After the Sparkle

On December 26th, I usually find myself sorting through new and old toys, cleaning up messes, squeezing one more bag of trash into the garbage can, and feeling a little let down that the holiday has passed. This year, I spent a what felt like forever but was only really an hour feeding my son Cheerios and a bottle in the back seat of the car while holding his hand to keep him from screaming all the way home from his Grandma’s house. My primary love language is giving and receiving gifts, so the flurries of giving and receiving that surround Christmas time fill up my emotional “tank”, but social events, travel, and busyness exhaust me at the same time.

I have always struggled with a post-Christmas feeling of disappointment; of buildup to a “glorious event” and then let down after it’s passed. That struggle is rooted in improper priorities when my heart focuses on gifts, expectations, parties, services, and time with family instead of on Christ and a reluctance to withdraw from festivities when I need an emotional break. Advent preparation resources have blessed me tremendously in the past few years but I still struggle. Shouldn’t my Christmas be sparkly and perfect and not let me down? All the songs and stories I read make me think that that’s what Christmas should be. The first Christmas seems like it should have been picture perfect when I don’t think about it carefully.

In reality, Mary and Joseph had been through so much leading up to the birth which the angel foretold: angelic visitations, unplanned and unwed pregnancy in a conservative society, suspicion of infidelity and plans for divorce, marriage and abstinence from physical intimacy, and after all of that, traveling out of town to a crowded city to be counted in a census at the end of a full term pregnancy.

When Mary actually delivered Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, she was far from home and her people. After Christ was born and the shepherds left, instead of the tranquil scenes we’re given in paintings and stories where even the cows held their breath in wonder, life kept going. Animals in the stable most likely were still there after Christ was born and continued to do what they normally do: make noise, eat, and make manure. Mary had to care for a newborn in overflow housing in a crowded city and eventually travel with him all the way home. She had to figure out how to feed him and care for her spent body after delivery; how to carve out a new rhythm as the mother of her people’s Messiah who was very much a helpless baby.

Praise God that He sent His Son into the thick of our mess and in the mire of our reality.

If you find yourself disappointed after the sparkle of Christmas passes, I pray that you would find relief in the fact that Christmas was just the beginning of the miraculous fulfillment of ancient prophesy to pay the price for the sin that separates us from a Holy God. This event was planned from the beginning of time, and it was far from the end of a story. You are in good company if you feel like gifts and decorations and parties fall short of expectation because they are not the point. Christmas marks the beginning of the life of Christ who lived an actual life after He was born. After the anticipation of delivering Jesus came to a halt all at once, the story had just begun to unfold.

I pray that we all approach the after Christmas period in light of the fact that Christmas happened; but was only the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Advertisements

Five Things to do Instead of the #merrychristmasstarbucks “Protest”

As a Christian, I am called to love others. The Bible says in 1 John 4:10-11: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I am not perfect, and I don’t do this well all of the time. But, it’s what I’m called to do. There is a lot of debate about what “love” really is. Because I’m a Christian, and because I sincerely believe that choosing to have a relationship with Christ is the single most important decision you will make, I will share my faith with you. If I did not share my faith with you, I would be condemning you to an eternity of separation from God through my silence. I will speak about how my relationship with Christ has transformed my life out of love.  

When I wish you a Merry Christmas, I am wishing that you know the freedom and joy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am wishing you the peace and joy that comes from knowing Christ. The name of Christ is not meant to offend you. His name is not a curse. His name and the celebration of His birth are a blessing.

I know that many of you celebrate Christmas as a holiday not rooted in Christ or His birth. As a Christian, that causes my heart grief because I know the great joy that comes with knowing Christ. I know that many don’t celebrate Christmas because they believe in other faiths. I believe that Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the Father but by [Him]” (John 14:6). It grieves my heart when you don’t know Jesus as your savior, and when you celebrate or don’t celebrate Christmas without knowing Christ.

The #MerryChristmasStarBucks “protest” truly grieves my heart. The name of Christ is not a prank; nor is it a club with which a Christian should beat a corporation into using “Christmas” during the holiday season. Starbucks has clearly indicated that it does not celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ. Furthermore, do reindeer and snowflakes on your coffee cup symbolize Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth?

2015 11.09 MERRYCHRISTMASSTARBUCKS

As Christians, instead of protesting a corporation’s choice to not decorate their cups with Rudolf (and ignoring the fact that they make a killing off of their Christmas blend coffee annually), let’s think about using our social leverage to accomplish these five things:

  1. Spend the five dollars that you would have spent on your Starbucks drink on food for the local food bank.
  2. Practice responsible consumerism. If you find that a corporation doesn’t act ethically, don’t do business with them. Did your clothing come from a sweatshop? Was your food produced in a manner that was harmful to the environment? Your energy might be well spent making informed decisions about the companies with whom you do business based more than just an image on a cardboard cup.
  3. When it’s the Christmas season (post Thanksgiving) cheerfully wish whomever you interact with a Merry Christmas if appropriate. Do not force them or trick them into wishing you a Merry Christmas. Jesus did not go around tricking people into saying that He was the Messiah.
  4. Understand that as a Christian, your social responsibility is not to force corporations and their employees to act like you want them to while ignoring widows and orphans. Your responsibility is to know and share Christ. A five dollar cup of coffee not decorated with meaningless symbols not representative of your faith is not cause for great alarm in the light of wars, famines, droughts, an overcrowded foster care system, corrupt corporate government systems, or global warming.
  5. Act like Christ would have acted. Love your neighbor as yourself, and correct your fellow Christian in love if you see them behaving out of line of the faith. (IE- If you see them acting foolishly over a cardboard cup of bean juice because it doesn’t have a picture of a mythical red-nosed quadruped on it around the time that you celebrate the birth of your savior.)

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May true gratefulness for all that God has blessed us with full our hearts and lead us to acts of love that reflect His willingness to come to earth as a helpless infant to die on the cross to pay for our sins even though we don’t deserve it.