Tag Archives: celebration

Merry Christmas 2014

Well, here we are again. We are at the point of culmination: the culmination of all the decorating, all  the shopping, all the hustle & bustle, Christmas cards mailed, and yes – all of the waiting. What, waiting? Yes, waiting. You have been waiting, haven’t you?

Our home in Keller, Texas is beautifully decorated, thanks to the vision and creativity of my lovely wife. We have a beautiful Christmas tree beneath which lies a plethora of colorfully wrapped packages waiting to be opened. The sugar count in our kitchen is at an all time high with cookies and other holiday treats. Our staircase is decorated with faux pine garland interwoven with lovely white lights and our fireplace is decked out as well, complete with stockings hung by the chimney with care. The shopping is done – almost. I traditionally shop on Christmas Eve; not as an act of procrastination but because I enjoy it. Indeed, the Strege’s invest heavily in the traditions of the season and we enjoy it.

Some refer to the Christmas festival traditions as “trappings”. I understand why that is. If we’re not careful, Christmas becomes all about the trees, the lights, the goodies, and the presents. And while those things are fun and can bring some degree of happiness into our season, they are not what Christmas is all about for those of us who have put our faith and trust in Jesus.

As a Christian, there is not a doubt in my mind that the true “reason for the season” was born of a virgin and laid in a manger in a town called Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. He died on a cross to save all who believe in Him from our sins, and was resurrected 3 days later. In Him and Him alone, death was swallowed up in victory! Without Him, my hope for eternity, and yours as well, is quite bleak. But through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the hope of eternal life in His amazing presence. Indeed, we are at the culmination of Advent – that period of anticipation as we wait to joyfully celebrate the birth of our Savior.

This morning, as I prepare to embark on my traditional Christmas Eve shopping excursion, the birth of our Savior is at the forefront of my mind. I hope it is at the forefront of yours, too. I wish you and all for whom you care a very Merry Christmas indeed!

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which well be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” ~ Luke 2:10-11

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which well be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” ~ Luke 2:10-11

Complaining Or Celebrating?

When we grumble and complain about our circumstances – whatever those may be – against whom are we really grumbling and complaining?

When I read about the history of Israel in the Old Testament, I am always struck by their grumbling and complaining. They complain they have no food. They complain that they are thirsty. They complain that Moses was on the mountain for too long. Each time they complain, Moses goes to God and He addresses their complaint. What they seem to forget, however, is where they came from. They came from bondage in Egypt where they were forced to labor in hard conditions. Through the power and intervention of Almighty God, Israel was freed from their bondage with the promise of a new land reserved by God just for them – a land flowing with milk and honey. But in the heat of the moment, all perspective is lost as the immediate circumstance takes center stage in their lives.

It’s easy for us modern day Christians to look down our noses at Israel’s lack of faith and perseverance. But, on closer examination, are we really much different from them? Of course, few of us come from a life of enslaved bondage. But think about this: God has delivered us from a different sort of bondage; a more sinister and evil bondage called sin. God tells us in His Word that all have sinned and have fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Our sin separates us from God, and a life of sin condemns us to an eternity of torment.

Just as God rescued Israel from their enslavement to Egypt, so He also rescues us from our bondage to sin – not because we are deserving; not because we are worthy – but because He loves us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). What amazing news!

So what does this have with Israel’s grumbling and complaining, or mine for that matter? Here is where the rubber meets the road: I grumble and complain often; don’t you? I complain about traffic rather than thanking God for my air-conditioned vehicle and the nice roads that take me to and from work each day. I complain about ownership changes to my employer rather than thanking God for a fulfilling career that enables me to provide for my family. I complain that my steak isn’t prepared exactly as I like it rather than thanking God for a full stomach. I complain about my shortcomings rather than thanking God for my strengths. Even knowing the reality of eternal life by my faith in Jesus, I find reasons to complain – just like the Israelites. My complaining is evidence of misplaced trust, just as theirs was. May God forgive me for my lack of faith.

This is Holy Week. This week we Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection that delivers us from the bondage of sin into His eternal presence. This week especially, let us not allow life’s circumstances to derail our worship and replace it with grumbling and complaining. Instead, let us pray that every time we are tempted to gripe or complain, God will remind us of the rich blessing we have through His Son, Jesus Christ as we celebrate the Good News of eternal life through Him.

Christmas Preparation ~ John 1:19-23

1-08-06 christmas tree 011

1-08-06 christmas tree 011 (Photo credit: takfoto)

Like me and my family, I’m sure you’ve begun your Christmas preparations: decorating the Christmas tree, shopping, making travel plans, baking goodies – all of the activities that bring us joy as we prepare to celebrate the holidays. As we work through these annual rituals of preparation, it is easy to lose sight of what Christmas is really all about, and the most important preparation of all can sometimes be shoved into the background as we make ready to celebrate with family and friends.

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 40:3-5

Scripture tells us that we must prepare for the Lord’s coming at Christmastide. It’s not referring to decorating trees, or shopping, or baking cookies. God tells us in His Word to prepare for the coming Savior. John the Baptist lived this preparation just before Jesus’ ministry.

(John the Baptist) said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet ?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” ~ John 1:23-27

John’s message to the world in advance of Jesus’ ministry was a message of repentance. Jesus was about to enter the scene, and the people needed to prepare to meet him by repenting of their sins and being baptized as evidence of their repentance.

Guess what? Nothing has changed.

Birth of Jesus

Birth of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I compose this essay, we are early in the season called Advent. The first season of the church year, Advent is a time of self-examination, confession, and repentance as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Just as in John the Baptist’s time, people are busy living their lives. Even in these days leading up to Christmas, we tend to live our daily lives with God in the background. We decorate, we shop, we party, and we plan – but do we stop amidst all of this to consider what it is we’re about to celebrate? Have you thought about Jesus’ birth, why He came and what His coming means to the world? If our first consideration of His birth comes during Christmas worship we’ve missed the boat.

Now is the time to begin considering these things. In what areas of your life is God shoved into the background? Are there sin habits that need confession followed by change? Have you done something that is eating away at you day after day as the shame separates you from God? Sin is at work in your life and in mine each and every day; we all fall prey to its siren song. Now is the time, ahead of Christmas, to acknowledge our sin, confess it, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. Give Him just a few minutes every day during this Advent season of preparation. If you’ll do that, you’ll find that your Christmas celebration is all the more meaningful as it embraces the true meaning and purpose of this wonderful holiday season.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, this is such a busy time of year. Help me to not shove you into the background of my life as I live this daily busyness. Instead, show me where I’ve done wrong so I may confess, repent, and seek the forgiveness that comes only through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His Name I pray – AMEN.

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