For The Day After Christmas

The sparkling glitter now settled
Amidst wrapping scraps here and there
Still laying – strewn across the floor
But what can we do now with these
Feelings that don’t come from a store
His birth is not an end to itself
The life Mary gave offers more

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:16-18

Jesus offers, for each of us, life. But, His life is not the mundane, fear and pain-laden life that you’re used to living. Surely, his promise is not to quench the blood-thirst between nations here on earth nor is it to make our lives pleasant Sunday strolls in our own preferred time, but, He is offering us peace that rises above understanding and once you accept that peace and the directive that He gave to focus on others outside of ourselves, truly, you will experience life more abundant right here on the face of this planet. Along with all of that, you will also experience the joy of that which is yet to come: life eternal where there will be no tears and the joys yet to be experienced will surpass whatever our finite human brains can imagine here.

If you are hurting and would allow me to pray for you, please message me. If you’d prefer to just pray, please do. He’s waiting for you.

Christmas Mourning: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Tradition can be a powerful force, particularly, during the holiday season. I love the Christmas season and my wife, my kids, and I love to celebrate the season each year by reviving each tradition, one at a time, from going to the mountains to get our Christmas tree to extending Christmas for days past the 25th of December with continued Christmas movies, Christmas music, and treats. But, lately it’s become increasingly clear to me just how limited traditions are when it comes to the big picture.

Last night we went caroling with a group from church at the assisted living center where my Dad spent a month in late 2011 during his battle with terminal brain cancer. It was there where a small group of elderly folks listened, many moving their mouths to the words of classic Christmas carols that we sang, where I couldn’t decide whether the tears coming down one woman’s face were tears of joy or pain. Did our Christmas carols bring cheer or did they revive memories of past traditions and glories that now, living dependently in an institution, are gone?

The sights, sounds, and tastes of the holiday season are great, but, for those who realize just how faulty and finite we all are, stripped down and hanging by a thread at the end of our rope, the glimmer of the holiday traditions pales in comparison to the real and lasting promise that has been made to each of us who will choose to receive the very greatest Christmas gift: peace in God. This is not peace on earth between nations, but, peace between God and his children. It is a peace that exists, and is freely offered to all who choose to accept, solely because of the grace of God who chose to make himself small and enter our world as an infant born in a manger so many years ago.

Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.
-From Reflections For Ragamuffins, by Brennan Manning, Pp.356

I pray now, tonight, that the woman whose tears I wasn’t sure how to interpret, knows the peace of God and that there is joy unspeakable yet to come that will make the brightest Christmas light-lit traditions black holes by comparison.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Unwrap Christmas

Perhaps more so than many, I am guilty of wrapping myself in the colorful nostalgic tradition of the holidays that I was born into

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

in 1976. With an ever-present nod to the visions of Clement Clark Moore and the sounds of Bing Crosby, I’ve reveled annually in the green, red, and shiny tinsel of the season. Christmas music, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, holiday lattes at Starbucks, and annual trips to the mountains of North Carolina for Christmas trees have all found their way into my family’s cannon of holiday traditions that make this season what it is for us year after year: a glowing, blinking, tinsel-strewn festival of merriment that, unfortunately, is as far away from the central, critical Christian focus of Christmas as it could possibly be.

In Reflections For Ragamuffins, Brennan Manning articulately described the crime that is so smoothly committed at this time each year:

The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances, no one can say exactly where. His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and his chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers, and dirt-poor shepherds. But in the weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God.

Sadly, Christian piety down the centuries has petrified the Babe of Bethlehem. Christian art has trivialized divine scandal into gingerbread creches. Christian worship has sentimentalized the smells of the stable into dignified pagent….Pious imagination and nostalgic music rob Christmas of its shock value, while some scholars reduce the crib to a tame theological symbol. But the shipwrecked at the stable tremble in adoration of the Christ child and quake at the inbreak of God almighty. Because all the Santa Clauses and red-nosed reindeer, fifty-foot trees, and thundering church bells put together create less pandemonium than the infant Jesus when, instead of remaining a statue in a crib, he comes alive and delivers us over to the fire that he came to light.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that the happiness and warmth that is, in fact, shared by many during this season is bad. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m extremely thankful for the blessings that I experience on a daily basis and that come in the forms of a warm place to live, plenty of food to eat, a job, family, and friends and the holiday season is a time when such blessings can certainly be celebrated. But, what I need to focus on this year is carrying the same loving spirit that fills Christmas past December and into each and every day of the new year.

The notion seems simple enough to write about in a blog post like I’m doing here, but, what would that actually look like on a daily basis? For me it means filtering out the fat in my daily routine and replacing it with more time and interaction with my family. It will mean giving more of myself – my time, my creativity, my help – to others. My approach as a teacher has room for improvement, too, in terms of focusing more on the students that I teach and less on the content that I teach. It means spending less time reading sports articles and more time praying.

What would it actually look like in your daily life if you took the first steps in unwrapping the real meaning of Christmas and carried it into the new year?

To anyone kind enough to have given your time to read this. Thank you. I wish you a very merry Christmas in which you are able to fully, and happily enjoy your blessings. I also wish you, as I intend for myself, a leaner more giving New Year.

If you’d like to learn more about one of the major steps I’m taking in order to have a leaner new year, please peruse the posts that I’ve written focused on the Beards, Hands, and Feet Project. Then visit and ‘Like’ the Beards, Hands, and Feet Project Facebook page. Thank you and Merry Christmas!