Rediscovering Christmas Joy

I’ll go ahead and say it. I don’t like Christmas.

Okay, to clarify, I love the reason for Christmas. I just don’t like the trappings of the season. For me, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t feel merry or jolly or any of those emotions well-meaning songs tell me define this time of year. I mostly feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Christmas brings to the surface some deep insecurities, ball-blur-bokeh-712318and reveals some personality quirks I’d rather keep to myself. For example, I’m not a huge fan of organized fun. I don’t love a big gathering. I love people. I love rich conversation, but I don’t love forced conversation or coerced fun. I am horrible; I mean seriously bad, at decorating. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t know what looks good where. I appreciate a beautifully decorated home, but to think of decorating my home for Christmas absolutely paralyzes me. I’m also not so great at the gift giving. I don’t love to shop. I want gifts to have meaning, to carry weight, not to end up stuck in the back of someone’s closet. Thus, trying to find just the right present makes for some serious anxiety. I realize I am in the minority with most of my wonderful friends and family who light up at the sound of a Christmas carol or the sight of Christmas lights. All I can think of when I think of Christmas is “can’t we just skip this year.” Horrible, right? I know. I know.

So now you understand my conundrum, how does a Grinch-like girl find her way to joy during all these Christmas festivities? Thankfully the God who gives the best gifts, and who has an impeccable sense of humor, gave me a son whom we nicknamed ball-blur-bokeh-306864.jpg“Mr. Christmas Cheer.” He LOVES all things Christmas. Every year, around the end of October, we begin having weekly discussions about putting up the tree, playing Christmas music, putting the wreaths on the doors and windows. In years past, my answer was always “after Thanksgiving.” But this year, he was extra persistent. After the 256th time he asked about putting up some form of decoration I asked him why he wanted to decorate so badly, “Because it’s fun, mom. I love Christmas. It’s time to celebrate Jesus!”

At that moment, with those simple words, I began asking God to help me see through his eyes. It’s time to CELEBRATE JESUS! That’s where I’ve gone wrong. That’s where I’ve lost my joy. I mean who is more worthy of celebrating than the King of Kings?! So this year, I’m determined to make my way back to the joy of my salvation. To ask God to remind me of the tenderness and vulnerability and miraculousness of the God who came as a baby. The One who made the universe willingly came, knowing He would be dependent on those He created to take care of Him, to feed Him, clothe Him, keep Him safe. The reality that He lived this human life so He could be the acceptable sacrifice, that He came to give up His life so that we might live, now that is worth a celebration!

 

 

Though my preferences haven’t changed. I still prefer a small gathering. I’m still decorating-challenged and overwhelmed by gift-giving. But Jesus, the One who makes all things new, is slowly growing my heart. He’s reminding me that the beauty of Christmas is keeping my focus on Jesus and how I can show the love of Jesus to others. While that seems like a basic truth, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of expectations of the “perfect” Christmas. This year, though, I’m putting that ol’ Grinch away, and letting the JOY of the gospel define my holiday season. Who knows, you might even catch me humming a carol or two. This year, may Christ be magnified and may your JOY be full! Merry CHRISTmas!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15-17

Christmas Cards

Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. ~ Titus 3:15

I love to send Christmas Cards!

As I finished my Christmas Cards tonight, I was reminded of helping to get Christmas cards ready as a child. I can remember my Daddy addressing Christmas Cards when I was a little girl. He was the main letter writer of our family. This was long, long before email. Snail mail was the only way to connect with family and friends. My daddy had a brown leather address book that had the names and addresses of all of the family along with birth dates and phone numbers. The address book contained his beautiful handwriting. He was very careful to keep this precious book up to date. He would address cards to family members and then to friends. Some received a hand written note. He had this wonderful ink pen that no one was allowed to use. He had worked the point to exactly the way he wanted it. When he completed each  card he would call me into the dining room where he was writing the cards. He would tell me to stick out my tongue to lick the flap of the envelopes. I always thought that was fun. Then I would lick the stamp and place it on the front of the envelope. Postage was 4 cents that year.

card-celebration-christmas-749362Life has certainly changed just as Christmas cards have changed through the years. The envelopes come with those little strips that you pull off of the flap to keep from having to lick them. Stamps are 50 cents and have a self adhesive backing so they don’t have to be licked anymore. Even with all of the changes the sentiment on the card it still the same. Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth! Joy to the World! Jesus is Born! So why do I send Christmas cards when I can just post Merry Christmas on Facebook. I just can’t get away from my address book. All those precious people who have crossed my path. Yes, I have an address book in my phone but there is something about that precious book that holds the names and addresses of my family and the friends who touch my life. As I addressed my cards I had the opportunity to share a memory about each person or family and to reflect why they were special enough to have a place in my address book. I also had the opportunity to remember those whose names had been gently crossed through because they have gone to be with the Lord. Each card I addressed has been handled with care and a prayer spoken for each one who would receive a special card. For each name in my address book, I love and appreciate you all year-long, but especially at Christmas when your name is lovingly transferred to the front of a Christmas card with tender care.

blur-card-celebration-749355.jpg

How Lovely Are Your Branches

I struggle a bit in the commitment area. I like change and I like it when things stay the same. I recognize the absurdity of this, as one can not have it both ways, but this doesn’t change my preference in any way.

Many years ago, nearly twenty to be nearly exact, I chose a profession for nearly all of the wrong reasons. Over the course of almost 18 years I’ve spent many a day and many a night within a particular set of walls. I’ve been snowed in, put on high alerts, been bored beyond words, shed more tears than I count, held many a hand, mourned over many a broken heart, and have witnessed more than my share of miracles. To say that I’ve learned more lessons within those particular walls than I can count would be a serious understatement.

christmas-trees-1823938_1280Year after year one thing always stays the same, but changes annually. It is secretly one of my favorite things about that place. The Trees. The Christmas Trees.

Those artificial Tannenbaum dot the premises like little gems on a desert floor. Those who know them know that they mark the beginning of the Christmas season, each one as unique and different as the ones who decorated it. They are a sight to behold, those Tannenbaum that are a lifter of the spirit and of the head.

“The Google” defined Tannenbaum this way: A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

The very description itself encompassed exactly what I was thinking, and I was amused that the Google agreed with me.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness.pngHow very appropriate that the tree symbolizes faithfulness, for it is the consistent faithfulness and regularity as well as the ever-changing baubles that adorn such consistency that ministers to me most.

Over the passage of time my overactive imagination has given rise to the stories that those trees may hold, the hands who’ve lovingly selected their baubles, and I’ve often wondered if those individuals know how very important their handiwork is. I can testify honestly that they’ve made hard days easier, sad days happier, the mundane exciting. I also must confess I’m a little sad when they leave, but for the time being, for today, I am so very grateful for the beautiful reminders that bring a little sunshine and happiness to this world – this and every Christmas Season.

The Giving Christmas

As I look back over the years, I have many wonderful memories of Christmas seasons that I have experienced. There have been Christmases as a child and then a teenager. When I was married, Christmas changed from just my family to include my husband’s family. Then came children and grandchildren. Each new Christmas experience has brought its on special times.

Christmas as a child was full of wonder and joy. There were gifts from Santa and gifts under the tree from my parents. I remember receiving skates and a scooter. There was always a doll from Santa. Even when I was too old for a doll, there was still a baby doll for me at Christmas.

I can remember trying to save my allowance so that I would have a little bit of money to buy gifts for my parents and my brothers. The gifts were never large but they were all I hobby-leisure-model-cars-33074.jpgcould get on a small allowance. The gifts would be a handkerchief for my mother and stationary for my Daddy. I would get little metal cars for my brothers. I was proud of my gifts and so happy to give them to each of my family members.

When I was in college, I had a part-time job at a bank. I remember saving back money from my paychecks so that I could buy “real” presents for Christmas. There was a clock that I thought was so beautiful at a store where my parents shopped for special gifts. The clock was encased in a glass dome. I thought it was the most beautiful clock I had ever loricron-anniversary-clock-95592-281x433.jpgseen. I purchased this clock for my parents for this very special Christmas. It was the first time that I really had the opportunity to buy them special gift. My parents loved the clock and kept it in a special place on the mantel even after it stopped working. They thought it was a beautiful decorative piece and kept it because it was a special gift from me.

When we were cleaning my parents’ home and getting it ready to sell after they had both gone to be with the Lord, I picked up the clock and began looking at it. I know it doesn’t work but it is a reminder of when I learned how wonderful it is to give to others. I will always remember that first Christmas that I had the opportunity to give and not just receive. I will keep this clock as a reminder of the love I felt for my parents that Christmas Day that became my first Giving Christmas.  I will always remember the joy that it gave me to give them a gift that for me was of great value. I know that it is not the cost of a gift that makes it special but the joy that it brings. This is a lesson that I experienced that Christmas season more than 45 years ago, but I remember it each year as I plan my gifts.

Acts 20:35b NIV tells us “It is more blessed to give than to receive. ”

As we think of Christmas, we cannot help but remember the most precious gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

My gift to my parents pales in comparison to the gift that God gave to us of eternal life with him forever. What an amazing God we have. My prayer this Christmas is to enjoy the spirit of giving throughout this season and to never forget the most wonderful gift I have ever received.

Gerard_van_Honthorst_001

 

Crown Him King

We have a standing rule in our house, when it is your birthday you get to choose the activities for the day. This past Birthday for the lone Male child yielded an unusual request, however in the context of Shelton it wasn’t so unusual.

I should probably preface with – prior to the request I had lost my keys, my purse, and was running half an hour behind for church. I hadn’t yet lost my cool but I was indeed perturbed

When the Birthday Boy asked to attend “big church” citing “We can make it there by the second service and we won’t be late.” I said yes. We made our way there and sent a text to Dad letting him know where we were and to our surprise he made it in time to take a saved seat just in time for the first song. As the Worship set progressed with words of reckless love and love unparalleled the song set shifted to an old hymn.

architecture-building-chapel-532720.jpgI sang it as if it hadn’t literally been decades since I had sung it. Standing next to my family in the tiny white church that I grew up and was married in, the lyrics came back to me with such clarity that I knew immediately what the next line was. I closed my eyes and immediately realized, deep within me those words resonated with me. I have always wondered why I refer to Jesus as “King.” He is my King and I adore Him but just never quite figured that out about myself. Yet there I was singing:

“Crown Him with many crowns, the lamb upon the throne.”

‘’He has been King to me a long time, and that must have been cemented in me when I was much younger and much shorter.

I realized in that moment with my Birthday Boy on one side and my Husband on the other, that for me, the Word of God which I quote to myself often had come full circle.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

I often quote this verse to myself, to remind me to persevere in the training and raising of my own children. Yet, there in that moment the King let me see that declaration of His Kingship and royalty had never left me even in my old age. If anything, it had only grown deeper and been more solidified with time.

youth-2212762_1280