Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT)
Remember How the Grinch Stole Christmas, one of the fondest Christmas movies there is? The Grinch was miserable, angry, bitter, and determined to make everyone around him the same. He was wrapped up in the affairs of the world and knew nothing of joy. But when the Whos in Whoville got up Christmas morning and celebrated, even though the Grinch had stolen all their gifts and festivities, he realized true joy is found only in your heart.
Right now, the stores are swamped, traffic is thick, bargains are being paraded in front of weary shoppers, money is being depleted that may be needed elsewhere, and many people will spend Christmas in a state of despair and depression. This is one holiday each year that can be filled with awe and merriment, but beleaguered with sadness and pain.
Nehemiah, through opposition and with extreme faith, enlisted the people to rebuild Jerusalem and was able to provide all that they needed. Each group of families repaired a section of the wall until it was complete. After, they celebrated with much merriment. But the people were told to give gifts to those in need so they, too, could join in. Celebration was not to be self-centered; it was to be connected with giving. When we celebrate and give to others, we are strengthened spiritually and filled with the true joy of Jesus.
This Christmas, give tangibly to someone in need—not someone you know, but someone you’d not thought of before. Be like the Grinch, who turned his heart back to the true spirit of the season.
So, confession time with Abbie. (And don’t get excited – no stories of coffee shop humiliation today.)
Ready? Here goes…
I am a scrooge.
But not the kind of scrooge you might think.
I’m a scrooge in a way that is probably largely frowned upon in Christian circles. A scrooge with a bad church-girl secret: I hate stuff Christians say at Christmas time.
It’s true. There are a lot of cliches being thrown around this time of year. And umm… they sorta get on my nerves.
You know the ones I’m talking about? It’s not about the presents. Jesus is the reason for the season. Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas. Wise men still seek Him. Santa is bad. Santa is just another way to spell Satan. Christmas traditions have pagan roots. Real Christians don’t get caught up in the glitter and commercialism of Christmas.
Okay, so maybe those last few aren’t exactly well-known cliches. But you definitely hear them this time of year. People can get a tad preachy and overbearing with their Super-Christian Christmas spirit. Christmas shopping, lights, trees, decorations, and that jolly man in the red suit are given an all around bashing in an attempt to put the focus back on Jesus. Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to another confession:
… I like presents, y’all. Just needed to get that off my chest.
Here’s the deal: I don’t want anyone to succeed in making you feel guilty for enjoying the trappings and trimmings of Christmas. Decorate. Celebrate. Go out to the mall and battle the crazy hordes of last minute shoppers, if that’s your style. (*Raises hand guiltily.) Listen to Jingle Bell Rock and Santa Baby if you like. (I won’t judge.) Watch Elf eight hundred times. Then watch it again if you want to.
But do yourself a favor this Christmas season: sneak away by yourself. Sit down, and take a while to let the authentic Christmas message seep into your very soul. Don’t do it because I’m telling you to. Or anyone else is telling you to. Do it because you want to. Do it because one day, approximately 2,012-ish years ago on a date that probably wasn’t December 25, a baby was born with one purpose.
History hinged on that one squalling infant because He came to do something incredibly, magnificently, mind-blowingly heroic.
He came to save us.
To save me. I know I need a savior, deep in the recesses of my grinch-like heart. (You know – two sizes too small?) I know it, and that is why I like to sneak away and soak in the hope.
I’m not here to preach y’all a sermon today. Those are easy to come by. I’m here to share a smidgen of honesty.
Don’t forgo the festivities in favor of sackcloth, ashes, and solemn remembrance – unless of course, you feel you should do so. Deck those halls. Put on that hideous reindeer sweater with the antler headband your Aunt Penelope gave you four years ago.
Be merry, and be out in the world. Just remember… you have a whole deeper reason for rejoicing.
Check out our friends at Real Teen Faith!
By RTF Editor Abbie Miller
From the writers and editors at iBeGat.com, may you days be merry and bright, may your nights be warm and peaceful. And may Jesus light your hearts.
Deck the Halls with boughs of holly! Fa la la la la la la la la!
Cheerful carols resounded in the hallways of the nursing home. Some friends and I, all decorated in green and red, strolled up and down the halls, sticking our heads in doorways, singing and wishing everyone a merry Christmas.
A small group of us tiptoed into one lady’s room and asked if we could sing for her. She agreed and we sang several Christmas carols with smiles and joy. As we were leaving her room quietly, I heard her gently say, “I love you.” I turned my head at the doorway and whispered back to her, “I love you, too.”
It amazed me how much joy a simple song could bring. Even a smile, a touch on the shoulder, or a “Merry Christmas!” greeting would light up the faces of the residents at the nursing home.
I often feel like I have to do something big to make a real difference. But at that nursing home, I realized there are many people who don’t need something extraordinarily radical this holiday season. Just a smile, a touch, or a word of encouragement can go a long way. 1 John 3:18 says:
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (NIV)
This Christmas, let’s not miss the opportunities to make a difference in the world right in front of us. Let’s live everyday with eyes that actively search for people’s needs and a heart that eagerly seeks to meet them with the love of Christ.
Ashli Roussel, a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Harding University, is passionate about sharing the truth and love of the Lord through writing. She loves camping, running, playing the piano, and participating in missions. Most of all, she is passionate about knowing, following, and serving her Lord and Savior. Without Him, her stories would mean nothing.
Ashli has battled and overcome an eating disorder, which God used to teach her great truths about who He is and how He is involved in our struggles. Now she desires to comfort others with the comfort that she has received from God. Keep an eye out for Ashli’s regular articles on iBegat.com! (read more…)
Just when you think you can ignore diabetes around the holidays…
What is Christmas to you?
I love Christmas. Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. Where some people see rude customers and annoying cashiers, I see stores filled with things that sparkle and glitter and are so much fun to look at – and possibly buy for a special someone. Where some people see cold and slush, I see snowflakes falling, mounds of white on the ground (even though I now live in Georgia, my heart belongs in Washington, which gets spectacular snowfalls each year!) hot chocolate, candy canes, Christmas lights, music, movies, and the Christmas spirit. God has made it a very special time of year for me – I look forward to it for eleven months of the year, and live it to the fullest the other one.
Where do you spend Christmas Eve and/or Christmas day?
I never vacation for Christmas – why would I want to!? We stay at home, and on Christmas eve we put our stockings out and go to bed, awaiting the next morning. When I was small, I didn’t sleep all night – now, I can get to sleep – but it still takes a while! We get up around seven o’clock, get our stockings, turn on the Christmas tree lights, and run into Mom and Dad’s room, where we jump on the bed, wake them up, and scream “Merry Christmas!” Then Dad grabs the camera while we open our stockings. After that, we file out to the kitchen where we make coffee, get out breakfast – always an assortment of breads, apple and cranberry orange with cream cheese, usually – and then settle around the living room while Dad reads the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Then, we open presents – Dad distributes them one at a time. Later in the day, the extended family gets together to exchange presents and have a good time. It’s so much fun!!
What favorite tradition does your family have?
In our stockings every Christmas, there is an orange at the very bottom. I don’t know how it started, or why, and I never eat it – but it’s there, just the same! Also, my Dad always wears his Christmas Robe in the morning. It’s black, red, and white – and absolutely threadbare, even though he only wears it one day a year. The whole morning is tradition-ridden, really!
What favorite food do you absolutely LOVE?
Oh, goodness! Food? I love the Cranberry-orange and apple bread in the mornings. And peppermint coffee, if it’s available!
Where would you spend Christmas if you could be anywhere in the world?
In Washington. Then, at least, I’d have a White Christmas instead of a brown one!
What is your favorite Christmas song?
Now THAT is almost impossible to say. I have a soft spot for the Home Alone vocals, as well as the vocals from the Polar Express. But traditional Christmas songs – the Sugar Plum Fairy is a favorite, as well as the traditional hymns and songs such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
What is your favorite Christmas Movie?
The Santa Clause movies, The Bishop’s Wife, and the Home Alone movies. The worst ever was a movie called, I think, “The Christmas Miracle” or some such movie. It was absolutely awful.
Share your favorite verse about Christmas.
My favorite verse about Christmas would be Luke 1:10 – “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The Christmas story is so much more than a story – it’s real, and it’s for everyone.
I am many things, but I’ll just share a few of them with you right now.
I am, first and foremost, a Christian, and have been since I was six years old. I love the Lord and am trying to please Him to the best of my ability. I am an avid reader, and lean toward fiction although several of my favorite books (the Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Blue Like Jazz, Primal, The Barbarian Way, the Soul of C. S. Lewis, etc.) are non-fiction.
I love animals, and I love music (soundtracks, Christian, Korean and K-pop, some secular music, Immediate Music, X-ray Dog, Taylor Swift, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Owl City, Hayley Westenra… the list goes on and on). My favorite movies are the Last of the Mohicans, G. I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, Inkheart, the Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Robin Hood(s), Star Trek, IRIS (Korean drama – use caution when watching), the Fantastic Four(s), the Spider-mans, Batman Begins, Iron Man, (I love Hero movies) and many, many more. (read more…)
O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie …
O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King and peace to men on earth
Tis’ the season to be peaceful? Glaring lights, tinseled ornaments, merchants, advertisers, and profiteering corner salesmen lure the throngs of people to their bargain tables. Driving by a local pizza shop, I sneered at the creative string of blinking of lights above the entrance; PIZZA ON EARTH
Where did this concept of peace during the Christmas season come from? Better yet, where has it gone? The peace the world seeks during Christmas is rooted in tradition, foods, smells, and sights—all temporary fixes. Yet the premise this holiday is based on—the birth of Jesus, historically presumes to bring peace to men on earth.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 NIV)
What did Jesus mean by this? Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest reveals the foundation of true peace:
Thousands of people are happy without God in this world. If I was happy and moral till Jesus came, why did He come? Because that kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level; Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.
My Utmost for His Highest, December 19
You can have peace during this time. But the discipline of finding it has to gain its momentum from knowing Jesus.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Are you resting in Jesus? If he is your peace, he must be the root of all your festivities. Then, letting go of guilt and generational mandates for the holidays can be the ingredients you add to find true peace.
Pizza on Earth is only for a season. Peace through Jesus is everlasting.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
November 13, 2010