Hanukkah’s Cresendo: Christ’s Humility towards Humanity

Yesterday this year’s season of Hanukkah ebbed to its conclusion as the candles wicks extinguished.

 

Eight flames flicker,

recounting radical providence.

When thieves had stripped the temple

leaving only enough supply for one day’s worship,

God anointed his people with the ability to seek him still.

He gave means for his people to

search his magnitude and praise him for eight days

rather than a measly one.

When the world was dark,

God birthed in illuminating light,

seeing fit to provide his people with endurance

that we might praise Him more abundantly,

in ways we didn’t fathom possible.

It is in coming back to him that miracles do happen;

a passion to proclaim his Passion

grants us providence to worship and to serve

in the temple’s restoration.

 

*Trying to think of a more apt title.

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The Scandal

Rampant rumors run roads,

Carving the path they’ll take to Bethlehem.

A petrified patriarch cradles his wife’s hips,

easing her aches as she wobbles on a donkey’s back.

Her gut juts rotund

and the streets burst with lies.

Whispers of adultery, a slut.

Opening herself to the Holy Spirit’s will,

she filleted herself to gossip and assumption.

Depraved humanity mocks the invitation,

scorning a woman willing to bend her will

and a God who would enter the world in a manger.

Will we, like pious Israelites occupy that “moral” ground

or will we bend down to worship a Savior King, who came as an innocent babe?

 

*This of course could use editing.  I’m not quite sure how, but I’m not entirely pleased with the product of this poetry.  Perhaps it is my mind run amuck and the piles of papers accumulating at work.

Week 2 and 3: Peace and Joy

I’m a bit behind, but there has been a lot going on lately.  We’ve had complications with one of Frank’s clients.  Sadly, we focused more on the circumstances and less on Christ.  In doing so, we neglected exemplifying compassion when it was needed most.  We got caught up in pessimism and judgement rather than peace and joy.

We lit these Advent candles, but not our hearts, and thus the true light of Christ’s peace and joy did not glow in our interactions.  Thankfully, God is just and he can make all things new.  He is the God of restoration and light in times of darkness.  When we repent, he is faithful to deliver us.

A note to these clients:  We would have appreciated advance notice before you came to our home.  We apologize for raising our voices and letting emotions control us though.  You were created in God’s image too and deserve dignity.  Yes, you shouldn’t have come unannounced in front of a contractor’s children, but we should have remain composed.  May you be blessed with peace and joy even in your frustration with us.  May Christ be magnified and our human limitations and frustrations set aside.  We pray you would have good health and take delight in God’s blessings, present every day.

Needless to say, I have been unsettled.  I keep forgetting God’s power to give us peace even when we are inclined to anxiety.  When we focus more on our circumstances and less on Christ, we lose sight of the peace which surpasses all understanding and the ability to be joyful in any and all trials.

God is a God of miracles.  He is light to a dark world.  God restored the temple and Christ, when we repent and surrender, restores our souls, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He will anoint our heads so we can proclaim the true good news with grace and compassion.  He nourishes our panting souls while fried goods wax our pallets this Hanukkah season.

Years ago, God gave victory to an army of few.  He provided for his people when they had little to nothing to sustain them.  When they wanted to worship properly, he gave the means to do so.  In the same regard, God himself entered our world through a helpless babe. He provides remittance for our sinful ways when we confess that he is Emmanuel, our Savior King.

Go forth in peace as you take joy in that blessed assurance.  (I say this to myself just as much as to you, my blogging audience.)

Week 1 Advent: Hope and Promise

Confession:  It has been difficult to foster feelings of wonder, surprise, and excitement for me this Christmas season.  I feel as if I’m wandering in a daze– a swollen gut due to a gestating babe, unbalanced hips, fatigue, and frequent headaches.  Illness and constantly needy children have left me wondering how I can inspire awe, in myself and in those around me.  How can we regain the focus of the Christmas season?  What behaviors or mindsets do we need to adopt so our hearts are charitable, our thoughts pure, and our worship true?

The other day I was reading a story from one of our Advent books.  Willow was partially listening, babbling as she frequently does when excited, tired, or unfocused.  She seems enriched by Santa folklore, the desire for presents, and just being busy.  I wanted to practice stillness and focus.  FYI: These are not Willow’s strong suits.  Regrettably, I yelled.  Screaming, I exuberantly declared: “Can’t we just focus?  Why must we be so entertained with Santa but unable to focus on this Advent story?  We can read these other Christmas books, but they aren’t what I want to read!  I want Jesus!  Don’t you want that too?  He is better and this story is good, just listen!”

She continued bouncing around before retiring to her bedroom with a bottle of milk, curled up on Frank’s lap.  In the quiet of the evening, I prayed.  I was convicted.  A still small voice, be it the Holy Spirit or just self-talk because of knowing Scriptures, I was asked, “Do you want traditions of Advent or to encounter Christ?”

It disturbed me.

I had yelled at my child because of her wonder over everything around her.  Is this not the attitude Christ tells us to have?  “He called a child, whom he put among them,  and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” -Matt. 18:2-4  We are to be humble [read: curious, respectful, not haughty, sacrificial].  I certainly did not model this behavior for my eldest daughter. My sin and ugliness disgusted me.  

(Aside: If you witness your child having a tantrum over pointless issues or his/her conduct is undesirable, ask yourself what behaviors you have been modeling lately.  Children are parrots and will generally copy what attitudes, mannerisms, and behaviors they witness.  Sometimes they are just acting that way because they are at a particular age and adults need to instruct, guide, and occasionally tame a behavior, but more often than not, kids act a certain way because that is what they see.)

Perhaps I am feeling hopeless and down because I keep giving into my impulses.  Rather than praying heavily for protection against the temptation to react from a basal perspective, I simply act on gratifying and fueling my anger.  I am satisfying my flesh instead of seeking Christ and his difficult modes of conduct.  With all the death I’m witnessing lately, I keep forgetting that we are not to mourn as the world does.  We have the hope of eternal life through the promise of Emmanuel, our God with us.

God dwelt with humanity and died on the cross.  Three days later, he arose giving victory over death and reconciliation with God to anyone who would trust in his sovereignty, love, and judgment.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.  For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”- 1Thess. 4:13-18

Christ promises to dwell with us always when we encourage one another with the truth and glory of the gospel.  It is this promise that grants us hope.  Through that hope, and clinging to it, we can weather the tides of sorrow.  We don’t need to wallow in self-pity, grief, and pain.  Christian, press on.  Continue stepping forward in faith, in truth, and especially this week, in the hope of the promise we have in Christ.  (I say this as much to myself as I do my audience of fellow Christian pilgrims.)

On a St. Nicholas Christmas

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/

“Santa” was a real historical figure who bestowed gifts to the poor in the name of Christ.  Sadly, American consumerism and human secularism have snuffed out most recollection of history.  Parents now want to give children gifts from a mythical figure who sneaks into the home and leaves lavish gifts.  I know of individuals who take on second jobs just to leave their kids gifts from Santa!

While I don’t bemoan parents who choose to adopt a mythical approach of Santa into their Christmas traditions, Frank and I have chosen not to raise our daughters with this myth.  Instead, we share the history with our girls, emphasizing that generosity should be done with humility, self-sacrifice, and preferably, in the name of Christ.  We have received judgement from friends and family who think we are stealing the magic of Christmas and imagination from our kids.

Imagination isn’t something we should only foster at Christmas and it certainly shouldn’t be based on greed!  (“What do you want for Christmas? Have you been a good child?”  As if desire and deeds only warrant gifts.  These are not the moral values Frank and I want to pass onto our children.) I hear too many Christian children talking about what they are getting for Christmas rather than Christ’s birth or what they are going to GIVE this season.

Speaking of magic, what is more awe-inspiring than a God who became man, Emmanuel?  This same God-man reconciled humanity to himself by dying on a cross.  Then victory over death was gained when this divine human rose from the dead three days later!  This was miraculous!  Perhaps if we found awe and admiration in truth rather than a temporary figure who grants wishes based on performance, we’d experience more joy this season (and frankly, in every season)!

[On a slightly controversial subject, especially with Christian circles, I will likely also teach my girls about magic through stories like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and the most “heretical” Harry Potter!  I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  I don’t recite the incantations and I understand this is complete fiction.  Yes, there are real principalities and evil spirits associated with paganism and devil worship.  I do not believe this piece of fictional literature, if taken properly, is true evil.]

Anyways, I digressed a bit with the controversy.

Some other things I find curious about this time of year:

-Most of the time, people have a problem with their children sitting on a stranger’s lap…especially their little girl sitting on the lap of an elderly male.  At Christmas time though, we seem to promote this behavior!  (I am always hesitant letting my children do this.  I don’t know who this man is, what his background is (do Santa impersonators have to have background checks), or what fantasies he may have (even if he hasn’t publicly been persecuted for acting on fantasies).  Santa was at an event I recently attended with my children.  Willow was excited to go sit on Santa’s lap, get a gift, and show him her decorated cookie (not a euphemism, but an actual cookie).  As such, I let her go up with her sister.  It provided a picture perfect moment between my daughters.

Christmas santa 2017 girls hugging  Like I said, Picture Perfect Moment!!!

-We tell our children not too be greedy and keep asking us for toys.  At Christmas though, we ask them to make a list of their top ticket items.  Rather than giving these away to children who don’t have anything and might enjoy it, we promote and perpetuate our children’s greed.  Then we chastise their constant desire later.  Also, we experience buyer’s remorse because children generally play with the toy for a couple of days before it collects dust sitting unwanted in a dark recess of the house.

-We try to get our kids to eat fruit and veggies throughout the year while minimizing sugar consumption.  At Christmas time though, we indulge.  Not only do we pack on the holiday pounds, we are willing to decorate cookies every night of December with our kids.  (Yes, I am guilty of wanting to do this too, so please understand this entire post is really just my musings, contemplation, and curiosity, not judgement.)

-We try to budget carefully, but at Christmas we overspend and experience a drought in January.

-We are completely against breaking and entering.  Some friends even lock their doors when they are home!  However, Santa is granted permission to break into our homes if he is going to leave us gifts?  Is this not greed or at least hypocritical?  I am so confused by this principle.

I say this because I understand why our kids are conflicted and confused.  Are we not sending mixed messages?  How do we foster the behaviors we want to see when we are willing to forsake our own convictions, ideals, and/or safety measures for an entire season?

I want to be less hypocritical during this time of year, especially now that I have little parrots who are watching my every move.  (Practicing Santa as a true myth doesn’t have to be hypocritical, but it can be.  I know that temptation would be too strong for me.  Also, for some other reasons mentioned above, as a Christian I do not want to practice the myth side.  I am willing to pretend with my kids if they understand it is fiction, but I don’t want them to think a real person sneaks into our house, eats our homemade cookies, and leaves lavish gifts only to later tell them it was really me or a close family friend.)

I want to be more generous, more merciful, more patient, and especially more still (that I might hear God’s whispers about where and to whom he is calling me and my family to minister).

How do you want to be changed this Christmas season?  What are your personal thoughts on how we practice Christmas in this culture?  What do you think about Santa?

(Do we Christians know the roots of tree decorating and the like stem from pagan rituals?  Are we okay with that?  If a tradition has morphed and isn’t remembered as being pagan, is it acceptable to engage in it?  FYI, we do buy a tree and decorate it (we try to stick with ornaments with history or about Christ).  Is it beneficial though, especially if I know the roots of such a practice?  I wrestle with this.  I’m still working it out.)

A note to my husband:  No, lights are not part of the pagan ritual that I am aware of.  Jesus is the light of the world.  Lights on a home are not only peaceful, they can be used to instill relaxation and wonder.  Plus, our daughters will enjoy the bright illumination at night.  Watching our daughters amazement can help ignite my faith and restore my luster for this time of year.  Sadly, with sickness and fatigue I haven’t felt the “Christmas spirit”.  Perhaps stringing lights and watching our children’s delight will help rectify this problem.  *In other words, this is not an excuse I will accept to refuse helping put up lights on the house.  *wink, wink* I love you, even your anti-festive tendencies.  I will win you over one day.  *smirk*  (Hey, at least I refrained from emoticons.  I am trying to demonstrate true love to you.)