Friday, December 24, 2010

Keeping Christ in Christmas

There's a lot of chatter every year about keeping Christ in Christmas, getting back to the real meaning of Christmas, etc., which is all well and good if that means peace on Earth, good will towards men. But sometimes that call, to keep Christ in Christmas, sounds like Scrooge and the Grinch to me.

Every year we debate about how much we're going to spend, what type of gift exchange we're going to do, what each family is expecting, and how we're going to make it happen. There's griping about cleaning and wrapping and cooking and shopping and traveling. We fuss and fume about the ribbons and tags, packages, boxes, and bags. Grinchiness doesn't translate well into any kind of wish for joy to the world.

In one of Peter's letters, he encourages believers to, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms."

Rather than talk about keeping Christ in Christmas, when I start slipping into complaining mode, I need to remind myself to keep Christ in me. The most important commandments laid out by Jesus were to love God and love one another. There are several ways we can carry out the command to love one another-- there's gift giving, spending quality time together, hugs and kisses, saying nice things to each other, and doing nice things for each other. Keeping Christ in Christmas means whatever we do, whether eating or drinking, gift giving, donating, serving food at a shelter, hosting a party, etc., that we do it as if it were God himself we were serving.

Sometimes family are the easiest group of people to get all up in a fuss about, mostly because they are stuck with us. It'd be great if we could learn to treat our loved ones as if they are really loved ones. Maybe we can extend the same grace and peace to the people who are stuck with us as we try to extend to those who don't know us any better.

I'm starting to get preachy ;) so before I go, I have one more verse that's been rattling around in my head the last few days. Ever wonder what Jesus has to say about gift-giving?

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit, who makes it possible to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mama and Papa Bear vs. Parents of Three-Year-Olds

I've heard other women talk many times about when their kid has been slighted, or insulted, or teased, or ignored and their reactions to it, but I've never really related. Until now.

Out of the blue the other night during dinner, Elvis said, "My friends say I'm not growing." It's true that Elvis is the smallest and youngest in his preschool class. He's always been on the smaller side-- he's just about the cutest little man ever-- and it's likely that he'll always be on the smaller side. But HOW DARE THEY?! What provokes a group of three-year-old boys to tease another boy?

Back when I was dreaming about making babies all of the time, I couldn't wait to pick out cute outfits, sing and rock the baby to sleep, make googly faces at it, carry it around, give it a bottle, and keep it baby-sized forever (kind of sounds like my four-year-old daughter's version of mothering). This part of parenting never occurred to me. Not once did it cross my mind that I'd have to come up with a response to a sad little boy whose just been teased about something that is completely out of his control (aside from not eating his vegetables). It immediately made me think of the things that had been said or done to me as a child, the insults or teasing that shaped my personality. Remembering how that made me feel sent a mad mother bear fury into the pit of my stomach. And he's just three. We've got another few decades' worth of being almost completely defenseless when it comes to what happens to him at school in his peer groups.

To be affected so quickly and emotionally by the plight of my son at preschool makes me realize how much restraint God the Father had to have on his Son's behalf. I'm ready to track down the parents of my son's friends and give them a good talkin' to about manners and what they say at home and where did your son learn to talk like that, etc., etc., and there's Jesus, beaten, bullied, taunted by people while hanging on a cross. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

But in light of Jesus' example, what do you tell your kid? Go on the defense? Teach him some retorts ("Well, I might be small but I'm smarter than you! And cuter!")? Tell him to go straight to the teacher? Tell him to punch them in the face (mmm, probably not.)? Ignore it? How do you teach your kid to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

I guess we have to show them how to do that. I guess we need to avoid teasing and making fun of people in our own homes, pray for people who have done us wrong or who don't understand us, and hope that God will work on our hearts as much as theirs. We can't control how other kids are going to be raised and how that upbringing will affect us, just like we can't control other people's actions. We can control our reactions.

May God give us the strength and courage to not punch our enemies in the noses or hunt down their parents with some mama and papa bear fury.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blogging. About Blogging.

I follow this guy, Jon Acuff, blogger at Stuff Christians Like, on Twitter and via RSS feed (Which I love, by the way. Who came up with this stuff? Sending someone's journal entries straight to my Outlook mailbox so that I know when they've been updated? Awesomeness.), and this guy is just great. I laugh, I cry, I nod, I smile. Mostly, though, I am amazed at the sheer quantity of material he is putting out there, in both blog and book form.

Since my last post way back on November 17, I've been saying to myself, Sarah, you should blog about this. Or this. Or this. And here we are, three weeks later, writing a short blog entry about how I haven't been blogging but this guy Jon has been and man, he's great.

And now it is December, Christmas is a mere 17 days away, and the list of things to do, places to be, and sleep to be had just keeps growing. I miss blogging. I miss writing poetry. (Last time I wrote a poem? Mmmm September.) Is there hope? January, maybe? We'll see.

In the meantime, check out Jon Acuff. He's pretty neat-o.