Monday, December 31, 2012

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

This an excellent paper by RC Sproul. Ver convicting and thought-provoking. A truly great read!

"Bah! Humbug!” These two words are instantly associated with Charles Dickens’ immortal fictional anti-hero, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge was the prototype of the Grinch who stole Christmas, the paradigm of all men cynical.

We all recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean person - stingy, insensitive, selfish, and unkind. What we often miss in our understanding of his character is that he was preeminently profane. “Bah! Humbug!” was his Victorian use of profanity.

Not that any modern editor would feel the need to delete Scrooge’s expletives. His language is not the standard currency of cursing. But it was profane in that Scrooge demeaned what was holy. He trampled on the sanctity of Christmas. He despised the sacred. He was cynical toward the sublime.

Christmas is a holiday, indeed the world’s most joyous holiday. It is called a “holiday” because the day is holy. It is a day when businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that differs from every other day.

Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn’t biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.

And so we rain on Jesus’ parade and assume an Olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.

Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous “spirit of Christmas.” The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

What about putting Christ back into Christmas? It is simply not necessary. Christ has never left Christmas. “Jingle Bells” will never replace “Silent Night.” Our holiday once known as Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming known simply as “Turkey Day.” But Christmas is still called Christmas. It is not called “Gift Day.” Christ is still in Christmas, and for one brief season the secular world broadcasts the message of Christ over every radio station and television channel in the land. Never does the church get as much free air time as during the Christmas season.

Not only music but the visual arts are present in abundance, bearing testimony to the historic significance of the birth of Jesus. Christmas displays all remind the world of the sacred Incarnation.

Doesn’t Santa Claus paganize or at least trivialize Christmas? He’s a myth, and his very mythology casts a shadow over the sober historical reality of Jesus. Not at all. Myths are not necessarily bad or harmful. Every society creates myths. They are a peculiar art form invented usually to convey a message that is deemed important by the people. When a myth is passed off as real history, that is fraud. But when it serves a different purpose it can be healthy and virtuous. Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction — but a fiction used to illustrate a glorious truth.

What about the historical origins of Christmas as a substitute for a pagan festival? I can only say, good for the early Christians who had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras? No one calls it “Mithrasmas.”

We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the ground that was previously common suddenly became uncommon. It was now holy ground - sacred space. When Jacob awoke from his midnight vision of the presence of God, he anointed with oil the rock upon which he had rested his head. It was sacred space.

When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: “Don’t be a Scrooge” at Christmas."

RC Sproul

Sunday, December 30, 2012

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

On the fifth day of Christmas...I watched Les Miserables.

Wow.....where to start? It was amazingly beautiful.

I seriously had my doubts about it. To be honest, I'm not at all a fan of musicals. And I was afraid they might have butchered the story. But, I was very pleasantly surprised!

The clearly Christian messages of faith, redemption, forgiveness, and love are very strongly portrayed throughout the movie through beautiful, almost haunting, songs - many of them, actually, prayers. The classic and powerful story was so masterfully brought to life in the characters, and music, and script: from the heart wrenching Fantine, to the pathetic plight of Inspector Javert, to Jean Valjean, himself. And all the many others; endearing - and not so endearing - as well. The film shows (very painfully, and disturbingly, at times) a world of evil, and wretchedness, and sin. There were definitely some very disturbing, crude parts in the movie. But I do think that there is a point that's being made through showing all that depravity: when the people turn their backs on God, it's horribly vile and ugly. Because without Him, we are dead in our sins. And unable to do any good.

And at the same time, the film contrasts, with all that ugliness, the true and simple strength of forgiveness, mercy, purity, and love. That's a powerful concept. And it was a powerful film.

And, so, then we left the theatre, went home, and I made a batch of mincemeat cookies...because, well, they make me feel Christmasy :)


"Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord."

(Do You Hear the People Sing?)

Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Fourth Day of Christmas....

"For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged. "


Thursday, December 27, 2012

On the Third Day of Christmas....

On the third day of Edgar Guest poem.

I know it is long, but it's really great.

At Christmas

"A man is at his finest
towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be
when the Christmas season is here;
Then he's thinking more of others
than he's thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children
is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than
at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him
he comes close to the sublime.

When it's Christmas man is bigger
and is better in his part;
He is keener for the service
that is prompted by the heart.
All the petty thoughts and narrow
seem to vanish for awhile
And the true reward he's seeking
is the glory of a smile.
Then for others he is toiling and
somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas he is almost
what God wanted him to be.

If I had to paint a picture of a man
I think I'd wait
Till he'd fought his selfish battles
and had put aside his hate.
I'd not catch him at his labors
when his thoughts are all of pelf,
On the long days and the dreary
when he's striving for himself.
I'd not take him when he's sneering,
when he's scornful or depressed,
But I'd look for him at Christmas
when he's shining at his best.

Man is ever in a struggle
and he's oft misunderstood;
There are days the worst that's in him
is the master of the good,
But at Christmas kindness rules him
and he puts himself aside
And his petty hates are vanquished
and his heart is opened wide.
Oh, I don't know how to say it,
but somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas man is almost
what God sent him here to be."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Well, I hope you all had as wonderful and blessed a Christmas as I did!

We began Christmas morning at church where we sang Christmas carols and listened to a short homily, celebrating our Savior's birth and reminding us of the angels' message to the shepherds: "Fear not!" After that, we headed home to open up our presents. That evening, we had a delicious meal with our cousins And then, we finished the day off with a wonderful time of fellowship, talking, and playing games with great friends. it's December 26.

Always a bitter-sweet sort of day for me - Christmas Day is past...but it still really is Christmas time. In fact, Christmas time is, in a way, just beginning. People used to really celebrate Christmas for 12 days, beginning on the 25th.

I really like that tradition. So I'm going to keep it, in a small way, by posting a Christmas verse, poem, song, or meditation on every one of the 12 days of Christmas.

I'm starting with this quote from Chesterton...quite a worthy way to begin, I do believe :)

"Christmas is an obstacle to modern progress. Rooted in the past, and even the remote past, it cannot assist a world in which the ignorance of history is the only clear evidence of the knowledge of science. Born among miracles reported from two thousand years ago, it cannot expect to impress that sturdy common sense which can withstand the plainest and most palpable evidence for miracles happening at this moment. . . .Christmas is not modern; Christmas is not Marxian; Christmas is not made on the pattern of that great age of the Machine, which promises to the masses an epoch of even greater happiness and prosperity than that to which it has brought the masses at this moment. Christmas is medieval; having arisen in the earlier days of the Roman Empire. Christmas is a superstition. Christmas is a survival of the past." GK Chesterton

Friday, December 21, 2012

Living House

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 
-C.S. Lewis.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Peace on Earth

Peace on earth?

. . . while evil runs rampant in the streets and lives contentedly in the homes? While everything good, or true, or beautiful is mocked and trampled on?
How could there possibly be peace on earth while little children are being hurt; while girls kill their babies?
How can you talk about "peace on earth, good will to men" when men go into schools and murder beautiful, happy children?
Emilie. . .one of the many victims of the Connecticut shooting. 

How can peace survive when all around us - and inside of us - is despair and chaos?

"Peace on earth" is not usually something people believe in. It's really become more of a fairy-tale concept to us; something we think about wishfully (but not seriously) at Christmastime. "Peace on earth" now seems to hold about as much importance as "happy holidays" or the "Christmas spirit".

Christmas has become either something we feel. . . or it's a just gift-gettting extravaganza. The true meaning of Christmas, and the true message of Christmas, have been buried in consumerism and unbelief.

Christmastime. It should be the most peaceful time of year. But people don't want to think about peace on earth especially when something horrific - like the shooting in Connecticut - happens. Peace on earth seems like a mockery in the face of so much evil. Something this terrible is completely inexplicable. We don't have answers or reasons. Those families have presents under their Christmas trees that will never be opened. They have empty little beds. And empty spots at the table. Empty holes in their hearts. And empty arms where a little boy or girl used to be.

But we are not alone. Our God willingly came into this horrible, sinful place to live with us. He rolled up His sleeves and worked alongside of us. He is not some distant Being who cannot be troubled with our human problems. Instead, He was born in the real and filthy muck of a stable.

He rubbed shoulders with lepers and paupers and tax collectors.

He lived and breathed and worked in a world that was full of evil - our world. His friends betrayed Him.

And then, He allowed soldiers to pound long nails into His palms and to crush a crown of thorns onto His head.

And, worst of all, Jesus's own Father turned His back on His Son. "The King of the Jews" the people mockingly called Him, as this King took every sin upon his innocent shoulders; every horrific, sickening, evil sin that has ever been committed.

That's one thing that separates Christianity from every other religion: No other god ever degraded Himself. No other god washed dirty feet or touched dirty sinners. No other god ever became a part of his story like ours so miraculously did.

But where was God? people ask. Where was He, when we really needed Him? Where was He last Friday?

Well, we should know the answer.

We have banned God from our government, from our schools, from our families, from our homes.  Our society has declared that God is dead and that we rule the world. What did we expect? The horrific massacre last Friday is a bitter, bitter taste of what the world is like without God. . .

Somebody said it was like setting up a nativity scene: During the month of December, they would add to the set, piece by piece and, on Christmas Day, they would add the manger and baby Jesus. Up until Christmas, there is something missing; something crucial. Mary sits with outstretched arms. But her arms are empty. Jesus has not come yet. We're like that now. The parents in Connecticut who lost their little ones are like that now. Our arms are empty. We are missing something deep inside. And many times we just don't know how to fill up that emptiness. We are - whether we know it or not - waiting for the day when Jesus comes again. In the meantime, we often try to fill our arms, and hearts, with other things, or people, or ideas, but all of that is just like a puff of warm air on a wintery day; it disappears in a moment.

But we, Christians, have comfort to cling to in the midst of all the wavering uncertainty and sorrow. We have the knowledge that one beautiful day good is going to triumph over evil. We already know what the end of this Story will be. And it's peace on earth, good will to men.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

It Truly Is a Wonderful Life

Confession: I'm sometimes bored with my life.

Things can seem dull and monotonous. And just normal. And, like pretty much everyone else in the world, I sometimes long for something better than normal. I sometimes forget to really live my life. I sometimes don't live the moment. Sometimes I dread the everyday kinds of things, like washing dishes, changing diapers, and cleaning out the refrigerator. And instead, I live a what if-kind of world. I live and think about what I wish would be, when I should be living and thinking what really IS.

We take so much for granted. Home, family, food, children, music, laughter, books to read; it's all just normal for us, so we forget that it is far from normal for some.

You don't know what you have, until it's gone. . .
GK Chesterton once said it in a more poetic way: "The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost."

Like Clarence said, in It's a Wonderful Life, "Strange isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"Normal life is amazing. Each of us is so necessary. And we each fit just exactly where God has placed us, each a crucial piece in the puzzle; one piece is missing and the puzzle looks incomplete. That's the way things were made to be.

So stop looking around for a better spot, a better place to be, another life to live. You have to live your life. And it's a wonderful life. So live it well. You only get one chance. Savor your chapter of the story and your place in the puzzle; your moment on the stage. Don't spend your time envying someone else's part, because then that envy will become your part.

Life is fierce and hard to catch sometimes; at others, it is calm, soft, still. We don't know what tomorrow will be like. It's a mystery we can only discover by living it. Life is risky, yes, but that's part of the deal.
There's no rewind button. Time only moves forward. It's our choice, really, whether we see a beautiful and dangerous story that we are all a part of. . . or whether we see just another boring, typical day. And I don't know about you, but, to me, the first option sounds a bit more exciting.

Saturday, December 1, 2012