A Christmas Message

 

This time of year means different things for many people. Rightly so, traditions and superstitions abound and have converged over the years to bring us a whirlwind of ideas about what Christmas is. People make it what they want it to be and that is their right. The traditions are vast and they vary carrying with them a rich mosaic of colour, music, food, story, and practices.

Christmas comes rushing for many and carries a heavy sense of dread. It can be a difficult time of expectations pushing up against economic limitations and guilt. For many, commercialism runs rough shod over the season and people are left with the feeling of being pawns in some corporate game whose goal is to create unfulfillable desire. It leaves many with an empty feeling and too much stuff.

Christmas is a painful time for far too many people. It opens wounds of loves lost, expectations unmet, and ushers in anxiety in ample measure. Family systems are broken and people are brought together by obligation in the full force of their dysfunction. Many a Christmas dinners become yelling matches and battlegrounds where words serve as bullets to rip open old wounds and create new ones. For those who suffer in this vein, waiting for it to pass is the hope that floats them.

… But Christmas is good news for all people. Why you might ask?

Christmas is about welcoming a baby into our broken world that became King. In the midst of everyone's calamity and the anxiety of ultimate death that befalls every human being, a baby was born to do special things. “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)

This is no myth. This is a physical and undeniable moment in space and time when something remarkable happened. In speaking of this baby as a rose, an old hymn tells it to us like this…

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;

Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.

To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,

When half spent was the night.

From the story of the ancient people Israel, came the promise of God to come and deal with the brokenness that enshrouds the entire world. This brokenness is a result of humankind's rebellion toward God. God's way of dealing with the predicament was to send himself, in full vulnerability of a babe, to inaugurate God's kingdom and save the world from sin. He does this in love and not force or violence. For love is the hallmark of this King's kingdom.

The great news about Christmas is that the God who made us forgives us and loves us. God wants to restore and refurbish all things. He is making the whole earth new (including us) and invites us to follow him in that great task as co- creators and conspirators. God promises that anyone who partakes of this journey will never regret it but experience life to the full. That is not to say we will be free from suffering, but that the God who loves is familiar with suffering, having suffered himself, and is now present for us through it. God transforms even the greatest of tragedies into part of our ultimate healing. Take comfort in this.

So whichever story you find yourself in, whether it is marked by pain or a joyful time with family, my hope is at you will get a glimpse of the light that is shining in the darkness and come to understand how good the news of Jesus is.

From my family to yours….May you experience the fullest measure of God's love, joy, and peace this Christmas.

 

Two Christmas Tides

 

It's the second week of advent and Christmas is approaching. This is good. For the light of the world…. the gift that transcends all material gifts… the one that does not decay, but gives and sustains life, is coming. This is good news. For all people.

Two tides meet in the vortex of our lives this time of year. The worldly tide of “the season”, sees Christmas as an opportunity for profit and accumulation of worldly possessions. It advances on the shorelines of our lives with a force that leaves us washed out and less than we were before. It's a destructive tide with a wave-upon-wave assault that takes no prisoners and feeds us a dream that does not last or exist in any real sense. This worldly tide is marked by decay and it forces upon us all sorts of wants and “alleged” needs that promise fulfillment but deliver emptiness of soul. This tide suggests that we can fill the God shaped longing within us with material things. The great tragedy for humans is that we cannot see the emptiness of this tide. But there is hope in the other tide.

The other tide is one not of this world….literally.

The other tide, like light, exposes the tide of “the season” for what it is: empty and hollow. This other tide washes us clean from the allure of the empty tide and gives us a new hope. This tide has the power to turn us toward a dream of real fulfillment. This tide brings the gift of God himself along with the full force of his love. It offers to envelop us into a new adventure and it will make you tremble in fear until you realize the transformative goodness the current brings. This tide promises to reorient your shoreline in the best possible way with its sheer power. It is so powerful that it comes wrapped in the frailty of human skin, as a baby, vulnerable and needy and above all, ultimately subversive.

If you've ever been on a boat that has a keel deep in the water, you will know the danger of riding on the ridge of two powerful tides. The currents collide and cause whirlpools and uncontrollable situations for the ship. It can bring you down.

Maybe there is a lesson here for us as we find ourselves met by two tides this Christmas? Perhaps it's best that we stick to the one that offers us more than the hollow consumerism that leaves us empty.

 

Christmas tree farm….

 

We spent the afternoon going to the tree farm. It's a tradition our family has had since before our children were born. For us, this day and the first Sunday of Advent officially ushers in the Christmas season for us.

The kids had a blast romping through the rows of trees as their aunt chased them laughing to no end. The kids get a kick out of her because the majority of the time includes hearty belly laughs and a silliness that I think most long for but are too self conscious to embrace. Signs of the kingdom, perhaps?

 

It's days like these that I often think about the story of Christmas. I look for opportunities to talk with my kids about it and the significance of God coming to us cloaked in our skin. I asked my eldest daughter what her greatest hope was as a result of Christmas. She said “no more war”. I like that. She then told me how God would take weapons and make instruments out of them. It's a gift having a daughter like her. I feel blessed beyond comprehension.

We put the lights up on the tree and are looking forward to finishing our Christmas decorations tomorrow.

May God draw your hearts near to him this Christmas.

 

Out of the Cold

Christmas is the time of year that can make people do strange things. Millions living in the affluent West go into unmanageable debt, acquire material things they do not need, and practice a form of gluttony that would give great Kings of Old indigestion. Sadly, all of this strangely happens in front of the majority of human beings in the world which live below the poverty line. They must stand in utter bewilderment at the excess living demonstrated before their difficult circumstances of unmet living expenses, malnourishment, and strife.

…Christmas can and should be a time that is different, If any remnant of the original story of Christmas remains. I declare it does.

This Friday, our church community is conspiring to make a difference in our neighbourhoods by hosting a dessert evening and silent auction called Out of the Cold. All proceeds go directly to the charities listed. This is a fantastic way to be part of a great subversion in our culture that was instigated at the first Christmas when the world met its saviour. I encourage you to come and be part of a story that can change the world and you along with it.

I have personally donated a 400$ family photography session to the cause.

Here is the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Out-of-the-Cold/551114624903074

 

My favourite telling of the Christmas story….

This is my¬†favourite¬†Christmas Story video. The kids are adorable and the message is clear and full of wonder. As we approach Christmas, eagerly waiting for the coming of the King, let’s remember the story and how it serves as the genesis for transformation in us and through us.