Posted tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas In July

November 19, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W                                                        November 20, 2013



It seems that stores are putting out Christmas decorations and gift ideas earlier and earlier each year. Or…that is, holiday decorations.

December 25 means big business…months before it happens.

I’m not opposed to that, and yet, I’m not fully supportive either. It seems that the longer the pre-Christmas promotions go the less meaning the occasion has. Fewer people each year are familiar with Advent, but knowledgeable about X-Box.

And then December 26 hits and people rush the stores to buy half-price bed sheets and boxes of Christmas cards that they will store in their basements until next year, but then forget where they put them.

I know…I know, I sound like a bah-humbug kind of whiner. It’s just that when I open a new box of chocolate-covered cherries I’m excited, but by the third week of eating them the excitement has worn off as the pounds have attached to.

I’m just not ready to buy a Christmas tree (artificial that it may be) in October. I’m not even ready for Christmas on Black Friday. I’m still in the “thankful mind-set.” Getting a new flat screen at 4 AM at Walmart is not even on my radar at that point.

This year my son turns 30 on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t even think about Christmas when I’m trying to grasp that my son is 30!

Christmas Silence

December 19, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                December 19, 2012

My guess is that the most popular Christmas carol is “Silent Night”. Traditionally, it is the song that we end our Christmas Eve Candlelight with. The congregation is standing, each person with their candle glowing. A stillness settles over the congregation as the music begins:

Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright!”

Perhaps it is the offer at a change of pace that makes the carol so appealing. Christmas is amplified with noise it seems. I was in Walmart the other day and had several toys talking to me as I passed them in the aisles. Seriously! The sound of a monster truck accelerating made me exit a toy truck and cars aisle quickly. In the next aisle a stuffed puppy started panting at me.

Christmas noise. Christmas echoes echoing echoes. Christmas jazz rock.

And so “Silent Night” seems so soothing and comforting. I don’t want to dramatize it too much, but it seems that the birthplace of Jesus…off to the side…out of the banter and bustling…was more about the lack of noise. Perhaps there was some livestock standing around, but what I mean is that no one thought it important enough to make noise over.

In fact, most of the Christmas story characters had journeys that included silence. For shepherds it  was important to have quiet so their hearing could be attuned to any predators lurking close to their herd of sheep. The silence helped them hear any uneasiness in their flock.

The wise men from the East had spent a long period of time traveling in the quiet of wilderness and through valleys. In the Luke account it mentions that after Elizabeth found out she was pregnant she went into seclusion for five months (Luke 1:24). Obviously her husband, Zechariah, wasn’t making any noise!

Silence in the incarnational event punctuated the point that God was doing something incredible.

I’ll be visiting my parents back in Ohio the week after Christmas. My mom is at that point in her life where silence is the norm. She has trouble verbalizing what she is thinking and so there are long periods of uncomfortable quiet, because I’m expecting that the next words are going to come. It’s a hard adjustment seeing your mom, who always talked to you…and even more than you got to say…suddenly be silent. I, however, will always opt for a silent mom over a noisy supermarket, a quite moment sitting by her bed over screaming consumers at the mall.

They say that silence is golden. If that’s true why don’t more people just keep quiet?

Silent night, holy night!”

No Shoes In the Mall

December 24, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. December 24, 2011

It was a strange scene, hundreds of people standing outside the mall at a quarter to twelve midnight. Perhaps a celebrity was showing up, or the line to see Santa was so long that people were still waiting hours after the mall had closed.
But a closer look indicated that it was neither of those. The new retro Air Jordan athletic shoes were going on sale. I don’t remember there being lines back in the early seventies for “Chuck Taylor’s” when they went on sale, although I do remember wearing them until they were literally in shreds. No wonder we couldn’t jump in those days! We didn’t have any rubber left on the bottom of our shoes!
The scene was chaos as doors opened, got busted off their hinges and crowds of people ran frantically into the shoe store, only to have most of them be disappointed with the news “No shoes in the Mall!”

Even the fortunate ones who did get the precious pairs included very few people who actually needed a pair of shoes. Comments could be heard:

“I’m putting my pair on eBay for double the price!”

“I’m going to hold on to my pair for a couple of years and then make a mint off of them!”

“I’m just going to keep mine in the box, wrap it up in protective plastic wrap, and watch the value go up. Believe me! No one is going to take down the value of these shoes by actually wearing them!”
What to do? A crisis had emerged. Johnny Junior’s quest for a college scholarship and a lucrative professional contract someday was in jeopardy because there were no AJ’s to be had. Parents explained the repercussions of this shortage to store innkeepers, but to no avail. The only advice they received was “You might try the clearance rack over there. I think we have some old black high-top Converses. They aren’t as flashy, but they still fit feet.”
Some parents became adamant about the store producing more shoes, while others just walked away with downcast expressions. But one young boy found the clearance rack, noticed a brand spanking new pair of old Chuck Taylor’s and shouted out “I found my shoes!”
While others trampled on one another, pushed, punched, and pepper-sprayed, he walked out of the mall with his mom and dad, content, excited, and ready to lace them up!

Revised Christmas Story

December 20, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. December 18, 2011

Our church has about five nativity sets. They are arranged in different parts of the building- sanctuary, foyer, outside the main office, counter tops. The sets come in different sizes, and made of different materials. But there’s one thing about being a church that uses things once a year and then puts them away in storage, and besides that, being a church made up of people that are abundantly present for the “Hanging of the Greens” Christmas decorating night (Side note: Many years ago when I was an associate pastor, we had a family in our church whose last name was Green. For some reason they never showed up for “Hanging of the Greens” night! Go figure!), conveniently absent when we take down the Christmas decorations.
Things get misplaced! Things come up missing! It could be that certain items get put in with Easter items. It may be that this coming April when I open a box that I think contains a thorn of crowns for Good Friday that there may be a wise man crammed into the bottom of the box.
Anyway…things get misplaced, and then Christmas season I’ve discovered that a couple of our Nativity sets have taken on different looks. If taken at first glance they could easily be used to revise the Christmas story.
For example, one of the sets has two sets of Magi twins. Who would have thought that the Magi traveled in identical pairs? And it’s funny…each of the twins brings the same gift. There are two with myrrh, and two with frankincense. It could have been that there was a two-for-one sale in Jerusalem!
Think of the story line for next year’s Children’s Christmas program…”Lee and Leroy, the Magi Twins.”
Another one of our sets lost Mary! If people look closely they might think that Joseph is a single parent. Mary has disappeared. All the other participants are there…shepherds, wise men, sheep, cows, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. There’s even an angel to somehow try to attach to the wall or the lamp shade above the nativity set, but no Mary.
Think how people might communicate the story from what they see if they didn’t know what they weren’t seeing.
Of course, that’s the subtle point I’m trying to make about the Christmas story. If we don’t know the story, it can easily be changed to something that it isn’t.
“Revisionists” is a term that is used more and more these days. As followers of Jesus we want the truth to be spoken. Sometimes the truth gets revised by people with sly looks on their faces, and we believe it, because we aren’t that grounded in what is “the Truth.” Even though something is missing we sometimes are blind to what it is.
My prayer for you is that you would know the Truth…and also what isn’t…and that the Truth would set you free.

“Short Candles”

December 8, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. December 7, 2011

Our church is splurging this year. We’re getting new candles for the Christmas Eve service! The personal kind that each person gets to light and hold as we close our gathering that night singing Christmas carols by candlelight.
There may be some who think that we’ve gone crazy with our free spirited spending. After all, we’re almost $5,000 behind in where our budget says our financial giving year-to-date should be! But…we went for it!
The reason for our carefree spending trend is that the candles we’ve been using…for the past 15 years…or maybe twenty…are getting to look more like cigarette butts than candles. We can now fit almost a thousand “candle butts” into the box that originally held 250.
We could have held out for a couple more years. After all, only a couple of people got their fingers burned last year! (That was a sarcastic remark, in case you missed it!)
The thing is I hadn’t noticed! It took someone else who had kind of a burnt smell rising from his fingertips to point out the fact that the candles had “miniaturized.”
When you don’t see something until Christmas Eve each year it’s easy to lose sight of what others see clearly.
It seems an appropriate statement for those of us who frequent church. We get entrenched in “what has always been” and have a hard time seeing over top of the deepening ruts. It’s like answering the question “When did the candle get short?” It didn’t suddenly happen. It gradually went from new to used to very used to useless.
In church we have an assortment of things that go from relevant to irrelevant, but it usually happens over time…and we frequently never notice.
And, sad as it is, there are a number of people in our churches who would rather be irrelevant and comfortable than relevant and challenged.
It may very well be that I’m have a few people show up on Christmas Eve and ask where the old candles are. If that’s the case I’ll look to see if they have burn marks on their fingers.