Christmas is Here (& a little break too)

Hi there, friends.

 

It’s crazy how fast time flies – here we are again, and it’s Christmastime once more.

 

Just wanted to post a quick note to say that you probably won’t see any posts until January. We all need a break every now and then, and one especially to keep our focus on Christ as things become busy and stressful.

 

I hope you all get a chance to truly feel the love of Christ this Christmas. We’re so often fixated on the packages, the food, the company, the hustle and bustle – and yet, there is One who is far more significant than these trivial things we fill the season with. There is a peace, a love, a goodness, and a joy that far outweighs the cheap thrills we get from our society’s hightly commericalized Christmas.

Continue reading “Christmas is Here (& a little break too)”

The Difference Between Santa and Jesus

The Difference Between Santa and Jesus 

This is part 4 (the final part) in my Christmas series. See the first three parts also: Peace on Earth, Christmas is Love, and Are We Happy Yet?.

 

Just to let you guys know, this is my last post of the year before I take a little break. I’m planning on coming back January 5th after a recharge and refresh, and sharing some new surprises with you all. Feel free to peruse the tag list to find posts on certain topics, or go and leave comments on any post you’d like, because I’ll still get notifications and will be responding.

Onto the post ahead!

 

Ah, we’ve come down to the inevitable. A Christmas-y term that most of us have heard a thousand times. Good will toward men. And, before you ask, no, I’m not talking about the thrift store. (Though Goodwill is pretty cool.)

 

A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation discussing the true meaning of Christmas and what attributes we associate with it. We went through the general “peace, love, joy, happiness, kindness, goodness, giving, good will toward men” list. And I started thinking, “What really is ‘good will?’”

 

So many people put an emphasis on goodness at Christmas. For crying out loud, don’t disappoint the Elf on the Shelf (and therefore forfeit your gifts by being naughty), make sure to be respectful to your parents while the relatives are around, and by all means be civil and nice, and open the door for the lady with a hundred overfull Christmas packages.

 

Because being good is…good? I think?

 

Nobody says this of course, but being good brings us good things too, and who wants to pass them up?

 

At the heart of Christmas, we need to see our motives. Why exactly are we emphasizing goodness now?

 

For children, I can attest that in the average home, they are well-behaved for the gifts. With the threat of getting coal in their stockings (and what about those kids with gas or electric fireplaces?), everyone will be good. “We should be kind around ‘the holidays,’” they all say.

 

My question still stands. WHY?

 

By teaching kids from a young age that good behavior gets good rewards, we do not instill the value of true goodness. We teach good ol’ bribery.

 

If you obey, you get good things. OBEY, YOU HEAR ME?

 

The problem with this mindset is that God does not operate on Santa’s terms. And to instill into human beings the need to be good in order to earn rewards, we completely contradict the whole message of Christmas.

 

Here is the Santa Christmas message.

 

Be naughty. >> Be threatened into being nice. >> Be nice in order to secure your rewards. >> Receive rewards.

 

The whole Santa story revolves around insecurity propelling us toward goodness, not grace propelling us.

 

Let me elaborate a little more.

 

The message we were introduced to at Christmas is the message of grace.

To borrow Christmas terms, this is how our lives work according to the Gospel of grace.

 

Be naughty. >> Be offered grace and forgiveness from God. >> Receive that grace. >> Live a life in light of that grace. Be good – a good that stems from understanding what that grace is.

 

There is no reward system to earn salvation, grace, or forgiveness. It’s free. And that’s what divides Santa from Jesus.

 

That’s what divides between being good to earn something, and being good because you know you could NEVER earn something that was freely given you.

 

Goodness is good at Christmastime. Honestly, I think it is absolutely pleasant and wonderful when people pay attention to how they’re acting and make an effort to help others. It makes the world a sweeter place to be in, when everything crazy is going on around us.

 

But the question we should all ask ourselves when we are stressing “Good will toward men!” should be this: “Why good will? Why kindness? Why all this?”

 

The answer?

 

Grace.

 

Grace is what brought us to the place we are at. Grace is the meaning of Christmas. Grace is love and forgiveness to us at the darkest and most sinful point of our being.

We are to live and love propelled by grace, for without the grace of God, we would not be in the place we are at.

 

Salvation is not earned. Salvation is given to us and then received.

 

Let us fix our eyes on this truth as we approach Christmas. Good will toward men because we are loved, forgiven, and made new.

Thank you all so much for your readership this year, it means so much to me. Have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you next year!

 

*aj

Are We Happy Yet?

Are We Happy Yet 

This is part 3 in my impromptu Christmas series. See the first two parts also, Peace on Earth and Christmas is Love.

 

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

 

Yes, it is wonderful, but where are we basing this wonder on? What makes us so merry? (Abrupt introductions, anyone?)

 

Joy and happiness are hugely discussed when it comes to Christmas. I mean, hello, we try to make ourselves as happy as possible with gifts for ourselves and others, food, by hanging out with family and loved ones, and making Christmas as magical as we possibly can.

 

What’s not to like?

 

Well, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, I honestly don’t. But with all this happiness that we try to attain, there is a high price. This price is us missing out on what Christmas is all about. *Cue ominous music*

 

I will be the first to tell you that gifts and presents are fabulously wonderful. Shredding wrapping paper to find new cool things in the name of a holiday celebration is wondrously great.

 

But have you ever noticed how unhappy we get after Christmas? All this work we’ve put into one day of the year – and it is OVER. DONE. Adios, Pablos. No more Christmas for you.

 

By looking past Jesus to the presents and food and people, we give up lasting, substantial happiness for a cheap knock-off, and we don’t even see it. We tell ourselves that Christmas is supposed to be all about happiness, but as we bend over to pick up the last scraps of tissue paper embedded in the carpet and take the ornaments off of the tree, we think, is this really it?

 

Maybe you’re not as dramatic as I am. But I do know this: We get so caught up in all the hoopla and huzzah of Christmas, that it can end up as a huge letdown on December 26th when it’s all over. So much for happiness.

 

See, friends, Christmas does not come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. – Thank you Dr. Seuss, for that lovely quote from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s very true.

 

You can’t buy enough happy to make Christmas a good one. Really, you can’t. When I was younger, Mom took me to the beach and gave me some shovels and let me dig. Dig and dig and dig I did.

 

Me: If I kept digging down far enough, where will I end up?

Mom: Probably in China.

Me: *digs for a while* Am I at China yet?

Mom: I don’t think quite yet. The world’s pretty big, you know.

Me: Do I see a light down there? Is it China?

Mom: Honey, I think you’re seeing a reflection of the sun. But keep on digging. You might actually get there.

Me: Okay. *amuses myself with digging for hours*

 

You can imagine how the rest of that went. Needless to say, I never did find China, but I learned an important lesson.

 

You can attempt to dig through an impossible situation, or you can find the existing way. If I really wanted to go to China, I should have taken a plane, not a shovel.

 

Now here is the hopefully-sane translation of my wacky little story.

 

Every Christmas, most of us dig around looking for happiness, myself included. If we just go to enough parties…just get enough presents…just spend enough time with others…just make enough yummy foods…just do this or that…THEN and ONLY THEN will we be actually, truly happy. The sad thing is, that year after year of doing this, and becoming discontent, we still tell ourselves that it’ll make us happy.

 

And so the cycle repeats. And we become insatiable. But this shouldn’t be so.

 

We say Christmas is a time for happiness, and we are absolutely right. We can be happy, just like we can go to China. But we get there a different way, instead.

 

If we want happiness, we have to accept the real meaning of Christmas. Why do we even celebrate it in the first place?

 

We celebrate Christmas because of the birth of the Messiah. Jesus. But not simply the fact that he was born, but because of what that signified. It signified that 1) the GOD of all things EVER came to us in human form because He LOVES us, 2) we are not forgotten and forsaken even though deep down, we do the wrong things CONSTANTLY, and 3) the satisfaction and happiness we all search for has been FULFILLED. He came to give us a new nature, to put off our sin and make us bright and shiny.

 

What do we all yearn for? Meaning in life. Happiness. Contentment. Or society has contradicted this by giving everyone a big case of Holiday Discontentment. However, we do not have to keep it this way.

 

By looking at the birth of Jesus for what it truly is, and not just something to put on the mantle, we can find that satisfaction. By accepting His amazing love and sacrifice for us, in that will we find happiness. If you want to read more about this (and why I refer to this lasting happiness as ‘joy’) then check out this post.

 

By seeing the significance of who Jesus is – God in flesh, who dwelt among us – we can really and truly be happy.

 

And now, a passage to close with.

 

Philippians 2:5-10

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

Have a wonderful day, friends. Merry Christmas once again.

 

*aj

Christmas is Love.

Christmas is Love. 

This is part 2 in my impromptu Christmas series. See the first part also, Peace on Earth.

 

World,

 

As we approach Christmas, we reminisce over many things. Some material items, others ideas. So much do we relish the idea of love.

 

I love Christmas music. Honestly, I do. I love all kind of music, but there’s nothing more heartwarming than beautiful voices singing songs we know and love, and everyone celebrating Jesus’ birth – whether they know it or not.

 

It’s really cool.

 

Love is a prevalent theme in so many Christmas songs. Turn on the radio and you’ll hear,

 

“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…”

 

“Baby, all I want for Christmas is you…”

 

Yeah, yeah, I get it. Love is wonderful and complicated and all that. Christmas can be a romantic time.

 

However, I think we overemphasize the wrong kind of love at Christmas. People, we have the rest of the year to sing love songs. Romance is a thing, but it only exists because of God’s amazing love for us, His children.

 

And where did love first come from?

 

CHRISTMAS! (Didn’t see that coming, did ya?)

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

1 John 4:7

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

 

This is ultimate love because God sent His Only Son to us. Not just to chill out on earth as a baby, but to die for our sins.

 

I stated a minute ago that love is a huge focus at Christmas. Romantic love, namely. I have a speculation as to why this is so.

 

When we look at the Baby in the Manger, that’s all we see. We see the Baby: meek and mild little Jesus. Is that exciting? Many of us think not. So, “Christmas is a time of love” – well, that’s what sells merchandise. “It’s the holiday season” – warm and fuzzy feelings envelop us. Or maybe it’s the sweaters? Regardless, we idolize love at Christmas time because it feels so right – and our culture embraces it wholeheartedly.

 

Our society has gotten used to looking at the manger and stopping there. This, I believe, is why so many of us miss the whole meaning of Christmas. We see Jesus, and politely comment, “that’s nice,” while distractedly browsing the latest StuffMart catalogs and making wish lists.

 

We don’t see the significance of the manger.

 

The Christmas story isn’t made up of one night in a stable with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, some angels, and shepherds. It is the kick-off of the GREATEST game-changing events in history – ultimately, where our sins are forgiven once and for all.

 

Isaiah 9:6

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 

Jesus was born to demonstrate God’s love for us. His love for us sinners, at our darkest hour. The Baby was only the beginning. We shouldn’t stop there and say, “Oh, Jesus, how cute. Can we open presents now?”  Because that isn’t what it’s about.

 

Can you picture an Almighty God, Holy Creator of the Universe, seeing His sinful children and saying in spite of their rebellion, “I love them and I want them to know Me”? That’s what Christmas shows. That He DID say that to us and we know that because of Christmas.

 

This is love.

 

1 John 4:10

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

 

His love is the model for us. True love is His unconditional love for us, when He had every right to be angry with us and could have just wiped us off the face of the earth.

 

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us approach it with the right view of love. Not with selfish I-wants and Give-me-thats, but with a heart of gratitude for the love that we should be celebrating.

 

The love that makes us sing in the first place.

 

Thank you LORD, for Your amazing love.

 

*aj

Peace on Earth.

Peace on Earth

 

There are seventeen days until Christmas. Insanity, people. Where did the year go? It feels like just a little while ago, I was brainstorming for names (this site was almost named Splattered Journal Pages, but hey, I changed my mind a few hundred times over it) and looking up WordPress how-to articles (thank you SO MUCH, Amy Lynn Andrews).

 

At risk of sounding cliché, I’d like to discuss a few terms in this post and the next that we throw around during Christmastime, and dig deep into their true meanings.

 

Peace on earth. (This post.)

Love.

Joy and happiness.

Good will toward men.

 

These are all great things. But instead of the deep meanings, we sometimes exchange them for cheap reflections. Instead of thinking of the peace we have with God when hearing ‘peace on earth,’ the word evokes a different feeling, something resembling hippie vans and that whole counter-culture thing in the sixties. Same goes for love and happiness.

 

Maybe you don’t associate biblical Christmas-y terms with worldly meanings. If not, awesome. But I believe that this world has been so tainted with incorrect things claiming to be right, and they really aren’t. This, my friends, is our problem.

 

I’ll start with peace.

 

According to the King James Version, Luke 2:14 says,

 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

 

What do you think of when you envision peace?  The upside-down y-and-line inside a circle? No wars on earth ever again? The tranquility of a summer day on a lake?

 

As much as all of these things are a part of peace – none of them are the full definition.

 

We even see BABY JESUS in the little nativity scene, and say,

 

“Oh joy, what a beautiful child. It must have been a wonderful night – Mary giving birth while happily sighing, Jesus sleeping not crying, a nice warm blanket for the King of Kings, and snow dusting everything. It was a Silent Night, after all…how peaceful.”

 

But seriously, do we really think it went that way? The Bible says no such things. Labor is painful, whether you’re Mary or Mary Sue. Babies cry, because they are trying out their lungs for the first time, and can’t say “hey Mom, I’m hungry.” Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a feeding trough, not silk, and not in a crib. Jerusalem rarely gets snow, and with all the clamor of a new baby and shepherds visiting, it was probably far from silent.

 

If our definition of peace is based on supposed circumstances of the first Christmas, we aren’t seeing the whole picture.

 

This is real peace.

 

Romans 5:1

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Peace with God.

 

This peace refers to the fact that we were once stained by sin and enemies of God. Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven, done away with, and replaced by Jesus’ righteousness.

 

Because our sins are forgiven, we can now have a relationship with God. The enmity between us and Him is gone. He no longer sees us as filthy sinners, but as righteous saints, bearing the image of His Son.

 

This is peace.

 

Sure, tranquility and other things can come out of having peace with God. But when we think baby-in-the-manger, we must have the right perspective on peace.

 

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. The peace we celebrate at Christmas isn’t an image of simple tranquility in the stable, but of changed lives. Jesus provided that peace for us. Peace with God was given to us by Him alone – and this is the peace that we are to celebrate.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

*aj