Tag Archives: holiday

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 3

I’m a gift giver. I love thinking about and then discovering the perfect gift for my friends and family. Nothing about it stresses me out. It’s like a great mystery to solve followed by a treasure hunt. I feel a little like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail whenever I’m hunting down a gift. Nothing beats the look of surprise and appreciation when a loved one opens a gift that’s “just right”.

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Now, gift giving may excite me but I know many who just plain dread it. For many it is their absolutely least favorite part of the Christmas season and it is the greatest source of stress. And I get it…the crowded stores, the money, the wrapping paper, the unrealistic requests from small children…I get it. Yes, Christmas has become much too materialistic and too commercialized. And yet, there is a reason we give gifts.

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A gift says, “I love you. I think of you. I know you. I pay attention to you.” And those sentiments have the power to warm hearts and heal hurts and strengthen relationships. A great gift is the result of truly knowing the gift receiver and everyone longs to be known. The best gift doesn’t cost the most money, but it does cost something – maybe money, maybe thought, maybe time. The best gifts isn’t wrapped with the prettiest paper or bows, but is wrapped in excitement. The best gift isn’t the flashiest gadget or trendiest toy on the market, but is the most thoughtful and most meaningful to the receiver.

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Jesus himself was the greatest gift the world has ever received. As audacious as Christianity’s claim of the resurrection may seem, it is NOTHING in comparison to the incarnation, Immanuel, God with us. Stop and think about what that TRULY means! Love so great as to become like us in order to relate to us. Incredible! And the wise men recognized the miraculous nature of the moment and so they came and they came bearing gifts.

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The wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were quite possibly the most meaningful gifts they could have selected. These valuable items were standard gifts for a king. Gold is a precious metal, frankincense a perfume, and myrrh an anointing oil. The magi’s visit and the gifts they would bring were foretold by Isaiah and may have an even deeper meaning than just pointing to Jesus’ identity as king. They also pointed to his role as priest and to his impending death on a cross.

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As I write, my family is doing our traditional Christmas Eve routine – eating and watching football! Mom is at Walmart because something was forgotten (nothing we couldn’t have gone without but it just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without an unnecessary trip to Walmart with the masses). Tonight we’ll go to church, enjoy an amazing meal, and then open presents. And even now, as adults, we can’t stop talking about how we can’t wait for one another to open the carefully selected gifts later tonight. And there are certainly plenty of them to open! (I considered taking a picture of our tree but the number of packages is simply embarrassing.) We simply love to give gifts to one another! It isn’t anything other than a tangible expression of how much we love one another.

So my question is simple…like the wise men, what gifts are we bringing Jesus this Christmas? Yes, Jesus wants your heart, but what else might he be asking you to give this year? Yes, it might cost you – you might have to spend time or thought or even money. But like any other gift we give, the cost is always overshadowed by the joy on the receiver’s face. And when we give Jesus what he wants – what he has been asking us for – the joy is priceless, the cost negligible.

So this Christmas I hope you receive all you asked for but find even more joy in the giving. My prayer is you receive the gifts God has for you. And my challenge is that you take the time to ponder what Jesus wants to receive from you. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 2

So I want to blog about busyness…the irony is I was too busy to blog about it last week and honestly, I’m really too busy to be doing it right now. Like I said, ironic.

Here’s the deal…we’re all too busy. All the time. And so when the extra celebrations, get-togethers, concerts, and parties begin to pile up; when the baking and shopping and decorating find their way onto our to-do lists; we blame Christmas. “This time of year is always so busy!” Well, of course it is! We’ve just added another helping or two to our already overly full plates! Listen, it isn’t Christmas’s fault!

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So now that you have learned to just breathe and simply be kind (Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 1), here’s tip number 3 – slow down. I know, you just rolled your eyes at me, but I’m being serious. I have yet to discover a way to enjoy the Christmas season quickly or rushed. It just doesn’t happen. All good things must be slowly savored, and Christmas is the best of things.

Slowing down is something you have to fight for though. It won’t just happen on its own. You have to choose lazy Saturdays decorating and baking as a family. You have to let go of the work project in order to celebrate our Savior with friends. You might have to let company come over even if the house isn’t clean and choose relationship over reputation. You may have to use that last vacation day so you can carefully shop for the perfect present instead of quickly buying the first item that will do. And I KNOW you have to slow down to actually allow the truth of a Savior in a stable and a King come down from his throne to sink in and move us, maybe even change us.

It might be cliché to talk about the “reason for the season” but nevertheless, it’s true. In our busyness, we lose sight of Jesus. We lose sight of the meaning of Advent and the eager expectation and desperate longing for a savior (we’ll tackle that more next week in part 3). We forget what matters most isn’t the trees and twinkle lights, the wreathes or bows, the gifts or goodies, the concerts or caroling. No, it is Jesus. It always has been and always will be all about Jesus. Emmanuel. God WITH us. Incredible. Heaven truly came down at Christmas. Our task today is to join in bringing Heaven down each and every day. We simply cannot do that in a hurry. We won’t notice the Holy Spirit at work in or around us in a rush.

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But if you just HAVE to hurry, if you just MUST be in a rush; may I suggest we take a cue from the shepherds. For they were in a hurry once too. Luke 2 describes the Christmas story we all know so well. The shepherds hear of Jesus’ birth from a host of angels and are terrified (can you blame them!). Once they gather themselves, the shepherds say to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15b-16, emphasis added).

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So this holiday season, slow down. Watch the snow fall. Listen to Christmas music. Enjoy a hot drink by a warm fire. Take in a favorite Christmas movie with the family. Schedule a random vacation day, sleep in, shop leisurely, bake joyfully. Slow down and give thanks for “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11) But if you must be in a hurry, hurry towards Jesus.

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 1

We’re one week past Thanksgiving and just three weeks away from Christmas. I attended my first Christmas concert this weekend although odes to Saint Nick and sounds of Joy to the World have been ringing through store sound systems for what feels like months. (I don’t want to start WWIII but I refuse to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, even then I have a hard time truly getting in the spirit until approximately the week before.) Tis the season for tinsel and bows; red, green, and gold; Rudolph and Wise Men; Buddy the Elf and Red Rider BB Guns; shopping and baking; and at some point, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus laying in the manger.
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And I don’t know about you, but the holiday season simply seems to bring a level of busyness and stress unprecedented by any other time of the year. It’s the Christmas craze…and it tends to put us all in a holiday haze. And so after a bit of a hiatus, I hope to offer a little hope on how to navigate this time of year without completely losing it at the in-laws or becoming Ebenezer Scrooge.

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Here’s tip number one: Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Breathe.

Ok, tip number two: Be kind.

I know, earth shaking. But seriously, how much better would our world and the holidays be if we were simply kind to one another? Unfortunately I have seen way too much unkind behavior lately. Do I really need to remind anyone what the weeks following the election looked like in this country? I’ve never experienced or witnessed such cruelty and unkind behavior or attitudes from friends and family towards other friends and family in my life. Out of our own hurt, frustration, and fear we lash out at others, often those we love the most, which then leads to incredible guilt and remorse making the fake smile through the stress that much more difficult.

What would the Christmas season feel like if instead of fighting for the closest parking spot, we actually allowed someone else to have it? What if we chose the longest line in the grocery store or slowed down while moving through the aisles to actually look our fellow shoppers in the eye? What if buying a gift for someone we know wouldn’t expect it and would be extra blessed by it actually blessed us instead? What if we bought a weary shopper a coffee? What if we put our politics and passions and perilous opinions aside, just for a season, and embraced our common need for a Savior in a manger? Wasn’t it simple kindness that caused the Grinch’s heart to finally grow? Isn’t it ultimately kindness that leads to the Miracle on 34th Street?

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Kindness. It is so simple of a concept it is often overlooked. Kindness is simple, but it’s implications are incredibly powerful. It can turn sour attitudes, melt cold hearts of stone, and restore hope. It can reconcile feuding families and bring peace where there was once prejudice. God’s kindness is what turns us from our sin (Romans 2:4) and our kindness demonstrates the Holy Spirit at work in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). “Be kind” may sound cliche, but it is an integral part of God’s very character (Psalm 145:17) and a command from God to his chosen people (Colossians 3:12). Ephesians 1:7 says, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”

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Kindness sets people free. Free from stress. Free from fear. Free from bitterness and resentment. Free from loneliness. Free from hurt. Free from cynicism. So slow down (kindness rarely happens when we’re rushed). And be kind to someone this holiday season. Whether your holiday is magical enough to be in a Martha Stewart magazine or tends to give the Griswold’s a run for their money, we can all be kind in the midst of the crazy.

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I’d love to hear your holiday stories of kindness – comment below. And stay tuned for part two of surviving the Christmas craze and holiday haze.