Of Christmas Without “Them”

I can still hear her voice quiver as each year she gathered her houseful of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren around the table. Just before the blessing, she would recount her love for her family and her thankfulness to God for being alive to share in the celebration of Christmas with those she loved most.

via Pinterest

My great-grandmother was a mother to five, three girls and two rambunctious boys, but known as “Mama” to most. I called her Grandmother Cost. She lived through the depression, along with her husband and children, and her life-long work ethic was a testimony to this.

Each Sunday she would prepare a home-cooked (usually home-grown) meal complete with a made-from-scratch, scrape the plate clean, chocolate cake. For any and all family that would gather to eat after church, Mama’s was the place to congregate.

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Her home would not grace the spreads of any fashionable magazines, but rather was a place of memories made. I can picture in my mind the brown and gold shag carpet and worn linoleum floors. Feel the coolness of rooms long ago filled with laughter and quarreling, that in the later decades remained shut to sustain heat in the main living areas.

It always felt to my childhood mind that the presence of those past memories and people,  namely at that time my great-grandfather I  never knew, roamed about in those rooms, but that is probably attributed to the overactive imagination of a child.

Mama worked her own garden and mowed her own lawn until her death in her mid nineties.  If the Braves or Crimson Tide were playing, you could find her in her matriarchal recliner occasionally arguing with calls made.

Sunday’s you would find her at church.

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My Grandmother Cost knew that her days were numbered, but she did not know the number of her days. That is why with tears and a quivering voice each Christmas before grace was said and thanks was given, she would let her offspring know of her love and appreciation for us all.

When we were ready to eat, we knew that Mama would be making her yearly speech and the room would grow uncomfortable with the thought of not having her presence at the table in subsequent years. They were the words of a woman who loved and was loved and needed to tell you one more time.

As we are entering Christmas week, my thoughts turn to broken hearts that have lost loved ones this year. How they must weep with their loss. I can recount the lives that I know have passed this year. A father, husband, and cop. A daughter, mother, and sister. A friend, co-worker, Papa and dad. These are only three lives who have in someway intersected with mine, but who bring hot tears when I think of their loved ones who miss them so much.

What about us? Who is it that we need to express our love, extend our gratitude, or grace with verbalized (perhaps unsought) forgiveness this Christmas?

This may be the last Christmas… or the beginning of more meaningful friend and family-filled Christmas’ to come.

I would much rather be remembered for a quiver in my sentimental voice than have regrets that I did not say, “I love you, He loves you, and the only real decision that will matter in light of eternity is:

What did we do with Jesus?”

When the coffin is closed, when death has stung, when our time has come, what did we do with the baby born in Bethlehem? The Christ-child turned crucified Savior and finally the risen King of Redeeming Kings?

We may have some regrets as we contemplate the thought of one last Christmas or that last Christmas with the one we loved. Our Father knows that we are but dust-formed lives. He sees, He knows, and He forgives those who ask. I pray for healing in hurting hearts that may read this post. After being a wreck earlier this year, I know even more fully that it is God who numbers our days.

As we joyfully celebrate this blessed season, may we seek restoration in Him and seek to restore others who are hurting and broken over Christmas without them.

If you are reading via e-mail subscription, get out your tissues and click here to watch the accompanying music video by Matthew West.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye39mgcHC3E]

Raise the Risk Challenge:

  • Say, “I love you, I forgive you, or thank you,” to those whom God speaks on your heart.
  • Write a card or word of encouragement to someone who is spending their Christmas without a dear family member or friend.
  • Help a family in need in spiritual and physical ways this Christmas.
  • Watch this message by my pastor, Dr. Willy Rice.

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Why Santa Doesn’t Deliever Presents to our House

I remember defending his existence in fourth grade, then finding out I was wrong soon thereafter. A man I had never met in the flesh, but looked forward to his coming on December 25th every year.

Santa Claus.

via Pinterest

The good-will ambassador for many girls and boys across the world is truthfully presented as a character along with Charlotte, Wilbur, Rudolph, and any other fictional characters we encounter in the children’s literature in our home.

As far as I know we are the only people in our family who do not teach our children to believe in Santa Claus. We have not been ridiculed for our choices, but I want to lay out my reasons here to prompt your thinking on the matter. Truth is too important to flippantly follow the status quo, and therefore, I want to give you some meaty measures to add to your milk and cookies for Santa this year.

First, there are  attributes we assign to Santa that are only manifested in God: omniscience and omnipotence.

Omniscience, means that one is all-knowing.  The holiday song, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, goes, “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when your awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.” 

Only God knowns our thoughts and ways, our lying down and waking up.  He judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts like no one else can.  Omniscience belongs to God in His triune state alone.

Omnipotence, or unlimited power, is attributed to the man who can fly around the world in one night, fit down chimneys or pass through locked doors, and magically provide your heart’s desire one day every year.

Unlimited power is only found in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Second, and equally important, Christmas is a religious holiday about the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This Christian holiday has been secularized so that it is more palatable to non-Christian’s worldwide. Yes, there is an atheistic movement to quiet or extinguish the celebration, but Christmas is largely a money-making secularized holiday.

We have run the risk of making Christmas more about ourselves than the King born in a manger. A jolly old man bringing us more material presents is not the presence that should be celebrated this time of year.

Please understand that I genuinely love Christmas movies, music, and decorations. You will find me glued to Hallmark on many occasions during the Christmas season. Honestly, one of my favorite creations of my artistic mother is a two foot Santa and Mrs. Claus that she painted in ceramics. However, I have chosen to make Santa a fictional character in limited books and movies for my children so that they will not miss the message of Christmas found in the nativity and Christ-centered books on our shelves.

Growing up, my parents followed the three gift rule like many other parents I know. They gave my sister and I three gifts each Christmas just as the wisemen presented to the Christ-child. (Albeit there could be ten pieces to the “one” gift.)

My mom and I.

However, this post by Ann challenged my perspective on even this practice. Jesus is the gift and the three gifts were given to Him on His birthday not the opposite. What do we give Jesus on His birthday?

That is why we, along with multitudes of others, choose to give to Gospel for Asia, Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child, World Vision, and Compassion International at Christmas and throughout the year. In serving the poor, needy, orphaned, and unreached, we are presenting sacrificial thank offerings to God and His Son, Jesus at the celebration of His birth.

Does this mean that we cannot exchange gifts with others? I would say no. To show our love and appreciation for each other as an extension of the gift of Christ Jesus in our life is a blessed privilege. Must we exchange gifts to celebrate Christmas? Likewise no.

We have had the Kneeling Santa figurine since a Christmas Wedding Shower 10 years ago. As I reflect upon its meaning now,  I am unsettled in my spirit. Yes, Santa is bowed worshiping the New Born King, but this even implies that Santa preceded Christ. The true “Santa” was actually St. Nicholas who lived after Christ and gave to the poor in the name of Jesus.

via Google Images

The face of the Father of Christmas may indeed be merry and bright, but it is not found at the North Pole. Conversely, He chose the lowly and humble stable to make his glory known. Then brought forth wisemen from across the earth and angels soaring in the sky to announce His coming and celebrate His Son, the gift of Christmas. He brought His Messenger in this way so that the heart of every boy and girl could know the favor of their Creator through Christ the King.

However you choose to celebrate Christmas in your home, I hope that you will submit these practices to God and seek His will. I pray that you will make Christ predominate in your hearts, homes, and heritage this Christmas and each one to come.

Raise the Risk Challenge:

  • Read Ann’s post referenced above here.
  • Consider who the face of Christmas really is in your family and make any necessary changes.
  • Give a gift to Jesus by sponsoring a child locally or either here, here, or here.

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