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!
Prayer in the Cave usually fills up almost immediately—but we still have spots available!
People in the Ozark region are not familiar with our ministry Carriers of Fire International yet, and certainly have never heard of the prayer adventure called Prayer in the Cave.
This is literally a can’t miss experience!
When we were in Colorado we would take teams into cave systems and experience powerful seasons of prayer. Miracles have happened as have deliverances and stunning freedom. In fact, one story from the cave was depicted in a secular, off-Broadway production that toured the nation. God’s wonders were decreed to liberal audiences from coast to coast. Additionally the story was included in a book titled Healed! by Andy Sanders.
If you haven’t registered yet, there are a handful of spots left. I’m actually surprised it didn’t fill up on the first day. In Colorado the demand was quite high as reports of what God was doing began to spread. We do have people from other states on their way including one person who is using her air miles to fly in from Michigan!
You can register at www.carriersoffire.org/cave.
The adventure begins TONIGHT at Marvel Cave in Branson, Missouri at 6:15pm sharp!
VIDEO: Three of the crazy and wild Burton kids help announce PRAYER IN THE CAVE!
Registrations are coming in…and we began with ONLY 30 spots available!
You will need to register right away if you want to secure a spot in this powerful, unique prayer experience!
REGISTER TODAY AT WWW.CARRIERSOFFIRE.ORG/CAVE!
REGISTER TODAY AT WWW.CARRIERSOFFIRE.ORG/CAVE!
Experience a prophetic atmosphere of fervent prayer under the surface of the earth!
There are only 30 spots available for this unique experience in one of America’s largest caverns in Branson, Missouri.
This very special 4-5 hour event will be taking place beginning at 6:15pm on Friday, July 17th, 2015.
Do you have questions? Contact me direction ASAP prior to registering at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superheroes Aren’t Supposed To Die
The mystique and allure of superheroes is their seeming immortality. No matter what evil villain appears and no matter the level of their insidious attack, there’s always a miraculous victory that ensures there will be another comic book issue, another blockbuster movie. The good guys always win.
Superman and Spiderman are assured of many centuries of battle after victorious battle. Shoot, even Indiana Jones keeps coming back for more!
Why is this? Superheroes aren’t supposed to die. A defining attribute of a superhero is their bulletproof exterior that covers a tender heart for mankind.
Countless people have contacted me with their testimonies of my dad’s soft, compassionate heart. I have been so blessed to watch my superhero in action for the last forty years. His passion for people was second to none.
My dad was my superhero—and, on Good Friday, 2010, my superhero died.
Robert Burton absolutely had superpowers. He used them all the time, and many people have been saved because of them. What were they? Mercy. Compassion. Love. Faithfulness. A continual sense of humor.
Here’s a testimony from someone about one of my dad’s many victorious battles against the forces of darkness:
"All I can tell you about Bob Burton boils down to this: In two short years of knowing him, he accomplished what an army of people, including my wife, attempted for decades, and failed: he brought me to Jesus. All of the others pushed, but Bob led. He led with love, and understanding, and tolerance and with patience. Lots of patience! He was a kind, kind man, who gave of himself so that others could have a piece of him to hold onto through this sometimes difficult life. And he did that with love, and gladness in his heart.”
The reason this testimony was possible, the reason why we all can be free, why we can also win battle after battle against life’s villains, is because my dad also had a Superhero. His Superhero also died on Good Friday.
The result? We all have the opportunity to be endued with Superpower, with the Holy Spirit. We all can love and heal and touch terrified, desperate people who have been abused by a very evil enemy.
Jesus also rose from the grave. He is now alive and active. Extremely active. And, because of that resurrection, my dad is also alive and active right now with Jesus in Heaven. Many people who are still on the Earth are alive and active because of my dad’s willingness to carry Jesus and walk in resurrection power everywhere he went.
A Very Special Part of the Story
As I mentioned above, a key superpower my dad wielded was his sense of humor. He had joy and expressed it continually.
I was sitting in a Starbucks here in Grosse Pointe, Michigan connecting with a young, emerging leader in our church. As we were concluding our meeting I received a text message from a friend of the family in Branson:
Praying for you, your mom, Mike and all the family… Bob was an awesome demonstration of God’s grace and love…
Was? Bob ‘was’?
I felt the color leave my face and chills instantly flooded every part of me. I knew Dad was having some struggles with his health, but I wasn’t expecting a text message like this.
I called Mom and she immediately asked, “Are you coming?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
What? How could this be? I drove home and parked in the driveway as Mom and I talked about what happened, what needed to happen, when we should drive down to Branson.
Then, suddenly, God did something very special for me—something I’ll never forget. He disconnected the call with my mom, it dropped in the middle of our conversation, and a moment later my phone rang and I saw my dad’s picture pop up on my phone. My dad’s cell phone was calling me.
I answered and the nurse was on the line. She said my dad wanted her to get me on the phone. “Ummm… OK.” I said.
The next voice was indeed my dad’s. His superpowers of joy and sense of humor touched me yet again. “I’m calling from Heaven.”
What? Dad? What’s going on?
He said, “I’m still among the living. There was a miscommunication regarding my condition, but it won’t be long.”
I said, “Dad, this is like the Twilight Zone! Wow. Should I come on out to see you?”
In his normal, selfless manner he said, “Nah, just pray.”
I told him I loved him and that was it. It was the end of a brief but precious phone call with the man who impacted my life more dramatically than I could ever explain.
We immediately packed and drove to Springfield to see him in the hospital.
By then he was not communicating very well, but he did say, “I love you.” He also said, several times, “Mom.” His tender heart, his superpowers of mercy and love, were still shining through. He wanted to ensure the love of his life here on the Earth, my mom, who had been mostly bed-ridden for over 30 years, would be very well taken care of.
I learned that his last phone call with my mom was filled with tears and he told her how sorry he was that he was leaving her. He was so sorry that he wouldn’t be there to care for her any more.
That was on April 1, 2010. April Fool’s day. It would have been an appropriate send off if this master of the superpower of humor departed on that day. However, I believe God wanted to make a larger statement about his life of consecration and surrender to the Lover of his soul, Jesus.
He held on and passed away the next morning—Good Friday.
Yes, superheroes do die. But the greatest heroes actually die well before they leave the Earth. As we take up our cross, die daily, surrender all and follow Jesus, many villains will be defeated and many special people will find the abundant life they so desperately desire.
Thanks Dad for your life. I can’t wait to see you again.
You can view a special website in honor of Bob Burton at www.johnburton.net/bobburton. Please submit any stories, testimonies, photos or other information about him by filling out a form on the site. You can also donate toward the care of Bob’s wife Barbara.