Christmas madness?

I did some copying work for my 5th grader's teachers today, and then ate lunch with both my boys. On my way out the building a woman who has worked as a crossing guard there for a long time greeted me and threw in, "All the Christmas madness got to you yet?"

My response was, "No.  Actually, there is no Christmas madness in my house at all!"  She looked at me a little surprised.  Maybe she thought I was one of those religious people that doesn't celebrate holidays, or maybe I was just a scrooge.

"Actually, Christmas is a very sacred and happy time in my house.  I love Christmas!"  She gave me a look of curious acceptance with eyebrows raised and bid me a good day.

Christmas is the beginning of Easter for me.  It's the beginning of an exceedingly special time of celebrating the meaning, the goal, the redemption..the story of life.

I was raised in a church system that threw the baby of worship out with the dirty bathwater of meaningless rituals.  No doubt, worship happens, or can happen on any day, at any time of the day, not just on special days or holidays or Sundays or quiet times of "devotion".  Just the same, setting aside the "normal" things of life that can be (and oh that they would be) worship-filled, to observe a tradition or ritual or ceremony or dedicated, special activity which focuses one's attention on the beauty and truth of Christ is equally right and good and, I say, needed for a vibrant relationship with the living God.

My dad was not one to really celebrate any holiday growing up.  I understand, he was a broke log-truck driver with a family of 5 to feed.  Couldn't see much use in spending money on Christmas "stuff" and un-needed toys when there was concern about where the money for the groceries would come from during the layoff season in winter.  His logic and duty-driven work ethic permeates my thinking today, and I thank him for the help it gives me in not being attached to stuff.  But when it comes to worship- the expression of adoration of God with my life- duty is a blasphemous kill-joy and relationship killer. And logic does not negate the need for celebratory worship, if anything, logic demands it.  The most logical thing I could do in light of the wonders of the living God is celebrate him with my life, on special days and every day.

I'm reading Desiring God right now and Piper is expressing for me something I have not known how to express:
If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, "Why do you do this?" the answer that honors her most is, "Because nothing makes me happier tonight that to be with you."  
"It's my duty" is a dishonor to her.
"It's my joy" is an honor.
There it is!… How shall we honor God in worship?  By saying, "It's my duty"?  Or by saying, "It's my joy"? -Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist 

For me, Christmas is not materialistic, nor is it a distraction from celebrating the substitutionary atoning death, and eternal-life guaranteeing resurrection of my Lord.  For me it's not a time to be logically persuaded that Christ was not born on Christmas day and therefore should not be celebrated on Christmas day, or that Christmas has its origins in paganism and therefore should be abominated.  It's not a time for me to do my duty and put up a tree and buy presents and go to church either.

For me, Christmas is a happy, dedicated season of celebrating and remembering and meditating on Christ- God incarnate for me and for His glory.   It is rich with meaning.  My senses get to take in a foretaste of what I feel when I read or speak the word glory.  I feel something.  I feel a glad expression of joy and awe at the condescension of God for me.  I want to put up lights and think on the Light of the World.  I want to smell the evergreens and inhale a hint of the beauty of the fragrance of the life of Christ.  I want to sing the songs and dance around my house and smile and scheme of giving gifts that will bring joy and revel in the wonder that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that he could take the trail to the tree and absorb the wrath aimed at me.

When I celebrate the birth of my son two days after Christmas I don't do it out of duty or despise it because it's illogical to eat cake and blow out candles.  I delight in throwing a party for my son being born.  Should I delight any less to celebrate the incarnation of God, my Savior; a son, not just for Mary, but for me, even me?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6


Casting Cares

(The first year that he's taller than the tree. Tummy flop.)

I have a lot on my mind. A lot of people and circumstances. I was climbing the stairs earlier, attempting to just carry on with my "normal" daily activities and the weight of all these cares brought me to my knees right there. I had let out a few exhaling prayer-sighs through the morning, but I just couldn't take it anymore, I needed to stop, right there, and just cry and call out and cast all my cares upon the One who cares for me- the only One who can do anything about any of it.

I'm very thankful for a pastor who would teach the Word of God, and exhort us not to complain about the culture we live in but to be a light of the gospel in this seemingly ever-darkening society. I'm so glad he would recognize, and call us to recognize, the treasure and responsibility God has given us in our children and in teaching them His word.

I went to a dinner last night with some families from Pathway and my burden to pray was enlarged. A husband and wife are separated across the world from their young child due to an illness. The hearts of moms and dads confessed worry over our children and the choices they'll make in the pressures of the world they live.

A niece writes a public cry of a teenage girl's heart on Facebook- a teenage girl tired of hanging in there. 

My sons grow up in a divided house and I chose this road.

I find resistance and the toying with the thought of vengeance at the bottom of my wife-well rather than a calm and confident spirit that hopes in God. And just when I cry out, "Oh God! I'm empty and all I find is this anger in me…" I hear a spring of calm and quiet trust bubbling up in me and I remember the scriptures and how He is a covenant keeping God and my hope is renewed.

I hear the sound of the peculiar mark of majesty, the sound of Christ-like submission that is a unique identifier of true Christians, and I want it. I know it comes out of confidence, out of knowing who you are in Christ, not out of fear. I know it comes out of following the Master who I am not greater than, not bondage to a tyrannical, angry God. It has nothing to do with rights or superiority and has everything to do with being like Christ.

I long for my kids to see the power of God in their lives. I want them to see the God who changes the hearts of men. I want them to see that He really does this!  He really does redeem sinful people!  He really does change peoples lives for His glory!

I'm concerned for my dad.

I want to reach the children at Pathway and the children in my neighborhood for Christ. I want to glorify God at my job and in my neighborhood and in my house.

Sigh. Deep breath.

Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan... Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God... Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:2,17-19, 22


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