to cheer, and they sang the English version of the song.

According to history.com, “When dawn broke on Christmas morning, something even more remarkable happened. In sporadic pockets along the 500-mile Western Front, unarmed German and Allied soldiers tentatively emerged from the trenches and cautiously crossed no-man’s-land—the killing fields between the trenches littered with frozen corpses, eviscerated trees and deep craters—to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Political leaders had ignored the call of Pope Benedict XV to cease fighting around Christmas, but soldiers in the trenches decided to stage their own unofficial, spontaneous armistices anyway.”

I think it’s time for the government to end this sterilization program and let our Veterans have their Christmas trees and its time merchants  begin  focusing less on the jingle bells of their cash registers and more on the message of Silent Night.

Today is Christmas

This is the time of year when the mystery of the Old Testament prophets is understood in the fulfillment of that pinnacle of prophecies—the incarnation of Christ.  The birth of Jesus is the axiom of Christianity.

Wonderful-Counselor

Today is Christmas day, and it is the day when the dignity of Deity was clothed in human flesh and was born in an insignificant manger.  Today we celebrate the birth of the Magnificent Messiah and the Savior of the world, and we can truly sing, Joy To The World.

Merry Christmas!

The $27,673 of Christmas

business_library_12_days_of_christmasIt may be a “man thing,” but shopping is usually at the bottom of my I-just-gotta-do-it list, and it will never find a place on my bucket list.  According to the PNC Wealth Management Christmas Index, if you were to go on a shopping spree based on the classic song, The 12 Days of Christmas, the gifts would cost you $27,673.

One gift that didn’t make the list is so uniquely spectacular that Paul said, “Thanks be unto God for his indescribable  gift (II Corinthians 9:15).”  This is the gift that the prophet Isaiah spoke of over 700 years before Jesus was born:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace                                                                                    ~Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled in the words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

So you see, the real price of Christmas is not the sum total of  $27,673, it is the Son total of one life that paid the price of salvation—”You get what is coming to you when you sin. It is death! But God’s free gift is life that lasts forever. It is given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23 ~NLV).”

Peter encouraged a group of severely persecuted Christians to recognize and give thanks for the presence of Jesus:

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.  You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  ~1 Peter 1:3-5

If you see Christmas as a series of sales Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you denigrate it to the status of meaningless merchandise.   The onus is on us, you and me, to keep Christ foremost in this season of giving.

As you prepare for your celebration of God’s miraculous gift, I encourage you to remember that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).”