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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas music

I heard something as I walked in the store.  I could not believe it.  The door shut behind me and I just stood there listening to the music.  It was the third of November in Salina, Kansas.  The lady at the counter looked at me, smiled and asked if I needed anything.  “How long have you been playing Christmas music in the store?” I asked. “Since the first of the month,” she shared.  “Isn’t it beautiful! Christmas is just around the corner now.”  We both smiled and nodded in agreement.

While one might expect retailers and restaurants to play the typical songs about snowmen, reindeer, bells jingling, shiny wrapping paper, or enjoying a snow laden landscape this music was different.  This music was even different from most radio stations. This music described a holy night when our Savior was born.  A night when angels proclaimed the birth of our King.  A night when the thrill of hope arrives and a weary world rejoices.  A new and glorious night that transformed the world because He has finally arrived.  The night that delivered Jesus, the Christ, the promised redeemer of the world.

The music itself didn’t stop me in my tracks.  It was the message of the music.  It seemed to transform the entire store into a happy and joyful place.  People couldn’t help but smile at each other, customers and employees alike. The store was transformed into a glorious place where people were happy and at peace. Each person reminded of God’s gift to us.

In my state of surprise or perhaps shock, I also took in what was not happening in the store.  No one was complaining about “religious” music being played on a store sound system.  No one was offended with the message.  No one organized a sit in or demonstration.  No one organized a letter writing campaign to the head office as a protest.  Instead, you saw people everywhere who expected to hear Christmas music.  People heard the music and the message.  We were in turn blessed, renewed, and changed.  The music was a gift.

Christmas music matters.  It is more than an assortment of notes and chords.  It is a tremendous reminder of truth.  It shares and teaches the promise of Scripture. It is a form of worship in that we can use music to offer prayer and praise to God.  It transforms people.  It allows heavenly changes to take place in our hearts, minds, and souls when the gift is received.

Joy and singing do not always come easily.  Many can only focus on dark days and personal struggles.  As we enter the Advent season, let us hear the songs of promise and respond to the heavenly gift of Jesus.  Since God has faithfully delivered the Messiah, we too have reason to sing and rejoice.  May we continue to lift up our voices and share in the heavenly chorus that proclaimed the birth of our Savior.

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Technology is trying to make the world better, but it often makes me feel like a dinosaur.

One of the latest marvels out there is a soft, flexible, wristband that you wear 24 hours a day.  It is combined with an app that tracks how you sleep, move, and eat.  The “UP” by Jawbone then helps you use that information to “be your best.”  The concept is extremely impressive, especially to me, a guy who frequently falters in his exercise routine and does not get enough sleep.

Gadgets are often used as mirrors to show people the good, the bad, and the ugly things we do each day.  The “UP” is ultimately trying to improve the physical health of people by showing them a better way and giving daily reminders on what to change.  After learning about this new item, I immediately began to wonder, what technology or gadget is out there to improve spiritual health?  What electrical device could show people a better way and give daily reminders on how to improve their spiritual lives?  What technology, gadget, or electronic doodad would strengthen my walk with Christ?

I am a dinosaur, so responses were slow.  I instead turned to some familiar items that currently help people strengthen their faith.  I distinctly remembered a Marine I met at Camp Lemonnier.  He downloaded the entire Bible to a handheld device and used that for our Wednesday night study of Matthew’s gospel.  During this year’s annual training exercise, Soldiers were constantly asking for a “Military BibleStick.”  It is a digital audio player that is pre-loaded with a dramatized recording of the entire New Testament.  I handed out more sticks than Bibles this summer.  There was another Soldier who wanted to read the entire Bible in a year, so I showed him a website where he could tailor a reading plan to his schedule.

As people begin to use their new gadgets and electronic Christmas gifts in the new year, utilize technology so that you can improve your spiritual health.  Download your favorite translation of the Bible, add a prayer appointment to your electronic calendar, use Pandora and listen to your favorite Christian artist, find a website and sign up for a daily or weekly devotion.  Don’t worry.  Dinosaurs can jump into the mix as well.  It does not matter if you keep a journal on a note pad or an iPad, the focus should be on building your spiritual muscles in 2013.  Use technology in a way that will strengthen your faith and devotion in Christ.

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We love this simple story because it speaks to our condition.

Christmas can be downright maddening.

First, everyone wants a piece of your time.  Once you flip your calendar to December there is an immediate flood of invitations to office parties, family gatherings, teas, banquets, and more.  The rush of the Christmas season only seems to get worse as the month continues.

Second, there is a flurry of activity.  Get out the decorations.  Put up the lights.  Set up the tree.  Start baking cookies and other delights before the guest arrive.  Don’t forget the multiple pageants and plays you need to attend also.  And remember to get your annual Christmas card out before everyone else.

Third, commercialism and consumerism run amuck.  Celebrate Christmas this year with a 60 inch flat screen tv for $200 this Saturday only.  Remember that it needs to be HD or the kids won’t like it.  We really go crazy buying presents.  Our focus easily turns to material items and excess instead of providing gifts of joy.  This year the local Christmas bureau didn’t have enough people to adopt needy families.  They ask for food, blankets, coats, towels, cleaning supplies and other necessities.  Perhaps those were the gifts that we should have given this year.

This cartoon is a timeless classic because it sums up our struggle with Christmas.  Charlie Brown and company encounter all the typical distractions that try to steal the real meaning of Christmas.  In his frustration, Charlie Brown asks, “isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  The turning point of the cartoon is when Linus takes center stage to share the story of Luke 2, Jesus being born in Bethlehem.

We too, get caught up in the parties, the activities, and the gift giving, but there is much more to the season.  Take time to hear the simple story.  Take time to focus on the importance of angels proclaiming his birth.  Take time to focus on what is truly important this Christmas season, our Savior, Christ the Lord.

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Everyone loves the Christmas season.  While reasons may vary from hearing a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus to snow sledding, people love the Christmas season.  It is the arrival of our promised Emmanuel, “God with us.”  This season also has a funny way of changing people.

Yes, Christmas is the best time of year, but we often forget to mention what it does to us.  Christmas brings out the best in us.  No matter where you live, there is an increased effort for people to be kind, caring, and generous.  Drivers are more courteous on the roadways.  You open the door for someone when their arms are full with shopping bags.  Neighbors help each other by raking leaves or shoveling snow off sidewalks.  We even tell total strangers, “Merry Christmas!”

This spirit of gratitude and grace comes from our Creator.  God has demonstrated His love in sending Jesus Christ to earth.  We celebrate this perfect gift in many ways, but the power of God’s love changes us.

We reciprocate the love that God has shared with us, His children.  The gift of Jesus is so tremendous that we live in a different way.  We choose to be transformed and in turn show greater compassion.  This beautiful event happens more now than at any other time of the year.  Christmas and the celebration of our Savior yield a new and different world.  One where people give gifts, adopt orphans, feed the homeless, care for widows, support unemployed veterans, and show compassion to the resident stranger.  In short, we decide to live out our faith.  We put God’s plan of grace into action.

As the Christmas holiday approaches you and your family, make the decision to be transformed.  Reflect the love that God has poured out from heaven, through Jesus the promised Messiah.  Demonstrate your faith and share the love that you have received from our Heavenly Father.

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Christmas gifts and cards have long been a part of celebrating our Lord’s birth.  Even though Christmas is just a few days away, you can still share the celebration with a deployed servicemember.  Share the season of Jesus by sending an e-card to a veteran’s inbox.  There are multiple websites that make it easy for families and friends to connect.  Find one that is right for you and your loved one downrange.

Holidays are always tough when you’re deployed.  I’ve spent two Christmas holidays downrange.  Each one was difficult.  Reminders from home make a huge difference while deployed.  Take time today and send a Christmas reminder to that Soldier, Airman, Sailor, or Marine who couldn’t be home.  Share to remind them that they matter.  Share to remind them that they are not alone.  Share to remind them about the birth of Jesus, God’s perfect gift to us.

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It is pretty easy to get lost in the noise and busyness of shopping, decorating the house, putting up Christmas lights, baking, cleaning, making travel plans, attending office parties,  and mailing Christmas cards of course.  Look at anyone’s “to do” list this time of year and the answer seems obvious.  The Christmas season can feel more like a burden than a holiday.  We add to the seasonal stress with our desire to make Christmas “perfect” for our families.  Somehow people have bought into the idea that adding more to the holiday makes it better when the opposite is true.  This time of year is inherently hectic; now add on the stress and strain of being a military family.

You have the stress of being a single parent while your service member is gone.  When things break, you have the stress of repairing the house or finding a reliable contractor.  You have the stress of maintaining a long distance relationship.  You may also have the stress of living on one income.  It’s already difficult to stay sane this time of year, but military families have a greater burden.

Here are a couple of ways to improve your Christmas season.  First, establish boundaries.  These can be on time, finances, activities, school, etc.  Be honest on what tasks are reachable.  Recognize your limits and focus on the truly important things you need to accomplish.  If something is out of bounds, then ask for help from a friend or family member.  Evenings and weekends are limited and easily overcrowded with activities.  Dedicate time to necessary events and people.

Second, make time for those you love.  Christmas is tough when your soldier is deployed.  Make it better by spending time together on the phone, chatting online, sharing pictures, mailing care packages, or saying hello through a webcam.  Make time for your family at home.  Turn off your cell phones and give your gamers a rest.  Call it an electronic fast if need be, but spend time talking to one another eye to eye instead of sending a text message.

Third, focus on Christmas.  This is more than a consumer holiday and reindeer.  It is the celebration of Christ’s arrival on earth.  It is God fulfilling His promise of salvation to the world through Jesus, our Savior.  Angels could no longer stay silent.  Shepherds were blinded by glorious beams of light.  Wise men crossed the desert to worship Him.  And we should continue in these patterns of worship.  Whether it is telling a cashier, “Merry Christmas” or reading the Christmas story to your children, proclaim the birth of Jesus.  Whether it is dropping change in a red kettle or lighting an advent candle, let the light of Christ shine.  Whether it is a work day or the weekend, sacrifice time to worship our new born King.

We all want the perfect Christmas experience this year.  Don’t let the hectic pace of this world blind you.  Remember that the perfect Christmas had nothing to do with presents, cards, or strands of twinkle lights.  The day was made perfect by the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.  May His birth continue to give you peace.

 

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