Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Whatever Happened to Christmas?

Dear Gentle Readers...

Christmas devotionals are difficult for me. That must sound strange coming from one of faith. I don't think I'm the only one, though. There are a number of us out here that struggle during the holidays.

I work a part-time retail job. Anyone who has done this can tell you we are on the front lines of the holiday humbug. It begins with militant christians, not unlike the Inquisitors, who are offended when I offer "happy holidays." I get the lecture on how people like me are removing Jesus from everything in this world including Christmas. These are the folks who should have the greatest joy, yet they are sour, frustrated, and unpleasant. And they really can affect your mood in great numbers. (I live in the south...there are great numbers.)

I offer "happy holidays" because I want to be sensitive to another's faith walk. Nothing says I have to agree with their spiritual choices. I simply want to respect them. There is nothing that turns people off more quickly than to have another's religion pushed down their throats. And if there's one thing about Christians down through the ages, we've been really good at pushing our beliefs down the throats of others! All of that hassle tends to leave me with a bit of a humbug problem.

And we all know those who are simply depressed during the holidays. Psychiatry always comes up with great names and acronyms for this stuff. What it all means is that you are yucky. It may relate to your childhood experiences. It may relate to experiences as an adult. You may just plain old fight depression and this is the season it's at its worst. Who knows? Either way, you get really good at the "happy holidays" fake smile. Inside you're wishing the world would go away and leave you alone.

But, when we take all of this and melt it down, what is left is our faith. For those of us who are Christian, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. For the Wiccan or Neo Pagan, they celebrate the solstice, the longest and darkest night of the winter season. Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Hanukkah, a festival of lights showing God's protection for His chosen people.

None of the external matters. The depression. The nasty people in the checkout line at the store. The staunch fundamentalists who would insist you worship their way or else. None of it matters.

What matters is our worship. What matters is our love for our brothers and sisters in this world. What will you do this season? Will you give in to the humbug attitude? Or will you choose to worship and honor the Jesus we as Christians accept as our salvation?

I encourage you to take time. Take time Christmas Eve to think upon the impending birth of Jesus. What must Mary and Joseph have thought? How did God the Father feel when peering over Heaven's edge to see His Son enter the world in such a manner? And on Christmas Day, rejoice with Mary and Joseph as they hold the Savior, a little baby. Remember in your own heart of hearts what this season of celebration means to you personally.

I encourage you to take that joy and share it throughout next year. May your Christmas be filled with thoughts of helping those less fortunate, for it is in giving that we receive. Really, isn't that what Jesus did for us?


PS: Remember in prayer those on the Gulf Coast who have lost so much this year. Many will be sharing their Christmas huddled in tents and eating at soup kitchens. Many will have no Christmas at all. Let us not forget these our brothers and sisters during this holiday season.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Dear Gentle Readers....
There is a blog that I read regularly, Gratefulness.Org(
http://www.gratefulness.org/t/simple.htm) which has an excellent writing on simplicity. In reading the article, I was struck by the thought of a life of gratefulness truly being a life of simplicity. I don't think that has ever crossed my mind before and it brought a revelation to my spirit!

The writer notes that by the time we reach kindergarten, we have been bombarded by and soaked up thousands upon thousands of advertisements. Of course, this must affect our daily lives. Just think of the kids (even adults) around us who have the “gimme” attitude! We go through life, thanks to this “gimme” attitude, always dissatisfied and seeking after the next big thing, the next big thrill. We don't allow ourselves to enjoy the simple things that God brings into our lives: a hummingbird outside our window, dew on the morning grass, the amazing hues in the sky at sunset! So many simple things with which God has blessed that can inspire and encourage our spirit to appreciate the awesomeness of God.

Even in our churches, we are seeking the next special singer, guest preacher, or new program. And, even so, God continues to woo us to Himself through the simplicity of the service, the speaker or the communion table. Yet we leave the church and go back to our work-a-day world without having experienced the change that simplicity brings, without having worshiped in spirit and truth.

How can we experience simplicity? We experience simplicity in gratefulness. An attitude of gratitude should be the way of our lives. When we experience gratitude for those wonderful, simple things with which we are blessed, the difficulties and trials we face fade in the Light of His glory! We get a glimpse of God and His handiwork. When we are able to see God in His creation we will be ready and able to see even more of His wonder. We will no longer operate in the “gimme.” We will find we experience God in ALL of His creation: the wind in the trees, the snow on the mountains, the cry of the eagle, the crashing of the ocean on the shore, the embrace of a dear friend, the waves of joy and sorrow and the rebirth of joy in our lives!

Some would say that this takes the focus off God and onto His creation. Let us remember that God made all things for our benefit because He loved us. We have gotten so far away from true worship! We think our piety will show our gratitude. No, my friends. We show our worship in the simplicity of gratitude for ALL with which God has blessed. That includes His creation.

I would encourage you today to ask God to show you the simplicity and wonder of His creation. You will be surprised at the joy you experience. And you will be equally amazed at how the things that normally pull you away from the Spirit of God have no affect on you. You become focused on God and His wonder. Anything else becomes as a buzzing fly around your consciousness...and even that fly is a simply reminder of the wonder of God!

May you be richly blessed this day as you contemplate the gratitude found in simplicity!