Has misguided spirituality stolen the gift of Christmas from you and your family?
My family and I live in Christmas ground zero—Branson, Missouri. The glory and wonder of the Christmas season in this tourist destination starts mid-October, successfully washing out the darkness of Halloween, and ignites the entire region in red and green. As I gaze through the window at Branson’s downtown Starbucks, where I’m writing this article, I can see a massive Christmas tree at Branson Landing on the shores of Lake Taneycomo and a huge crowd of people, many in their pajamas, at the Branson Scenic Railway depot waiting to board The Polar Express. The joy of Christmas has arrived!
We absolutely love viewing the 6.5 million lights at Silver Dollar City, one of the nation’s premier Christmas destinations. Holiday stage shows are numerous along Highway 76. Christmas lake cruises, drive through trails of lights, carriage rides and much more help make experiencing Branson one of the nation’s very best Christmas family traditions.
I can’t imagine not fully immersed in the wonder of Christmas—yet many Christians have decided to eliminate Christmas from their lives. Humbug!
I applaud Christians who want to live pure, holy lives, but eliminating Christmas is not the way to do that. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year as we exalt Jesus and enjoy family in ways that cannot happen at any other time, in any other way! I’m absolutely convinced Jesus loves it when we have fun, laugh, enjoy each other and rejoice!
It's the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you, "Be of good cheer," It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. There'll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
FIVE REASONS why we’ve decided to celebrate Christmas with abandon:
Amy, one of my boys, Parker, and I just returned from Orlando, including a day each at The Magic Kingdom and Sea World. Both places, most probably for the only time all year, exalted Jesus through music and productions. I was excited to hear songs like “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” joyfully playing as I waited for my (way too big) ice cream sundae in the Main Street ice cream parlor at the Magic Kingdom. I was even more excited to see a living nativity called “O Wondrous Night” being produced at Sea World! Of course, Silver Dollar City here in Branson is unashamedly Christian based. Their mission statement declares that all they do is done “in a Manner Consistent with Christian Values and Ethics.” The majesty of Jesus and his birth are proclaimed throughout the park. In fact, in their epic Christmas production, Dicken’s Christmas Carol, Scrooge has a powerful, tear inducing salvation moment that was the actual cause of his reborn heart.
You simply cannot escape the truth that Christmas exalts the King! Do many (most) people ignore this and focus on less spiritual Christmas experiences? Yes. However, even as they do, the name of the Savior of the world is proclaimed every time they mutter the word CHRISTmas. They can’t escape the Christmas music that proclaims the love of Jesus or the spirit of giving that Jesus best exemplifies.
Most Christians who argue against celebrating Christmas do so because of supposed pagan roots or because they have determined that it’s “not really about Jesus,” and should therefore be avoided.
First, Christmas is overwhelming about Jesus! However, that being said, if Jesus had to be the subject of everything we celebrate, we’d have to eliminate birthday parties, watching fireworks on July 4th, Veteran's Day, New Year’s Day and most other holidays and special events. Wedding parties would cease. So would graduation parties and other celebrations.
Second, unlike Halloween which is still very much a pagan, demonic celebration that should be avoided by every Believer, Christmas is currently a glorious celebration of Jesus, life and family.
We pay attention to current status, not origins. Anything can be redeemed. The current status of Halloween is a world-wide celebration of Satan. The current status of Christmas is a world-wide celebration of Jesus!
Additionally, if we eliminated everything from our lives that had pagan origins, we’d have a hard time functioning.
Did you know that the following have pagan origins?
- Wedding rings
- Wedding ceremonies
- New Year’s/New Year’s Eve
- Statues of people and animals
- Money has pagan designs on it
- The days of the week
- The months of the year
- Eye makeup
- Wind chimes
- Saying “Amen”
- Baby showers
- Making your bed
In the first-century Church, gentile Christians were told to avoid meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols (Acts 15:29). However, Paul told the Corinthians that they could eat meat sold in the public market even though that meat may have been sacrificed to an idol (1 Cor. 10:25). He told them not to eat in the pagan temple. In other words, he told them to avoid blatant paganism, but they did not have to superstitiously avoid everything that paganism might have touched at some time in the past. ~gci.org
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
2. FAMILY & MEMORIES
I’m 49 years old, and I still have a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve! I remember the Christmas mornings that my parents made so exciting and special in the 1970’s and 80’s. We’d go to sleep with nothing under the tree…and then magic happened. When we woke up several hours earlier than normal, a bright light from an archaic movie camera blinded our eyes as we walked down the hallway from our bedrooms toward the living room. As our pupils adjusted to the light, we would witness what happened over night. Presents wrapped in black and white newspaper (to save money for gifts) filled the room!
I’ll never forget the disk drive I got for my Commodore 64. My parents were Christmas geniuses. The hour or so of unwrapping gifts, one at a time, led to one final, climactic moment when my brother and I excitedly and nervously wondered if we would get what we had hoped for. The adrenaline was pumping. The mystery was almost too much to bear! As I unwrapped that final newspaper covered present, my eyes popped open wide as I saw it. I got my disk drive!
Both of my parents are with Jesus now, and that disk drive is long gone. However, the memories that I have will live forever. I could share story after story from my childhood to current times that are so special to me. Spending time with Amy and the kids looking at Christmas lights or visiting Christmas villages and festivals, hustling and bustling at shopping malls and enjoying holiday attractions is precious beyond compare.
In fact, I’ll never forget the time, just a handful of years ago, my mom and dad filled their living room with presents, mostly for our kids. Skylar and Parker had wanted a Nintendo Wii, but Amy and I weren’t in a position to spend that kind of money that year. The last gift the kids opened resulted in jumping and screaming for what seemed like forever. They got their Wii. They played it all day. Grampy, dressed in his mismatched pajama bottoms and green T-shirt, spent some quality time bowling on the Wii with the boys. It was funny. I’ll never forget it.
My dad died shortly after that. That memory still causes a tear or two to this day.
Oh, there’s no place like
home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine
Of a friendly face
For the holidays, you can’t beat
Home, sweet home
3. SANTA CLAUSE & GIFTS
I’ll never apologize for loving gifts! I have so much fun buying gifts for Amy and the kids each year. I love receiving gifts too! I make out my list and email it to Amy early every November—and then modify it several times! It doesn’t mean I’m carnal or materialistic. It’s my love language. Some of you need to be delivered from condemnation that others have heaped upon you for enjoying gifts. Did the Wise Men not bring gifts to Jesus?
Celebrate the spirit of Saint Nick who selflessly gave. Amy and I share the truth about Santa with the kids so there’s no confusion there, and then we all celebrate the season with passion!
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)
There’s just something about the process of hunting for the perfect gift for the ones you love, finding the right size and color, sneaking it home, wrapping it behind locked doors and placing it in the perfect spot under the tree.
There’s also the excitement that I talked about in the last point. Gathering around the tree to take turns opening presents is an experience that can’t be duplicated any other day of the year. When I unwrap something from one of my little ones, no matter if it’s homemade or something from the dollar store, I come alive inside! The same is true for every other gift someone gives me, or for every gift I get to watch someone else open.
It’s the perfect opportunity to become childlike, to stop “adulting” for a while and just have fun!
After the gifts have been opened, the rest of Christmas Day is spent playing with new toys, playing new games, eating Christmas dinner and enjoying new things in a room littered with torn wrapping paper, boxes and glorious chaos!
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So, to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.
4. MUSIC, FOOD AND FUN
Is there anything better than a fire in the fireplace as Christmas music fills the room? Or, watching Rudolph on TV as a family for the hundredth time? Amy’s birthday is in November, and this year I bought her tickets to two stage productions: Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story Musical. We’ll have a wonderful dinner each of those two nights, and then head out to the show for a couple hours of Christmas fun!
Again, I’m growing older, but I am often the first one in our family to start watching the old Christmas shows on TV. I’ll go to sleep with Christmas worship playing in the bedroom. Compared to the rest of the year, it’s nice that so much of the entertainment the world is offering is clean, family friendly and wholesome. Christmas does that.
Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolf
play in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolf with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee:
“Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!”
5. JOY AND PEACE
As the wickedness of Halloween dissipates in the atmosphere, the Christmas season slows things down and just permeates the atmosphere with peace and joy. It gets dark sooner, it’s crisp outside, the snow starts falling and life just gets a little quieter. As the anticipation of Christmas morning is before us all, we don’t have to wait to experience all that Christmas has to offer. We can bundle up and walk through the snow or drive through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and decorations. We’ll put up the tree, hang the ornaments and relax as a family.
It’s no wonder that joy and peace come with the Christmas season. After thousands of years of hopelessness, a little baby was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He brought peace to the storm and joy to the world. He changed my life. I celebrate him on Christmas. The joy and peace in my heart are his gift to me.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Amy, the kids and I pray that you and yours have a truly wonderful, love-filled, joyous and peaceful Christmas. Enjoy your family, create memories and become childlike in this beautiful, wondrous season!
Revival is a serious threat to the prevailing church structure as it will put at risk every comfort zone we know.
It’s important to understand that it’s a religious spirit that is the force behind anything that might resist a costly revival.
Religion is: man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants
Jesus threatened the church of the day—so the church killed him. They got what they wanted.
Today, it’s normal for many to attempt to use God or to use the church to get what they want. They want life to be comfortable and convenient. They want the church experience to be a certain way. They might shop around until they find the spiritual experience that meets their desires and demands. If people aren’t careful, they can unwittingly embrace a spirit of religion while minimizing the cost, the cross and the mandate to surrender all for the sake of Kingdom advance.
As revival approaches, here are some of the issues we will have to wrestle through:
- All traditions are at risk: Traditions have the power to void the Word of God (Mat 15)! It’s no wonder God is so intent on resolving this issue. The coming reformation will impact many traditions that have become signatures of church as we know it. It’s imperative that we don’t resist the change that will affect the days and times we gather together, the style of worship we’ve become familiar with, programs, etc. The coming church will look nothing like the church we know today. Kim Clement said recently, “The church as we know it is being abolished.”
- Pastors will have to face the risk of losing people, money and their reputations: The pressure for church growth, and the temptation to compete with other pastors and churches for the best ministry, is pretty extreme. Additionally, drastic change to the familiar church experience will be a serious threat to pastor’s salaries and retirements. The fear of loss will hit many. If people who are unwilling to buy into such a drastic change and such a zealous experience decide to leave the church, their money leaves with them. Further, if people leave the church, accusations of pastoral failure will start to fly. Reputations will be lost. The question is, is a move of God more important than security and position?
- Local church missions will have to adjust: When revival lands, it will probably land in a single location. That location most likely won’t be our specific church. This means that local church leaders will have to have open hands and and be quick to release the people in their church to participate at a high level in the revival. The pastors will need to lead the people out as they join forces with the greater city church. When I went to the outpouring in Lakeland, Florida I was saddened that no church marquee gave any indication that they were cancelling some services so they could participate in the revival. Not one. I wonder if the threat of that revival caused them to lock everybody down and keep them far from that tent where the fire of God chose to manifest.
- Investment will increase radically: The time, money and focus required to steward a revival is off the charts. Cares of life must finally be dealt with and preparations to spend day after day and dollar after dollar must be made. Lesser priorities will have to take a back seat to the coming ‘all hands on deck’ season.
- Acts 2:46 (NKJV) 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple…
- We will have to release control: The Holy Spirit is going to manifest in such bizarre and extreme measure that those who are nervous about such environments will be tempted to shut it down.
- Acts 2:12-13 (NKJV) 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" 13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
- Most people don’t like change, and that is a problem: Leaders tend to shy away from alienating the people they are leading, but a crisis is coming. The change that’s coming to the church will cause most to vehemently resist. Will we as leaders respond to God or man? Peter, interested in man ahead of God, unwittingly renounced the great change and cost of the cross, and Jesus gave him one of the strongest rebukes in scripture. Peter was embracing religion, the desire to use God and eliminate the cross. This religious disposition is a serious risk to revival.
- Mark 8:31-33 (ESV) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
- Sharp yet love filled prophetic messages must be preached: In Acts 2 direct and prophetic teaching was a direct result of the outpouring. The days of sloppy grace and tickled ears must come to an end.
- Acts 2:36-37 (NKJV) 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
The systems that we have developed are about to be destroyed as God paves the way for the coming church. The revival that’s nearly hear will be both great and terrible. It won’t be a series of nice meetings, but rather it will break a lot so that the love and abundant life of Jesus can be felt in much fuller measure.