Thursday, December 31, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
“Though Christmas is a wonderful time of year, many Christians have concerns about what appear to be non-Christian Yuletide traditions. There is no question that Christians should always be careful about accepting traditions or practices that are common in the “world,” but there may be more that believers can “salvage” from Christmas than one might think. In fact, some aspects of the traditional celebration of Christmas were originally Christian and later secularized, so these traditions can be reclaimed for the glory of God.
How did Christmas begin? Many will be surprised to find that Christians did not celebrate Christmas very early in Church history. The early Christians emphasized Easter and Pentecost because they dealt with the resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit and because there was an Old Testament feast that coincided with both celebrations. By the fourth century A.D., we find the Church celebrating the 25th of December as the birthday of Christ. Why? First, the early Christians probably Christianized a secular Roman holiday devoted to worshiping the Sun god. The Feast of Saturnalia, as the Romans called it, included the giving of gifts, colorful lights, special trees and much feasting. The traditions of this secular celebration could be converted for Christian purposes so easily that with Roman Empire’s acceptance of the Gospel, Christians used December 25th to celebrate the birth of the Savior. In this way, Christmas trees, lights, giving of gifts and feasting became part of the honoring the birth of Jesus. Secondly, December 25th is probably very close to the actual day on which Jesus was born. Originally, Bible scholars thought that Jesus had to be born in the spring or summer since the Bible tells us that on the night Jesus was born, there were shepherds in the fields with their flocks. The thinking was that shepherds would never have their flocks in the field in winter. More recent research has indicated that the temple flocks were in the fields throughout the year. It would even make more sense for the angels to announce the birth of the Lamb of God to those who were caring for the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. Also, Jewish tradition itself suggests that there was a little known feast at the time of the birth of Jesus. After all, we celebrate the birth of our nation on July the 4th, when the day on which Congress voted for independence was actually July 2nd. It doesn’t change how much the day means to us as Americans. In the same way, the important thing about Christmas is that we set aside a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
What about Old Santa Claus? The aspect of Christmas that disturbs most Christians is the tradition of Santa Claus. Many believe that he has almost replaced Jesus at the heart of Christmas celebrations. This is not far from the truth. Astonishingly, no one would be more opposed to the removal of Jesus from His throne at Christmas than the original Santa Claus, Pastor Nicholas from the city of Myra. If we knew his story, we would be happy to remember him every Christmas. We do not know a great deal about this great man. But we do know that Nicholas was born of wealthy parents in modern day Turkey. He became a Christian early in his life and suffered in prison for many years when the Roman Emperor Diocletian was brutally persecuting the faith. Though thousands of believers were martyred, Nicholas was eventually released. After a t rip to the Holy Land, Nicholas settled in Myra, a city in the region of Lycia, on the southern coast of what is now Turkey. He soon became Bishop of that region and was known extensively for his compassion, for his generosity and for the miracles that followed his ministry. The story of his generosity that has made him famous is typical of his love and compassion. He became aware of the daughters of a poor sailor who faced a dowry. A dowry was a gift provided by the family of a new bride to the family of the groom. Without such a gift, women could rarely be married, especially among the poorer classes. The three daughters of the sailor were destined to lives of degradation and possibly even prostitution. When Nicholas learned of this situation, he quietly went to the house of the sai9lor and left three bags of gold for the three daughters. When news of this act of generosity leaked out, the beloved Nicholas was held in even greater affection by the people.
To this day, the Catholic Church regards Nicholas as the patron saint of children and sailors. After his death, Nicholas’ life was such an example of Godliness that the Church canonized him, which means they made him an official saint. The church set aside a special day, December 6, when all Christians were to remember Nicholas and it was called St. Nicholas day. On this day, the Bishops of the church would go around their cities in the special robes that Bishops wore and they would give gifts to children and do acts of charity. This practice continued for many centuries and, eventually, Christians merged St. Nicholas day with Christmas because many of the traditions were the same. Dutch settlers brought the celebration of St. Nicholas to America in the early years of this country. The Dutch word for St. Nicholas was “Sinterklaus” and English Americans eventually pronounced this “Sant Claus” or "Santa Claus.” In England, St. Nicholas is known as Father Christmas. In Russian he is Grandfather Frost and in France he is known as Pere Noel. All these names speak of the same godly pastor and Bishop who lived so long go….
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Making a “Praise Tree” is a wonderful way to “count your blessings” during the Thanksgiving holiday. The “Praise tree” may be displayed not only for Thanksgiving, but also as your first Christmas decoration to prepare your home and family for Advent. To make a “Praise tree” you need to purchase a small, artificial, table-sized Christmas tree. You may choose to use a bare-branched tree anchored to a wooden base or in a weighted can. Pull together decorating ideas to glue, paste, draw or stamp onto folded 3”x5” plain index cards. You will need a hole punch, double-faced ¼” red satin ribbon, and tree ornament hangers. Other decorating items you may want to use with a Christmas theme are old Christmas cards with pictures that can be but out, wrapping paper with small designs that can be cut out and pasted to the index cards. Glitter is a popular decorating tool. Crayons and markers are the old faithfuls. You may be asking, “What do we do with the cards and what is the purpose of the tree? “The “Praise Tree” is a way of pulling the family together during a holiday time to remember the blessings you have experienced for the year that has just passed. Everyone takes as many index cards as they want to and each family member writes on the inside of the folded card what he or she remembers and thanks God for. Small children may just want to illustrate what it is they are thankful for or an adult may write it down for the child. Looking through pictures taken during the year or pulling out your day planner may help you to remember special times and events from the past year. Each person also decorates the front of the card. The hole punch is to make a hole in the upper left-hand corner so that the ribbon can be strung through the hole and tied in a bow before hanging the card on the small Christmas tree. With the Christmas motif on the cards, the tree may remain displayed for the Christmas season and also serve as a wonderful reminder of how grateful we should be for the Christ child who came to bring us hope and assurance of life eternal. “ Although Thanksgiving 2009 has come and gone, should not every day be a day of Thanksgiving? I am thankful that God loved us so much that He sent a little baby over 2000 years ago to an earthly mother and father...to live a human life…to die the worst of human deaths…because He loved humanity so much and knew we needed a sacrificial Savior as a ransom for a debt we could never repay…Oh, how I’m thankful every single day for that blessed baby boy! Because He was born, He also died! And because He died I can live eternally with Him!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
As a little Christmas gift to you, enjoy the following video shared with me by a dear friend (and just pretend you are at the beach as you laugh your socks off!)
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I ran across a pamphlet entitled
“Celebrating Advent” in some old Christmas cards I have not been able to part with. Consequently, I have no idea how old it is; I do have a listing of resources where the information came from, which I will list at the bottom of this post. In examining the faded pamphlet, I was fascinated to learn much I did not know, beginning with the first Thanksgiving. In the next few posts I will be sharing the information with you verbatim from this booklet, hoping that you will be blessed, will learn something, and will find things you can share with others…as we prepare for this time of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! He IS the “reason for the season.” Enjoy!
“It must have been the most horrifying experience of their lives. Though there were 105 people aboard the ship called The Mayflower, only 54 were from the band of Separatists who had lived in Holland the previous twelve years to escape persecution in England. They were farmers and sheepherders for the most part, though some might have been craftsmen of one trade of another. But never had they been on the high seas. And it must have seemed as though the very demons of hell had been loosed upon them during the fall of 1620.
The storms of the North Atlantic were so fierce and the ship was so tossed the main mast frequently dipped in to the waves. It was a disorienting, gut-wrenching experience for even the experienced sailors among them. The small band of believers on board—men, women, expectant mothers and small children among them—were kept in the “tween deck” for fear of the buffeting storms. What a filthy, smelly time of testing that was! The sea water itself was so cold that a man washed overboard would die within three minutes. Bone chilling “gushes” sometimes washed fish into the ship large enough to be eaten. As if all this wasn’t enough, the main beam had cracked and the decision had been made to press it back into place with a printing press which had been brought along for printing Bibles in the New World. What a fear-inspiring sight this was!
But the elements were not the only opposition these Christians, who soon would be called “Pilgrims,” endured. There was one sailor who persisted in calling them “psalm-singing pukestockings,” which are exactly the two things they spent most of their time doing. Though the Pilgrims forgave and prayed for the man’s soul, he was, mysteriously, the only person to die during the voyage.
For 66 days, the little ship, no larger in size than a modern volleyball court, made the treacherous voyage from England to the coast of Massachusetts. And when they arrived, what must their thought have been as they scanned the howling wilderness which was to be their home. William Bradford, their governor, later remembered:
before in their preparation they had now no friends to
welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their
weather-beaten bodies, no house or much less towns
to repair too, to seek for succour.
What could sustain them but the spirit of God and his
grace. May not and ought no the children of these
fathers, right say: “Our fathers were Englishmen
which came over this great ocean, and were ready to
perish in this wilderness.”
In spring they planted and began to sense that God had heard their prayers. The previous winter had been the worst of times, but the harvest looked bountiful now, the settlement was growing and God seemed to be smiling upon them.
So when the harvest was gathered, Governor Bradford called for some of the men to go hunting in preparation for a great feast to celebrate the goodness of God. Wild fowl and deer were prepared in abundance. The newly invited Indians brought five additional deer. Women prepared hoecakes, cornmeal pudding and a variety of vegetables, while the Indian women introduced delicacies, like blueberry, apple, and cherry pie. The most welcomed new food which the Indians brought with them, though, was a new way of cooking corn in an earthen pot until it became white and fluffy—popcorn!
It was indeed a thanksgiving. But not just for safety and an abundance of food. It was also a time to remember the words they had penned about their purpose for coming when they were yet on the Mayflower. They came, they said, “for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith,” for propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be put even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”
So they were. And we ought to remember them this Thanksgiving, and take their mission to our hearts.
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel (Fleming H. Revell Company) Note: a children’s
version is also available.
Why Not Celebrate! By Sara Wenger Shenk (Good Books)
To Dance with God by Gertrud Mueller Nelson (Paulist Press)
Unplug the Christmas Machine By Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Stacheli (Quill)
Jesus, Be In My Christmas by Hornsby (Chosen Books)
The 25 Days of Christmas: An Advent Celebration for the Entire Family by Rebecca Hayford Bauer (Victor Books)
Christ in Christmas, a Family Advent Celebration by Dobson, Swindoll, Boice, and Sproul (Navpress)
Parables for Christmas by John Killinger (Abingdon Press)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
1. Blog regularly
2. Get some more followers who will hold me accountable to blog!
3. Find other “arteests” to feature.
4. Figure out how to use McLinky.
5. Tweet more frequently about blogging.
6. learn how to do some giveaways—once I have more followers.
7. Oh, and perhaps I should be praying more diligently to see if this is even a part of God’s plan for me! Hhhhmmm….perhaps I’m getting the “cart before the horse”, ya’ think?! Which brings up another blogging idea—doncha go stealing it from me, now, yu’ heuh? I want to blog sometimes about sayings and their origins.
I digress….which is not at all unusual… so, please peruse my “funkydelic” line…and choose to be blessed this day, no matter the circumstances around you! While you’re at it, bless someone else at the same time! (Please pretend the photos are good quality--they will look better if you use your imagination! ;-0
"Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavor and human creations. "
This was my first attempt in 2002 to paint our Christmas Card and have it printed into card size!
"Weeping Mary", a Guatemalan depiction of the Virgin Mary~ our 2008 painted Christmas card. On the inside left I printed the words to "Mary, Did you Know?" by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene; then on the right side I wrote: "An ordinary virgin girl, chosen by the God of the Universe, to bear and birth the Christ Child...A simple carpenter's wife, responsible for nurturing the King of Kings...An agonizing Mother, witnessing the brutal sacrifice of Her Son and her Savior...Her tears a language only God could understand! Let the reality of those truths soak into your very being this blessed season, as your reflect on the One who loves you unconditionally, and asks only for your heart as a dwelling place for Him to inhabit."
This one, entitled "No One Home", I painted in 2006. On the inside I quoted Greg Asimakoupoulos: "When you step over the threshold of Christmas there's a mystery for you to explore A story. A message. Rich beauty. The music of color and love. There's a sense of the Creator's presence. The wonder of childlike joy. The texture of worship. The power of peace. Turn the handle and open the door."
While I’m at it, I should also show you some my husband’s beautiful creativity:
This is our 4-poster bed Rodney built for me years ago while I was in Florida on Spring Break!
This is an old vanity we purchased at the Flea Market; Rodney cut the top our for the sink and ran the plumbing from inside the vanity!
"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. "