Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Green dinosaurs, Santa, and Carols

 I am not a fan of the large inflatable decorations that litter people's yards during the holidays. Most of them are tacky and seem like an answer to the question "what can I do to make my yard look worse?" One or two do not look too bad, depending on what they are; but too many people can't stop at one or two and fill their yards with the bulky decor.

  There is a house near me that I drive past every day that has some of these eyesores.... I mean decorations. I don't know what all is in their yard, as everything else fades in the background of one noticeable inflatable decoration: a large green dinosaur. It stands out to me for the reason I cannot imagine what it has to do with Christmas. I don't obsess over it, but that thought has come to me several times as I drive by the house. I was riding with my parents on Sunday and as we drove past the house, I said aloud "What on earth does a dinosaur have to do with Christmas?" My dad replied that he was wondering the same thing.

  As I drove past the dinosaur again on my way to work this morning, I again thought the same thing. Another thought hit me as I continued on my way: how much of what I do at Christmas has anything to do with Christmas?

  We who call ourselves Christians know what it is all about: the day we observe Jesus coming as a baby to this earth. I know He is what it is all about, but how many "dinosaurs" do I have at Christmas?

My family doesn't do Santa. My nieces and nephews have never been told that Santa brings their gifts, we don't decorate with Santa, nor take the kids to sit on some guy's lap we don't know.

  But how much of what I call Christmas has anything more to do with the birth of Christ than a green dinosaur sitting on the lawn of a house I drive by?

  I am not knocking Christmas trees, stockings, gift giving, lights, Christmas shopping, or anything else that we see so much of at this time of year..... well, other than Santa..... but what do they truly have to do with the real meaning of Christmas? I enjoy the lights, the Christmas tree, giving gifts........ and yes, getting (if you need any ideas, gift cards for Amazon, restaurants, or Family Christian bookstore are a great idea!)

  We tend to try to "Christianize" everything. The lights symbolize Jesus the light of the world. The Christmas tree symbolizes the trinity and points to God; also being evergreen symbolizes Jesus in some way. We give gifts because the wise men gave gifts and also because Jesus was God's gift to the world. It sounds all nice and Christian, yet how often do we think those things when viewing pretty lights and Christmas trees? How often do we think about the gifts of the wise men and about God's gift of salvation through a tiny baby as we excitedly rip open gifts to see what we have gotten to add to our already plenteous possessions?

I enjoy songs like I'll Be Home for Christmas, Sleighride, Blue Christmas, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas (even though I hate snow and winter); but what do they truly have to do with Christmas? They fail miserably next to the carols of Christmas like I Heard the Bells, Silent Night, O Holy Night, and others which are packed with so much more than secular Christmas songs.

  If we took everything away that truly has nothing to do with Jesus, what would be left in our Christmas? Would we have anything left?

  I am in no way advocating we stop the gift giving, rip down the tree and decorations and only listen to Christmas carols and Mary Did You Know..... but some of that stuff is just extra things that help make this time of year more enjoyable. I love a well decorated Christmas tree, though I seem to be the only one in my family who likes colored lights on the tree......

  But this season needs to be more about Jesus and His birth than most of us make it. Christmas Eve is a week from today, and I feel I have barely skimmed the surface of truly celebrating the season as I should.

  Oh, I had grand ideas; but life goes so fast and I procrastinate.

  I have done a few things:

  I bought a CD Drive Time Devotions for Christmas. There are about 21 days worth of devotions about Christmas that average around 3 minutes. I pop it in first thing in the morning when I get in the car and listen and absorb the words...... and the devotions are surprisingly good and worthwhile. Not bad for $1.99

  King James only people won't be able to appreciate this, but since I have 10 different Bible versions in print form (and many more in digital); I have been reading portions of the Christmas story from different versions of the Bible each evening before I go to bed. I find it interesting to read the different wording, and reading the same story over and over has helped me think more on the real reason for the season.

 This is not to toot my own horn, but today as I stood at the register waiting to pay for my soup in the coffee/snack shop at the hospital; I decided to pay for the bill of the lady behind me. To her startled amazement, after my soup was rung up; I turned around and grabbed her bill out of her hand and handed it to the lady ringing me up. It made her happy, and it made me feel good. So what does that have to do with Christmas? Well, she wished me a Merry Christmas; and that is what Christmas is all about: giving. We shouldn't just do things for people we know are going to return the gesture. Any pagan can do that. God gave us a Savior, knowing most of us would never give Him anything back; and that the rest of us would never be able to give Him anything of equal value.

  A few weeks ago, my oldest niece suggested our family go Christmas caroling this week. Our church goes caroling, though it is only open to the youth group to go; but she thought it would be nice for us to go as a family. So we loaded up and set out: my parents, me, both of my sisters and brothers-in-law, and my 6 nieces and nephews. We made some people happy, and enjoyed ourselves. And it was great to do as a family.

  This year, I have made an effort to really listen to the lyrics of the Christmas songs as I listen to them on a daily basis. The old carols are rich with meaning and good theology, and all point to Jesus. There are a lot of newer Christ-centered Christmas songs also, but I am thankful for the carols.

  I have done the usual: set up my Nativity scene, read Christmas books, bought gifts for those I know will give me gifts and those who most likely will not.

  But it doesn't matter how much of this we do or don't do if we don't have the Christ of Christmas in our hearts. That is the best way of all to honor Jesus on this time we celebrate His birth: by making sure He has our heart, and all that we have and are. He doesn't care if you have a green dinosaur in your yard, a Christmas tree in your living room, if you bake Christmas cookies or not....... but He cares if we are truly His at Christmas and every day of the year.

 Christmas is one week from tomorrow, and it will go fast. Let us do all we can to truly keep Christ in Christmas, and more importantly in our hearts and lives.

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