If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Worth getting all caught up in . . .

OK, two blogs in one month from me is unusual, but two in one week?

Well, this should be a short one.

Christmas is upon us. And, to me, the Christmas season is a wonderful part of all that comes with the gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We all wonder, as expressed in a song I always identify with Elvis, "Why can't everyday be like Christmas?"

Well, Christmas is special. There is a spirit in the air during what we call Christmas Time that is not there every day.  The thing is, the love and grace and mercy that so many of us show friend and stranger alike during this time of year is all around us all the time! That love and grace and mercy live in Jesus. And He is a 24/7/365 Savior!

He came in love, because He loves us, to love us! So, at this time of year as we celebrate His arrival here among us, let's all remember what He came here to do and why He came.  Some sweet day it will be like Christmas for eternity!

I have gotten on a kick here lately of attaching videos to my blog. I'm not going to do this every time. This may seem like overload, but it takes these 3 videos to complete the message. I know time is a valuable commodity especially over the next few days, but if you can, take a few minutes to watch these. Yes, you've seen others like them before, but the very brief message in the last 2 videos makes these stand out to me.
(And sometime in the future, I might just share what surprised me (in a good way) about Pentecostals that I learned from these videos. I'm trying to post them in order. If you can't watch all 3, at least try to give the middle one a look.(Also, this gal sings her heart out, and, as much as I love a beautiful voice, I really prefer music where the voice expresses the heart.)

Before I forget . . . It's all about how He loves us, and oh, how He loves us!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Christmas! So why isn't everyone happy?

I have started this blog twice before with a different purpose in mind each time, but I couldn't quite get them finished. In fact, as I was considering a blog on this very day, I looked back through my unpublished ones and I found this one! The last time I worked on it was December 21, 2009.  My initial thought just seemed to lose steam before I could bring it home.  It's one of those things where I know what I want to get across, but I just can't find the words. Maybe I'll make it this time!

There is a lot of pressure at Christmas. And when I say "Christmas" I am not just talking about "the day". I'm talking about the season, which for my family starts on Thanksgiving afternoon as decorations begin to go up.  The pressure takes many forms: shopping, cooking, cleaning, parties, cards, programs, wrapping, music (we must get the music in because it just does not sound the same come Dec 26) . . . and the list goes on.

When it comes to Christmas, though, the greatest source of stress for more people than any of us know is the pressure to be happy.  Christmas doesn't just automatically make everyone happy. Whether it should and whether it could is not something I will address here - just that "it" doesn't.

Nothing evokes what I call "emotional memory" like Christmas. By "emotional memory" I am not referring to actual memories that we all carry of Christmas past, though that is a part of it. I am talking about the way we feel when the subject of Christmas comes up and particularly when the Christmas Season comes upon us.  It is a deep rooted physical, mental, spiritual, emotional feeling that springs from our core, our soul.

And as wonderful as it is for some, it is not always a such good feeling for others. Instead of anticipation it brings anxiety. Instead of wonder it brings dread. Instead of hope it brings hopelessness, instead of belonging it brings loneliness. Instead of happiness it brings a painful sorrow. Instead of good memories of lost loved ones it revives mourning. While so many regale in memories of years past, some are annually confronted by a past that they wish they could forget. Their greatest Christmas wish may well be that they could just leave their past in the past never to be reminded of it again. But they can't. How often has someone told you that they wish they could just go to sleep after a good Thanksgiving meal and wake up on December 26?

And, for all of these, being constantly reminded that they should be happy only serves to make it worse.  It is not like they want to feel that way.  It is frustrating because you are dealing with people who are going through things you cannot understand.  And for some it is true that they don't make it any easier for themselves or anyone around them.

Indeed, in what may seem to be their quest to not enjoy Christmas, any "dis-enjoyment" they can bring to yours just further validates their claim that Christmas is not to be enjoyed by anyone with half a brain.  On the other hand, many of those who are burdened by all things Christmas are equally burdened by the effect their attitude has on those around them who really are trying to enjoy the season. It can be a frustrating time all around.   

It is difficult to understand. We would say that Christmas is a time of joy and happiness . . . a time of spiritual and emotional relief that the everyday stresses and strains of life should not impose upon. But, that is not always the case. For most, they can't. They just simply can't find a way or a reason to sustain a happy, cheerful, or even joyful attitude throughout the Christmas season.  And they are all the more saddened by that fact.

So, why even bring all this up at the risk of saddening the few people who might actually read this blog?  (Now that I mention it, I'm not sure that I should. But, I've gone this far.) For one thing, more people are touched by this than are willing to reveal it. (As if no one close to them knew!) And it is frustrating, maddening, and saddening. But, what can you do?

Let them have their time of sorrow. Be sympathetic, not judgmental.  Support them right where they are with love and prayer. I know . . . that is so very hard to do. You want them to be happy. And there will be moments of happiness for them. (They may go by unnoticed and unregistered by them, but you will see real smiles, hear genuine laughter.) Build on those moments. Amplify them.  If you can, talk them through.  You know, love fills most any void for a time. Jesus has told us that nothing is worth doing if love is not motivating the doing.  Emotional memories of Christmas are made up of actual memories of Christmas and life in general.  Do your best to make good memories for all those around you. In time you may see their reaction to Christmas change. Sure, the "bad times" are still back there. They cannot be erased.They can, however, be diminished and even overcome in their ability to rule the present.

Before I start repeating myself, I will just say that there are those dealing with circumstances in their lives that make what the rest of us might call "just every day joy and happiness" impossible to achieve. Just as Christmas heightens our anticipation of fun and excitement and a short while of near carefree living- creating a "lightness" of sorts -, it multiplies the weight of trials and troubles and sorrows in many individuals.  Whatever is there the rest of the year, there just seems to be more of at Christmas time.     

As Christians, we serve the very One Whose arrival on Earth is "THE Reason for the Season".  And we do indeed have reason to celebrate because ". . . For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8b (NKJV)

As I mentioned earlier, the Son of God has called upon us to do one thing over and above anything else.  And that is to love as He loves.  In this season of Peace on Earth and good will to men . . . and women, when we all seek opportunities to give and to spread the Word, perhaps our greatest ministry opportunity will be simply to love someone who is not having such a great Christmas just like Jesus loves them.  All the gifts in and of the world may be meaningless to them, but the love of Christ is never offered without meaning, and it is the only gift that truly keeps on giving and giving and giving and . . .     

With all of this in mind, I want to sincerely wish one and all a Merry Christmas.  May God grant you peace. And I would like to offer this song that so wonderfully addresses this issue.
Oh, yeah!  If you happen to be one of those I've been talking about here, if nothing else . . . just allow yourself to be loved.