Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Better Christmas

As I reflect on Christmas Day, I see that the mood of the holiday is different this year.  From the news reports, it sounds like people are looking for simplicity rather than the latest toys and fads.

Momentum has been building for restoring Christmas to a celebration of Christian faith.  The trappings of Christmas have drifted farther and farther from any connection to Jesus, and finally people have had enough.  The pendulum had swung so far to commercialism that many are rebelling against excessive spending and partying. 

For years I had suggested to friends that we should give gifts at Thanksgiving, so that Christmas could be uncluttered and directed to the worship of Jesus.  But something better has happened.  Through the work of groups like Advent Conspiracy, Christians are working together to turn Christmas into a time when believers work together to bless the world in the name of Jesus.

Last night at our Christmas eve candlelight service, we received an offering for local and international missions.  We are trying to worship more and spend less.  Then we can give more and really make a difference in the world.  I pray that the world might come to recognize Christmas as a time when the followers of Christ work together to share the love of Jesus.  In practical ways we can provide for the needs of the helpless and hurting.

Christmas becomes an exciting time when we make a focused effort to give Jesus to the world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I love the darkness – not metaphorically, but literally.  I like to sleep in a dark room.  I like walking outside in the dark.

 I really love to see the nighttime sky.  Recently we had the biggest full moon in a long time.  The moon was (for some reason) closer to the earth.  Venus and Jupiter have also been in conjunction.  Venus, the brighter of the planets, has been moving higher in the sky, while Jupiter has been moving lower.  I try to imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago, looking at the night sky, not really knowing a planet from a star.  Why would some of these lights seem to be still, while others are in different positions every day?

 By the way, the word “planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.”  These heavenly bodies appear to wander across the night sky.  It amazes me that any one could look at the movement of these orbs and determine that they orbit the sun.  I just enjoy watching them.

 As we approach the shortest day of the year, there is plenty of darkness.  But even in this darkness, there is light.  And it is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Giving Jesus

The Christmas season is fully upon us now.  I want the season to be full of Jesus, not busyness and stress.  

To maintain my focus, I’m working to keep in touch with Jesus.  I really like spending time in prayer and Bible reading, but somehow that gets tough in December.  I want to spend my early morning time with him, so that I have something to give during the rest of the day.

I’m also looking for ways to give Jesus when I’m out in public.  It is easy for me to become absorbed in my “mission,” whether it is filling the car with gas, or finding some item on sale.  I’m training myself to look around and notice the people around me.  Then Jesus can use me to bring a smile, a word of encouragement or a helping hand.

With gift giving, our family is looking for opportunities to give gifts that change the world.  World Vision has a “gift catalog” with various gifts that can be given in honor of a friend or family member.  My family had a great time flipping through the catalog and imagining which gifts we would most like to give on behalf of which people.  You can give a cow, a goat, a chicken or a deep well.  You can also give a fish pond, a fishing kit or a duck.  People in developing countries need these gifts so that they can take care of their own families, without depending on outside help.

We are also planning to give generously to our church’s Christmas offering.  The offering will support local and international efforts to share the love of Jesus.  I’m excited about the ministries and the impact they have on the world.

Jesus gave himself to us.  He wants us freely to share his love with the world.  That makes life more fun for us, and it gives real life to those around us.