11 Ways to Completely Ruin Your Christmas

I love Christmas.

Yup, I really do.

Believe it or not, there are some who just can’t stand it. They’re like hairless grinches who can’t see any purpose for the celebration.

If that’s you, I thought I’d write a little guide for ruining the holiday for yourself and others. I hope you enjoy it!

Keep telling yourself that you’ve got plenty of time to get ready for Christmas. Instead of enjoying the few days leading up to the holiday, you’ll be scrambling to wrap presents, plan get-togethers, and send cards.

Make it about gift-giving
Put lots of pressure on yourself to make everyone happy. That way you can blow lots of money on junk your friends and family don’t need.

Attend everything you’re invited to
Make sure to run out the door Christmas morning so you can spend time with your parents, your spouse’s parents, and all your relatives that you only see once a year. (It can be a great thing to spend time with family but don’t run yourself ragged doing it.)

Worry about what other people think
While your busy attending every party and gathering, make sure to give yourself ample time to obsess over what you’re going to wear. Also, make sure you put the right spin on your life when people ask how you’re doing these days.

Talk about divisive topics
Who doesn’t love to talk about politics at a Christmas party? While you’re at it, discuss corporate greed, conspiracy theories, and race relations.

Gripe lots. Everyone loves a downer. Make sure to complain about how long church lasted, how crowded the stores are, about your job, and about each other.

Over eat
Eat until you get sick. You need more regrets in your life. Spending an hour bent over on the bathroom floor will be a memory you won’t forget for years to come.

Have unrealistic expectations
Expect Christmas to be just like a Norman Rockwell painting. Imagine the family standing around the old upright piano singing carols and drinking eggnog while wearing the sweaters you bought them. Make that your goal and you won’t be disappointed!

Let the weather dictate your mood
You should be extremely disappointed if it’s not a white Christmas. Make sure to let gloomy December skies kill your Christmas buzz. After all, if there’s no snow, it doesn’t FEEL like Christmas.

Let social media constantly distract you
Christmas only comes once a year and some of your family members came a long way to celebrate with you so you better make sure to check Facebook every few minutes. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss that hilarious meme your friend shared.

Be ungrateful
Your spouse and parents just don’t know what you really like, there’s way too much gluten on the table, and it takes forever to find something good to watch on Netflix. What is there to be grateful for at Christmas time anyway??

Well, I hope that helps. If you’re a person that really does like Christmas, try doing the opposite of these eleven things. Remember to keep the main thing the main thing and let a heart of gratitude swell up inside of you for the birth of our savior.

Have a great holiday!

Happy Festivus!

Well today is Festivus!  Since it’s a time for the airing of grievances, I thought I’d share this with you.  I wrote this one a while back on one of my “Christians ruin everything” days.  I hope you like it…

Well, Christmas is almost here.  Kinda…

Recently, some close relatives of mine decided they weren’t going to be celebrating Christmas any more.  Many of the traditions we observe around this holiday were actually borrowed from pagan celebration rituals, such as the tree, the garland, yule log, and so forth.  The Mesopotamians worshiped their god Marduk.  The Persians had Sacaea.  And the Romans celebrated Saturnalia.  A few hundred years after the time of Christ, Christians hijacked this time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Quite a strategic move, in my opinion.  Everyone’s whooping it up and having a great time.  Why not make a major, worldwide cultural shift?  Not an easy task and definitely one for the win column if you ask me.  Just think, if we didn’t have Christmas, human sacrifices might still be made to Marduk!

It’s unfortunate that, out of something I can only describe as theological exclusivism, so many believers seek to destroy excellent things by trying to dig up what was before.  “Celebrating the birth of our Savior and the hope of mankind?  PAGAN!  Don’t you know that the Romans worshiped Saturn?!!”  In the 1600s, the Puritans actually had Christmas banned for a few years.  Apparently people were partying too hard and it was time to put the kibosh on all that tomfoolery.  One person I spoke to actually used the Puritan ban as a reason for not celebrating this year.  What I want to know is, what does this constant probing and criticizing do for a person? Does it make them feel like they’ve one-upped the rest of the Body of Christ?  Does it make them feel closer to God?  I was listening to one woman rant about how she can’t stand to listen to modern worship music because the words “I” and “me” were used too often and it wasn’t “God-centered” enough.  I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.”  You’re right lady.  The older songs don’t use “I and me” at all…  Let’s just say, I find it hard to see the life abundantly Jesus spoke about in a brand of Christianity that spends so much energy on “exposing the wrong” in everyone elses faith practices.

Maybe I just tend to cling too tightly to Philippians 4:8, “…Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  Aren’t those things true of Christmas?  Families come together, we bless each other with gifts, we feast together, we reflect on the birth of Christ and how he’s changed our lives.  Those sound like some pretty lovely and excellent things to me!  After all, it was God who invented holidays.  He even made it mandatory for the children of Israel to take time out to feast and celebrate to help them always remember what He had done for them.  Isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Always remembering the awesome gift that is Jesus?

I wasn’t there in the 300’s when the Pope established December 25th as the day to remember Christ’s birth.  I’ve never been to a Winter Solstice, and I’ve never yelled “Jo, Saturnalia”.  All that I’ve ever known is the Jesus’ birthday Christmas.  It doesn’t matter to me whether he was born in December, March, or February for that matter.  All that I know is that a great appreciation swells up in me, this time of year, for the one who shed his deity, laid down his rights, and came to earth as a baby.  Luke chapter 2 still moves me to tears, and I love to see the look in my sons eyes as I read it to them on Christmas morning.

As for me, I choose to celebrate.  If your special insight and elevated ability to decode the history of this holiday keeps you from being with family members, exchanging gifts, and singing songs of celebration, then…happy Festivus.  Enjoy the airing of grievances.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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Christmas is almost here and my kids are exploding with anticipation!

I totally love their enthusiasm!  They go around the house singing Christmas carols, talking about what Christmas day is going to be like, even dancing!  It’s powerfully cute and it reminds me of myself at 7 years old.

The other day one of my boys came up to me and gave me a hug.  While he was hugging me, I felt something wet on my face.  I looked up to see that he was crying.

“Why are you crying?” I asked

“I just love you so much at Christmas time.” He said.  I’m not sure why the fact that it’s Christmas time moved him to tears when he loved on me but I almost wept myself.

I have to admit, I’ve been thinking an awful lot how I wish I felt the same way.  Instead of anticipation, I tend to just go through the motions.  Christmas can feel like so many additions to my task list, instead of a wonderful celebration.

All of this eager expectation that my children are experiencing reminds me of a very important time in my life.

I was in my late teens and I was soaking up God like a sponge.  I was reading through the Bible for the first time, attending church every time the doors were open, and serving in the youth ministry.

I remember the anticipation I would feel as I pulled into the parking lot of our fellowship.  I could hear the music coming from inside as I walked through the parking lot.  My pace would quicken and my heart would beat harder while I stepped through the doors.  I just knew I was going to encounter God there, and I did!

I spent many nights crying out to God for his touch on my life.  I prayed so hard for Him to use me.  I also shed countless tears as I thought about how much He loved me and I did my best to express how much I loved Him in return.

Much like Christmas, I tend to lose my faith anticipation a lot these days.  I don’t run from the car to the church doors expecting a touch from Jesus, I often see many of my faith practices as things to check off a task list, and I can’t remember the last time I wept at the thought of His amazing love.

It’s no wonder I pray the words of Keith Green’s song “My Eyes are Dry” so often.

My eyes are dry.  My faith is old.
My heart is hard.  Prayers are cold.
What can be done for an old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine.
The oil is you; your Spirit of love.
Please wash me anew in the wine of your blood.

Just as my kids anticipate Christmas, I long to anticipate intimacy with the Father in my lifeTHAT’S  what I want for Christmas! Anticipation.  Expectancy!  A hunger for Jesus that supersedes regimen, fatigue, and whatever else the miles have left encrusted on the wheel wells of this aging hot rod.

That’s my prayer for you and for me; that we would be granted the gift of anticipation. That we would approach our faith like kids on Christmas eve.  That we would get our hopes up, that our pulses would quicken when we walk into a prayer meeting, and that we would cry tears of gratitude when we worship.


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A Homeless Christmas

This year we decided to start a new family tradition.  Like many families hit by economic downturn, we didn’t exactly have a ton of presents under the tree.  That’s tough for a parent.  We want to spoil our kids with all sorts of toys and goodies.  Our three boys have been anticipating this day all year and we wanted to do it right.

Something struck me a few weeks ago, though.  My work with WorldHope.us has been seriously educating me on what it means to not have much.  I felt down about semi-empty stockings while people in my own community are sleeping under the bridge.  And you know what?  We have something so many don’t have: each other.

So, we decided to share each other this year at a local homeless shelter called King’s Harvest.  In 2009, they served 27,000 meals to the poor and needy.  Our objective was simply to go and be a blessing to someone during Christmas lunch.  It turned out to be the best Christmas experience I’ve had in a long time.

There were so many volunteers there that they didn’t need us to serve so we found someone who was all alone and planted ourselves next to her.  Her name was Shelby and she had no family.  Her children all lived far away and she hasn’t heard from them in several years.  Her only companion was a kitten, and he ate half of what little food she hadWe had the great privilege of being her family for the next hour.

We learned that she’s lived in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan just like me.  She was a Farah Faucet fan and she likes Lee Majors.  She finds the mountains of Albuquerque beautiful and a spiritual experience to explore.  As we shared stories, laughs, and observations, I couldn’t help but notice the gradual change in her countenance.  Life begun to show in her eyes, she smiled more, and she became much more demonstrative.

At one point, a homeless woman stood at the front of the room and sang “Silent Night” with incredible passion and grace.  The whole room erupted in applause and then we continued our conversation.  Shelby told us how she’s been so lonely and depressed and what a gift it was to spend time with us.  It lifted her spirits and blessed her heart.  It was a blessing to me too!  Thank you Shelby, for letting us be your family for an hour!

I have to admit, it was such a blessing to be a blessing.  Acts 20:35 is SO TRUE!  “It is more blessed to give than to receive. I’ll treasure the experience (and keep going back to help some more) far longer than any of my Christmas presents will last and my boys are learning the value of giving of themselves to bless others.

So what?  I’m learning that no matter how little we have, we still have enough to bless those with less.  What an incredible lesson!

Merry Christmas!!

Cole, Forrest, and Hudson with their new friend Shelby

Cole, Forrest, and Hudson with their new friend Shelby

Lover of Scripture

We’re doing Advent again this year and I really love it!  After dinner each night, we take about five minutes out to light the candle, read the scripture, and talk about our Savior’s birth.  If you’ve ever thought about introducing family devotion, then Advent is the perfect introduction.  Besides, family traditions are important and this is a great one to add to the list.

This year, my youngest son wants to do everything.  He lights the candle (with a little help) and often volunteers to read.

That’s it!  Forgive me for my self indulgence but I’m as proud as can be of my boy.  He reads Isaiah like an old pro!  Enjoy the video!