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Holy Day or Holiday?: Getting Serious about the Season

This is Santa Believes by Susan Comish. This post doesn’t seek to explain, exhort or condemn the artist’s work.

Image result for Santa holding a snow globe of nativity scene

I was out Christmas shopping with my roommate when I came across this picture of Santa Claus holding a snow globe with a nativity scene inside it.

A big Santa holding a small nativity scene in a bubble is a powerful statement to me.

The push pull of the holiday season, the competing celebrations of Santa Claus versus the birth of Christ have left many confused. I see friends struggling with the decision of whether or not to teach their kids about Santa. I see them buy all the advent products and try to squeeze the story of Jesus’ birth into their holiday routines. I see people who argue Jesus wasn’t born in December, and Christmas is based on a pagan holiday. It’s hard to miss how many people walk in the tension between Christmas as a holiday and Christmas as a holy day.

A holiday is a day of celebration. It’s a day free from work. It’s a day to spend time doing things we love with people we love. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A holy day is a day in which we do what the Lord has prescribed for us to do in observance of that day. It’s about remembrance, observation, and thankfulness. It is focused on the only one who is holy–that is, the Lord. So is Christmas a day of fun enjoyment with friends and family, to observe the traditions we’ve established with the people we want to observe them with, or is it a time God has set aside for us to remember a certain event and to carry out specific actions the Lord has called us to on this day?

Whether it’s a debate over Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, red cups at Starbucks, or whether to go to church Sunday morning or stay home to open presents, the holiday season full of pointless debates for the Christian to get into. But are we missing God in our debates?

Have we commodified Christ? Have we reduced His birth to a set of rituals to perform in the midst of a season that celebrates ideals He abhors?

Does it really matter if our Starbucks cups are red and baristas say “Merry Christmas” if we go into debt buying gifts we lie and tell our kids are from a magical man in a red suit? If we sprinkle daily advent reading into the mix of covetousness, short tempers, and selfishness, have we met our Christian quota for the season? As the picture I saw suggested, have we made Santa bigger than the birth of Jesus?

Why are people so quick to go to war over keeping Christ in Christmas when many of them set this same Christ aside unless it’s a “Jesus Holiday”? Why won’t they act as if He’s important and belief in Him is worthy of defense at any other time?

I hear you, fellow Christian woman. I see you drowning in advent calendars and devotions, with your nativity scene beside your Christmas tree full of presents, trying to figure out the logistics of sharing this special time with friends and family. The birth of Christ is important. If He didn’t come, He couldn’t die. His birth is remarkable. But are you making it a footnote to your festive season?

Listen, I’m not a Scrooge or a Grinch. There’s nothing wrong with observing the birth of Christ, giving gifts, or taking time to let people know you love and care about them. What’s awful is letting the world tell us when to read about Jesus’ birth and meditate on it. It’s deplorable when it goes from a life to lead to a ritual to complete in December.  It’s unconscionable when reading about Jesus’ birth during advent season is just another thing to check off our good Christian list, or “Instagram for Christ.” It’s a case of drawing near with lips instead of hearts and doing things to be seen of men instead of from a true reverence for God.

Ask yourself: Am I truly worshipping Jesus and thanking God for Him in this season, or am I making an obligatory trip to ooh and ahh over a new baby? Do I send cards and gifts proclaiming Jesus is the reason for the season, even as I forget Him in the hustle and bustle? Do I forget about Christ until His birthday rolls around again?

Let’s be serious. After the birth of Christ, we don’t see Christ as an infant anymore in scripture. We see Him again at twelve, then thirty. The weight, the awe, the importance, isn’t in the baby, but in the man Jesus–His teaching, living, dying and resurrecting for our salvation.

We observe Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection every day. This is what makes up the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Every time we take communion, we show  (announce) the Lord’s death until He comes (I Cor. 11:26). There are many scriptures pertaining to observing and announcing the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. This part of the story is what makes it possible for us to have salvation: the shedding of His blood; His victory over death; His ascension to the right hand of God. Christians should live in light of this sacrifice every day, even the day the world lumps His birth in with other holidays.

 

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No Trees, No Presents, Just Presence

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year because everyone is recognizing/observing things and doing things I try to observe and do all year long. People are celebrating Jesus’ birth today like I celebrate His birth, life, death, and resurrection all year. People are going out of their way to show mercy and grace, to be kind, to be patient, to bless the people in their lives materially, spiritually, emotionally. Some are pledging lifelong commitments to their significant others or traveling to spend precious time with family. Christmas is the time of year when everyone recognizes God’s best gifts to us: His precious son and His unfailing love for us. I’m all about the celebration!

This year has been light on presents for me. What it has been heavy on is reading God’s word. I’d fallen off track, pursuing goals that I had for the year, and wasn’t making the time to read in the word as I used to. This week, though, I’ve made it a point to rededicate myself to study. I’ve been studying recognition the last few days, and the messages have stuck with me. I feel I could write an awesome Ladies’ Day lesson on Leah, Jacob, and Rachel. I have studied what Christ has to say about it in the New Testament as well. In the spirit of recognition, I’d like to acknowledge Mr. Perfect’s role in my intense study.

I was going to glance right over the principle of recognition in my book because I wanted to get it out before the holidays. I had the money in hand to get a cover ready, and a portion of the book was given to someone to review. I was all set to go, but I wasn’t feeling sure about it. I asked Mr. Perfect what he thought I should do with my extra money. He told me to hold off on the book cover and take care of other things first.

“But I won’t have enough extra money to do the cover again until March!” “March is only a few months away,” he answered. Mr. Perfect and I aren’t married, and I am under no obligation to listen to or implement the things he said. But I felt a lot more peace about his suggestion than I did with going forward.

I was going over the notes for the next section to be reviewed when I saw I didn’t have much for the last few principles I needed to highlight in the chapter: presentation, recognition, and knowing (in the biblical sense). Looking to fill in the gaps there has led me to this eye opening study that is still yielding fruit. Thank God for Mr. Perfect’s counsel in that moment! 

Every day I study it, I am amazed at just how perfect and relevant the story of Adam and Eve is to relationships today, both with God and with a spouse. When I first thought of using Adam and Eve to branch off into each topic of the book, it just seemed like a clever device to organize the book, but now I’m seeing the divine providence and guidance in that choice. The story of their creation and the establishment of the marriage institution is the seminal text about relationships. I’m learning so much about relationships and myself through writing this book, and growing so much. I can only hope it’s half as powerful to anyone who will get to read it.

I don’t have a tree or presents to give out this year, but God has gifted me with a purpose and a renewed desire to achieve that purpose. More importantly, though, God has renewed my desire just to sit in His presence, to take His yoke upon myself and learn of Him. Before the demands of the day, as sweet as they may be, pull me away to attend to family, I just wanted to say how thankful I am to God for the gift of his Son, today and every day of my life. As the song says, life is worth the living just because He lives.

Be blessed,

Erica

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Free as a Bird, Wild as the Wind: Freestyle Friday

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these, I almost don’t know what to do! Most of my time lately hasn’t exactly been “free,” so I haven’t been writing as much, but I’ve wanted to write many times. Work has picked up for me, I’ve been doing pre-marital counseling once a week, I’ve applied to school, and I’ve been writing or reading source material every spare moment I have. My days have been filled from my daily walk/jog until I fall asleep on the couch watching Investigation Discovery. Here’s what’s new and not so exciting with me:

  • My five year anniversary was this Wednesday. We didn’t have time to do anything to celebrate Wednesday, as we both went straight from work to church and didn’t leave there until after nine thirty, but hopefully we can do something nice this weekend. Of course, we are going to New Orleans next weekend, which is a great way to celebrate!
  • My car will be paid off by Monday or Tuesday!! I am so excited at the prospect of not having to send that payment in every month. I am praying that the car will still keep going and need as little work as possible for a year or two so I can at least get to taste a little bit of savings. The next debt up for repayment will be the student loans (eeek!)
  • I’ve been preoccupied with writing what will be the seminal chapter of my book, the Adam & Eve chapter. This chapter will introduce nearly every topic that will be developed later. Needless to say, trying to get it perfect has consumed a lot of my writing time (hence why I’ve been so silent here). I’ve decided to break the book up into three sections: Preparation, Purpose, and Purity. I’ve done extensive work in preparation and some writing in purity, but I haven’t done as much work on the Purpose section. I say all of this to say that the writing is going well. I’m not going to end up with the book I thought I would, but this one is going to be better; promise.
  • I’ve been reading Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship by Josh Harris, and it is GOOD! By the same author who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye, this book focuses on courtship and how to move from friends to married couple. So far I like the stories used as practical examples (except that ill advised reimagining of Adam & Eve at the beginning) and the principles given. It’s WAY different than my book, but it’s a good read. 😀
  • I’ve been a little obsessed with Miguel’s “Adorn” and “Lovin’ Me” from the R&B Divas album! I listened to a CD with those two songs on it on repeat for a couple weeks;
  • however, it was supplanted by a sermon Bro. Drummer preached, “Following the Footsteps of Faith,” that everyone needs to hear. I mean, this sermon is awesome. One of my favorite concepts from this sermon is that you cannot expect the blessings of God if you are not where He told you to go. Brother Drummer used the following illustration: if someone tells you to meet them in Tampa and they will pay all of your bills for a year, you wouldn’t pull over at a rest stop in St. Petersburg and wait for them. You wouldn’t say “St. Pete is close enough. If he could pay my bills if I come to Tampa, why can’t he do it in St. Pete?” It’s amazing what principles we understand in secular things that we can’t seem to translate to spiritual terms. Get out of Harran!
  • Speaking of Brother Drummer, our counseling has come to the point of talking about the different relationships in marriage. We’ve talked about the covenant and contractual aspects; now it’s time to talk about the ceremonial and conjugal aspects (or as like to say as our code word “conjugating verbs”). According to Bro. D., we are getting to the interesting or fun stuff; I’ll let you know how that goes in a personal blog post.
  • I’ve got a list a mile long of things I want for Christmas, etc. I have picked out everyone else’s gifts, but I am indecisive about what I REALLY want. I want a new iPod (mine broke a while ago), a laptop (which I should have had long ago; I only own a desktop), a long list of songs and books I want to buy, a new bed, some spin shoes, a membership to the spin/yoga studio that just opened up, etc. Even though I feel like paying off my car is the best Christmas gift I could receive (thanks Mom! You’re the best!), I want to get myself something that moves me toward publishing my own website, developing my author platform, and getting some books published. But then, I really want to cut down my list of music related goodness to bless myself with. Decisions, Decisions.
  • I’m bringing back “We’re Just Links” to promote other blogs, so if you know of any great blogs, please tell me about them and leave a link.

But enough about me, loves, what are you doing/thinking/ this week? Have you got Christmas all squared away? Have you kept any resolutions you’re especially proud of? Do you want to get me iTunes gift cards and a domain name for Christmas? Feel free to leave some love in the comments section!

XOXO

2blu2btru

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Christmas with the Crew

The holidays are looking different this year. Pink Susie and her husband snuck off on a getaway, Christmas is on a Sunday so we’ll be spending a good portion of it in church, and holiday bonuses and raises will be announced AFTER the holiday season.

To many of you, the list I just gave you may sound a little…depressing. However, in my view, I’ve had the best pre-Christmas in a long time. I’m sure you want to know what’s so awesome about it, so without further ado, what 2blu thinks is awesome about her off-beat Christmas:

  • My dad and youngest brother are here for the holiday. Usually when I would see my dad, it would be in connection with something else–a revival at my uncle’s church, a speaking engagement to speak about one of his books, a visit to see some old friends. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw my dad when he was purely in town to see me and wasn’t just making time in between obligations (well, that’s not true; it was 2008 when I  graduated, sorta; also, for a day or two in 2003, but that didn’t go well). So it was with great surprise I realized he was coming to Florida for a week for Christmas just to see me. We’ve had a few misadventures along the way, but it’s been a long time since I laughed this hard or had this much fun with my dad. Yay!
  • I got Mr. P. an awesome Christmas gift. It’s something he always says he needs, but I knew he wouldn’t buy for himself before I got it for him for Christmas. I hope he likes it!
  • I sent my mom her Christmas gift and she got it before Christmas. She still hasn’t opened it yet, but I hope she likes it. I tried to put together a themed gift, so it’s anyone’s guess if she picks up on it.
  • The fact that reviews, raises, and bonuses are so late means I didn’t go crazy on gifts and such, relying on my bonus to bail me out. Now, when I do get the bonus, the holidays will be over and I can get myself something I want as an (slightly) early birthday present to myself, instead of feeling guilty if I don’t place a few more gifts under a few more trees (and grow broke in the process). Plus, if they adjust my salary for my position, I may get back pay, since I’ve been in the position since October. It’s not likely, but it would be nice. If not, I could get a raise going forward, and that works, too.
  • My aunt finally got to take time off and have a vacation. Yay, Pink Susie!!
  • My mother’s surgery went well, and she’s feeling well enough to help cook (read: micromanage) Christmas dinner at home. My other little brother (Codename: Fat), his friend/brother and his wife, and my Uncle KDS (I’ll tell you what that means post-Christmas :D) pitched in, submitting to being bossed a bit to make the Christmas meal yummy (and my mom happy). Wish I could be there).
  • Christmas is on a Sunday, and I get to spend it with my extended family–my church family. If we are still going to operate on the premise that this commercially run, consumer/materialistically driven time of year has anything to do with the coming of the Savior, it’s only fitting it should fall on Christmas. I celebrate Christ’s birth all the time, and what it means in my life, but if the lining up of days causes a few more people to reflect on that AND go somewhere where they have the opportunity to hear the gospel, well, that’s the greatest gift anyone can receive.

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ll be back with a Christmas recap later. In the meantime, what did you get for Christmas? How are you celebrating? Are you celebrating? What are some of your family traditions?

XOXO

2blu2btru

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What Do You Get the Man That Wants Nothing in Particular?

The latest Sony Bravia X Series as of October 2008
All He Wants for Christmas...Ugh! Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time shopping for the man in my life. He never hints or suggests things he may want for Christmas or his birthday. He’s delighted with everything I get him, not because he wanted it but because I thought about him and got him something. I don’t want you to “just be happy getting a gift;” I want you to be excited that I got you what you wanted! *Stamping my foot*

One of my engaged co-workers suggested that I take MensHealth to the mall and take note of what he looks at, picks up, or lingers over. I thought this was a pretty good idea, so I drug him to the new mile that’s close to my new apartment. I hadn’t been to the mall since I’d moved, so I figured it was the perfect excuse to drag him along and get some ideas. So the main thing he lingered over? A 40″ Sony Bravia LED with Blu Ray player. Um, no. I don’t have that kind of money. So back to square one.

Here’s what I’ve observed he might want (through various girlfriend/English major skills and the powers of observation): What thing(s) from this list should I get him? We aren’t exchanging gifts until after the holidays.

  • Java for Dummies/Building a Website for Dummies
  • Guitar (acoustic or electric)
  • Polo Black Cologne Gift Set
  • GNC Gift Card
  • Gaming System with Madden (doesn’t really matter which, as long as he can play the newest Madden)
  • iPod
  • New phone (his BB Storm’s screen is cracked and the phone works when it wants to)

He could get any of this himself, but he has put these things off in favor of essentials, so any of these are probably good bets. Please help!