The Simple Kind of Christmas

In previous years, I would become so stressed out during December with all the hustle of Christmas and I longed for a simple kind of Christmas..only to keep getting caught up in the whirl wind of various traditions and trying to keep up with everyone else around us. This year it seemed the Spirit of Christmas had halted all that hustling for us. The initial home we were looking at getting ended up being a transaction from Hades and we needed to pull out. Word to the wise… research property management companies before getting involved with them. it’s all hindsight for us now, but we are thankful we got out when we did. Nevertheless, we had to go back and do more house hunting. So instead of racing to the stores to buy gifts and wrapping paper, we headed to the airport to spend the holidays with TSA and delayed flights. Instead of enjoying home baked treats, we enjoyed peanuts and chips with a small plastic cup of diet soda. Rather than watching the traditional holiday flicks with the kids, we were watching reruns of Seinfeld on the airplane.

We arrived in So Cal to meet up with my husband’s folks and drove directly to view some open houses and meet with Realtors, sign more papers, yadda yadda yadda. There was no time to buy toys when we were focusing on buying a home. We knew that this Christmas would be small since we were pouring all of our resources into a relocation for the entire family and our children have been super appreciative and thankful even though it meant a very limited pile of gifts under the tree this year.

Amazingly enough, we got a lot accomplished in the 4 days before Christmas and flew home with the hope that this would be the one home we get. If you’ve ever bought a home you will know it takes a while for all the pieces to fall into place and here we are the day after Christmas and still waiting on the final word. We spent Christmas in the living room with our children unwrapping hand made gifts that the children made for us while we were gone. Monica made the ladies some jewelry and Jessica created imaginative hunts with clues and cool little gifts made from the most unusual things. Not only were we surrounding the tree as a family, but surrounding us on all sides was the contents of our home packed in cardboard boxes waiting to be loaded into a moving truck.

We decided that we would have a belated Christmas meal with my husband’s parents once we get moved so we settled on a precooked ham log with canned yams and boxed potatoes for dinner last night. We didn’t send out cards, we didn’t call anyone, we didn’t attend any Christmas parties or gift exchanges…we actually got that simple kind of Christmas I had longed for in previous years and it was quite relaxing. This smaller Christmas was needed for all of us.

On Christmas Eve, I surprised myself with a tradition we had stopped a couple of years ago…the traditional Candle light service with a local congregation. We had made friends with a small congregation over the last year. Monica accompanied me while the rest of the family hung out at home. It was a very last minute decision. I don’t mean to knock this little church, as they were very kind and open to us that evening, but I do not miss sitting in wooden pews and no matter how much padding goes onto those things, they are incredibly uncomfortable. But the sanctuary was beautifully decorated and the staff gave a beautiful presentation of the Christmas story and we sang some traditional Christmas hymns. I was encouraged to hear the pastor place the utmost importance on the love of God. Too many times in the past I had heard condemnation from various churches with barely a hint of speaking of God’s love, yet this pastor made God’s love paramount in his Christmas presentation. And as usual, no matter what is said in a message that was carefully and prayerfully planned, it was the lyrics to a song that spoke to me most. For some reason it’s always been the songs that move me the most in a church service. This is not meant to minimize the preparation that went into the evening, rather it’s to reveal the importance of us listening to the Spirit of Christmas over all.

As I sang one of the songs it was the words ‘peace and calm’ that hit me. The Spirit was hushing my anxious heart that has been so burdened about this move and for that moment he met me in that pew and calmed me. The tears flowed. It was nice to visit with the pastor and other folks that night. We thanked them for the service and headed home. I made home made hot cocoa topped with whipped cream then went out for our annual tour of lights drive to enjoy the brightly lit homes in our neighborhood. We sang together and “oooed and awed” at the colorful displays then came back home to settle in for the night. If it wasn’t for Jessica, we wouldn’t even have our tree up. She set up the tree and hung the stockings while we were gone house hunting. She set out the cookies she baked for Santa and we all headed to bed.

Even though the annual War over Christmas raged in the media and in cyberspace, we settled into the true meaning of Christmas for ourselves which is, family. Regardless of whether people celebrate Christ as the pillar of their Christmas or not, the tradition of Christmas brings family together and we certainly felt the calling in our hearts to gather in tightly with each other within our own home and that was what we needed most.

We continue to wait for the call about the home in So Cal and look forward to a new year in 2012 as a family in a new community. And with that, I am excited about a new direction for my blog and I ask your patience with me as I look for a new layout and decor. I’m pouring all of my energy into the move.

Bless you all as you head into the new year.

Sisterlisa

The Freedom We Have in Christmas

I am a bit delayed in getting my holiday theme up. I had hoped to be able to do all the designing over the Thanksgiving weekend, but I wasn’t able to get it done. So please bear with me as you continue to see my Autumn decor. It’s that time of year again when people battle over the whole Christmas vs. Holiday issue again. Can I just say it’s getting quite exhausting? Lets just be practical about it shall we?

Christmas music by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

The world has various winter holidays and all kinds of religions celebrate their holidays in the same month, December. In a country like America, we are going to see a huge melting pot of these holidays around our towns and in advertisements as companies aim to get our money and compete with each other over the almighty dollar. Forget that the value of the dollar is decreasing, they still want it. So anyway, they don’t want to offend anyone and disrupt their paychecks. And who can blame them in this economy? We all would like to have the finances to have a nice holiday with our families. So they are trying to be polite to everyone of all beliefs by simply saying, Happy Holidays. It’s no big deal!

There are plenty of companies that sell nativity scenes, window clings with crosses on them, tree ornaments with baby Jesus on them, and so much more. They are not going to abolish Christ in Christmas. No matter how much some people do not choose Jesus as the reason for their season, the Christian tradition will go on so long as the families continue to hold fast to their heritage.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty about the history of Christmas, there are plenty of sites out there that you can read.

But lets just stop and think about the Spirit of Christmas for a moment. If there is any time at all for Christians to be peaceful and joyous, it should be Christmas. No one is going to tell you that you can’t celebrate Christ in Christmas. Your faith is YOURS and how you celebrate is your freedom. But lets also not forget that the U.S. Constitution protects all people to have freedom in whatever religion they choose…and Jesus never commanded that you harm people or their businesses for not celebrating this holiday the same way you do. In fact, Jesus never commanded that we celebrate his birth. The historical tradition of Jesus is to celebrate his resurrection.

I think it’s incredibly courteous for companies to offer a generic holiday greeting and decor for their stores in light of how many religions are having celebrations during this time. I would much rather see that, than for them to be judgmental in excluding others while only including one.

Even the apostle Paul said not to judge people for the way they observe their holy days and also not to judge people who don’t.

I happen to have relatives and loved ones of all sorts of religious backgrounds. I have this extreme honor of being able to commune with these loved ones even though we celebrate differently. I love that we are all unique this way. I have Christian friends who don’t celebrate Christmas at all, who believe the tree in the living room is an abomination and I’m ok with that. That is their own personal conviction. I will not force them to give up their free will just to make me more confortable. I also have Christians friends who might as well have Santa’s workshop in their homes, their homes look like National Lampoon’s Christmas, and wear bells on their tennies all month long. Who am I to rip their freedom out from under them and tell them to stop celebrating Christmas the way they choose to?

Then I have some lovely Pagan friends who don’t celebrate the traditional Christmas, but rather their winter solictice in much different ways. Their ancestors were forced by threat to give up their religion and heritage. They were forced to convert against their wishes, against their freedom, and against their free will. This should never have happened!

Jesus never said to threaten people with their lives if they don’t choose him. In fact, Jesus said to depart in peace and wipe the dust from your shoes if they don’t recieve you. So anyone who tries to force Pagans, Jews, or Africans to celebrate Christ in their December celebrations are in direct violation of what Jesus tells them to do.

In addition to this, Jesus was not so tolerant of religious people using manipulation to get people to do things for their own pesonal gain and I am pretty sure Jesus would not want people to be manipulated into celebrating his birth in December if they don’t want to. So when Christians further their propaganda to manipulate stores into adding Christ Christmas music to the speakers during shopping hours, or “Merry Christmas” in their slogans, then they are, again, in violation of what Jesus teaches us to do. Manipulation is sorcery and part of the dark arts. Christians are NOT to have anything to do with the dark arts. All things in Christ are to be done with the utmost integrity, honor, and love.

It’s fabulous that people want to celebrate their faith in their winter holidays and I think it’s high time that we just live peacefully among each other and stop trying to insist on our own way. Love does not insist on its own way. If you celebrate Christmas with Christ, then do so…but please do not launch a war against others who don’t. That  is not the spirit of Christ. And when Christians insist on doing so, we create such a monstrous mess that is not going to attract people to us or the Jesus we claim to follow.

If you’re a Christian and you see our brethren and sisters launching such wars, remind them of grace. Stand up for the freedom we all have and put your feet down with abusive religious zealots who continue to make it all that much harder for us to be a light of grace and mercy in the world. If you wish to correct anyone, correct them..those who are hurting folks at Christmas time. Please ask them to stop. It’s just not the way of Christ to be so mean to people.

If you work in an environment where the managment asks you not to say “Merry Christmas” to their customers, then respect them. Please do not go against Jesus when he spoke through the writer of Hebrews and said to obey them that have the rule over you. He never said that we are to go against our ‘masters’ just to say “Merry Christmas”. Do not attempt to say that using the term, “Merry Christmas” is evangelism and push your “right” to free speech and freedom of religion over the wishes of your employer. That is not the way of Christ.

If your child goes to a public school, please do not coerce your children into pressing the school officials by ‘exercising’ the use of “Merry Christmas” in the school. Don’t you remember that Peter said that people can be won without the word, by the manner in which we live? It’s ok if the schools don’t use the term, Christmas, in their decor or holiday celebrations.

Isn’t the whole point of celebrating Christmas, as Christians, to spread joy and glad tidings? Are we not to be peaceful among one another during this time of year (and all year long)? So let your light shine among mankind in the way you love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. If you want freedom to have a nativity in your front yard, then be peaceful about a pagan having a wreath on their front door. If you want freedom in your business to say Merry Christmas, then allow the other businesses to have freedom to say Happy Holidays. We will reap what we sow and if we sow threats of not shopping at some stores over something as trivial as this, then don’t be surprised when people boycott your business too. It’s sad that so many innocent children would suffer with no holiday ham or turkey because their parents businesses suffered financial loss due to some overzealous Christians who launched an outright war against them for saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas!

Have we, as Christians, become so petty and selfish? Are we reverting back to the old ways of manipluating people into a false conversion under cyber bullying to hurt their financial stability? Come on my dear brothers and sisters…that is not the way of Christ.

 And before I go for today, may I remind you that there are plenty of Christmas photos at Pix-O-Sphere  that you can use in your blogging this month? And if you have other holiday images to share from various December celebrations, please feel free to upload and share. It’s free to join.

Are you afraid you’ll have trouble with communicating about your faith or holiday celebrations with friends and family on facebook? Sadly this time of year continues to have hostile words over this controversial issue. But you can customize your Facebook settings to give yourself some more privacy without having to unfriend people.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Happy Hannakuh, Have a Great Kwanzaa, and a Blessed Yule!

Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

signature by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

The Narrow Way is not for the Weak

At times when disagreements turn awfully sour, it doesn’t make any more sense to continue to try and sort out the issues. Sometimes things become distorted during emotional highs and lows and our thinking becomes muddy. Even with a moderator, it can look like it’s a never ending battle of who is right or wrong and at times like that it  just might be best to surrender to God and let it all go to him.

Walk away.

Walking away can be incredibly difficult, but may very well be the only way to let things fizzle out so everyone involved can have time to reflect and move on in other areas of their lives. This doesn’t mean the issues will be resolved, but sometimes a bit of space and time to become more clear headed can help resolve some issues down the road.

But in the mean time…. depart in peace.

Let each other know that they are loved.

That even in disagreement, departing in peace and love can be done.

Because when it all comes down to it, being right or wrong isn’t the goal in Christ…it’s grace.

Finding grace, seeking mercy, and allowing ourselves to forgive is empowering to enter into the abundance of life.

It’s certainly not the easy way, in fact.. Jesus said it was a narrow way and few will find it.

creekside trail by cassehn, on Pix-O-Sphere
{photo credit Cassie}

Trying to insist upon who is right and who is wrong steals all our energy and slaughters our joy.

Why not give our energy to hope?

Departing is never the easy way out. It’s much more difficult to walk away, because it requires faith.

Walking by faith that the disruption will cease and that God will work in the hearts of all involved is never easy nor is it the way of a weakling. It’s the narrow path that is traveled by the strong. It’s a paradox.

paradox by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere