Taking Down Christmas

My house is in the post-holiday jumble, it’s just about time to “take down Christmas” although, I have grown quite fond of the warm sparkle the little white lights provide. There’s a certain charm some Christmas decorations possess, that I’m not quite ready to part with. I’m finished with the tree and the pine needles that torment my floor. The ornaments, the crèche (which I am still unsure how to pronounce), all have reached their crescendo. Much of my holiday decor, however, is intentionally purchased with a winter stay in mind. For example, the advent calendar will go but the white winter trees on my mantel, will stay. The red candles and snowflakes will remain, but the HAPPY HOLIDAYS sign is outta here. While considering this judgment of décor, I got to thinking, there’s a certain amount of Christmas that should stay with or without decorations. I mean I shouldn’t be packing up the meaning of Christmas in my beautiful green plastic tubs, next to the garland. Then I thought: gees, maybe the decorations are the meaning for some people. Then I thought: OH MY GOODNESS, maybe the “meaning” of “Christmas” might not be the purpose of the holy day at all. Maybe we have made it something it isn’t. And as I took down Christmas I really started taking it apart, in attempt at recreating a holiness about the season and a truth I really need.

First I decided if its takes 3 days to pull out and decorate for Christmas, and 3 days to UN-decorate, it’s likely you or I have bought into the commercialization of the holiday.

Who am i really decorating for anyway…is it Jesus? Do I think it makes a difference to Jesus whether or not I hang our lights and trim our tree? Can I celebrate Messiah’s presence without red and green and merry and bright?

Maybe I primp and prep for myself or for my neighbors? Or just to be in the IN CROWD. Which yes, I believe, we adults still participate in such rituals and herd behaviors. Or maybe I do it, because that’s what I’ve always done. (I’m not really one to stir things up…out loud)
Have the decorations become Christmas? Has Christmas become a little more than lights, ornaments and large blow up Santa’s that some erect each year on Cue?

Christmas is not about the decorations-it can’t be bought or sold, watched, or caught, heard or felt, experienced or created. It’s about Christ and it can only be received. And he’s a gift we don’t want to put away, pack up or get rid of.

I don’t want to feel like I’ve entered Dickens Christmas Carol when I come home during the holiday season because that means, at some point, it ends. It means somehow I’m trying to fabricate joy and peace, with outward appearance and sensation, it means at some point all the decorations are going to be a burdensome eye sore and I’ll have to do more work to pack them all up, wrap up the baby Jesus and stuff him away until next year. Christ-mas is not supposed to end, and it’s not about NOT being a scrooge. In fact it’s more about us being a bunch of scrooges that God still died for before we changed.

This brings me to my second point, In God’s kingdom, Christmas may actually be a sad memory. First because of the materialism and greed it reveals in us, especially Americans, but also because it represents a day when He, the Father, gave up his perfect son. A lovely holy seed took on foul flesh. God knew that His child would grow up to be tortured, beaten, shamed publicly, and hung on a tree to die. It was the beginning of a countdown to the day he would forsake His one and only beloved son, His only relative. How lonely and sad? While we decorate our pine trees with tinsel and happy memories, perhaps, He is thinking of a different kind of tree embellished with bits of flesh and blood of his only son. The very flesh we rejoice in, he mourned over.

But there’s something else. Maybe we should be beyond celebrating the weak human form of Messiah. Maybe it’s time to focus more on his coming back, an event that hasn’t happened yet, and a presence to come. Messiah’s return is when the real restoration occurs. Yes Christ was born, Thank God, and died for the forgiveness of our scrooge-like humanity, but the salvation part hasn’t occurred yet.

HEBREWS 9:28 “SO CHRIST HAVING BEEN OFFERED ONCE TO BEAR THE SINS OF MANY, SHALL APPEAR A SECOND TIME FOR SALVATION WITHOUT REFERENCE TO SINS, TO THOSE WHO EAGERLY AWAIT HIM.

1 PETER 1:5 – JESUS CHRIST WHO ACCORDING TO HIS GREAT MERCY HAS CAUSED US TO BE BORN AGAIN TO A LIVING HOPE THROUGH THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD, TO OBTAIN AN INHERITANCE WHICH IS IMPERISHABLE AND UN-DEFILED AND WILL NOT FADE AWAY, RESERVED IN HEAVEN FOR YOU, WHO ARE PROTECTED BY THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH FAITH FOR A SALVATION READY TO BE REVEALED IN THE LAST TIME.

ISAIAH 25:8-9 HE WILL SWALLOW UP DEATH FOR ALL TIME…AND IT WILL BE SAID, IN THAT DAY, THIS IS OUR GOD FOR WHO WE HAVE WAITED THAT HE MIGHT SAVE US.

There is generous evidence in the Word of God describing salvation and restoration that we are waiting for. A peace, joy and healing that has yet to arrive, in Christ, with Christ.

Today’s Christmas culture is one that, in general, creates a lust in men the apostles warned of: 2 Timothy 3 “BUT REALIZE IN THE LAST DAYS DIFFICULT TIMES WILL COME. MEN WILL BECOME LOVERS OF SELF, LOVERS OF MONEY, BOASTFUL, ARROGANT, REVILERS, UNGRATEFUL, DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS AND UNHOLY…LOVERS OF PLEASURES RATHER THAN LOVERS OF GOD; HOLDING TO A FORM OF GODLINESS ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE DENIED IT’S POWER AND AVOID SUCH MEN.”

Is the Christmas celebration making us Christ like, holy and righteous? Are we really meeting with Messiah, the Father and the Holy Spirit during this time or satisfying our own fleshly desires. Is Christmas a form of godliness for many people, while denying the power of Christ in their lives? When I see and hear some of the stories that happen on Black Friday, the so called beginning of the christmas season, it grieves my heart. When I see the commercials and advertising, for thanks-getting and the gifts ‘you deserve to give yourself’ it’s disgraceful. I believe culturally and globally we have put up something that has absolutely nothing to with Christ. When I hear stories of giving and love and sharing, these I thirst for, but even so, this spirit of giving can be done without any reference to Christ whatsoever, some of the world’s biggest charities are secular.

Have we made christmas about being good rather than being holy. Satisfying our flesh instead of allowing God to transform it.

The Father took Christmas down, down to us, down to earth and it probably didn’t look-this is just a guess, like miracle on 34th street or Santa’s village. These are false concepts, pretty, but false, which we have created to satisfy our own desires. They have distracted us from the truth of the presence of Christ.

How can Christians incorporate the second coming more emphatically into the celebration of the first coming?

We need to take Christ in. Into our hearts, and not for a season or a month, or a day. Joy and peace should be the sparkle and the warmth all year that we decorate our lives with and look forward to receiving more fully as we hope in his arrival, yet to come. Its Christ’s spirit in our hearts which we can’t see, that turns the hearts of mankind into flesh, this should be the anticipation that grows and never goes.

EZEKIEL 11:19 AND I SHALL TAKE THE HEART OF STONE OUT OF THEIR FLESH AND GIVE THEM HEARTS OF FLESH, THAT THEY MAY WALK IN MY STATUES AND KEEP MY ORDINANCES, AND DO THEM, THEN THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD.

THE BIRTH OF Christ is really about a promise of the restoration of the people of God. That’s why as Jesus was preparing to ascend in Acts chapter 1:6, the disciples asked, is it at this time Lord you are restoring Israel? They were not looking back at his incarnation, they inquired about restoration, the new hearts and spirits of men were the focus of their ministries. The birth of messiah was a long anticipated event, it happened in order for him to die and most importantly be resurrected, are we anticipating the next or lingering at the first? Does God want us to stay there in the stable or move on? Jesus didn’t stay there and he didn’t stay on the cross. Perhaps O COME O COME IMMANUEL and JOY TO THE WORLD, are not solely about God taking on flesh, but about God causing men’s hearts to become flesh, so that…they can obey and live with him when he returns. This season we are emerging from needs to be about him changing our hearts, restoring the people and dwelling among them, once again for eternity.

Matthew 17 describes Jesus being transformed on a mountain with a few of the disciples. He was shining, Moses and Elijah appeared there with them. Peter with every good and humble objective asked, “Lord it is good for us to be here, if you wish I will make three tabernacles here, one for you, and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” God’s only response was, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Jesus actually commanded them not to tell the vision to anyone. Peter wanted to capture Christ right in that moment when he was supreme divinity able to rule in perfect light, but Christ did not allow it, he was looking forward to a different dwelling. We must have God’s same purposes in mind, we must not try to keep Christ in one place whether in the stable, on the mountain or on the cross – he has risen. Can we still acknowledge and study and praise God for Christ’s life, without making them into love feasts? God gave a list of holy days to observe in Leviticus, but we have decided what we will observe and how we will observe them. Is this pleasing to God, is this faith or pride?

I want to take in Christ and his purposes for restoration, I want to hold that purpose close every day for the rest of my life, so that instead of celebrating what was, for one month out of the year, I can look ahead with eager expectation to what is coming.

So I ask, are you willing to consider an alternative view of Christmas, one in which we move past celebrating the birth of Christ the way TV tells us we should- to the restoration of his people through the coming of Christ, the second coming. Can we take down the glitz and the world’s definition of Christmas but leave the spirit which he has placed in our hearts calling out, Abba Father. Can we pack away the lights but leave the Lord shining in our lives? And next year determine to make it a time of looking forward instead of back, a time of truth instead of false perceptions.

So yes take it down, take Christmas down, take down the worlds Christmas, but leave up the hope of Christ, so that all year, you can look forward to His Coming!

O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL
AND RANSOM CAPTIVE ISRAEL
THAT MOURNS IN LONELY EXILE HERE
UNTIL THE SON OF GOD APPEAR
REJOICE! REJOICE! EMMANUEL
SHALL COME TO THEE, O ISRAEL.

O COME, THOU ROD OF JESSE, FREE
THINE OWN FROM SATAN’S TYRANNY
FROM DEPTHS OF HELL THY PEOPLE SAVE
AND GIVE THEM VICTORY O’ER THE GRAVE
REJOICE! REJOICE! EMMANUEL
SHALL COME TO THEE, O ISRAEL.

O COME, THOU DAY-SPRING, COME AND CHEER
OUR SPIRITS BY THINE ADVENT HERE
DISPERSE THE GLOOMY CLOUDS OF NIGHT
AND DEATH’S DARK SHADOWS PUT TO FLIGHT.
REJOICE! REJOICE! EMMANUEL
SHALL COME TO THEE, O ISRAEL.

O COME, THOU KEY OF DAVID, COME,
AND OPEN WIDE OUR HEAVENLY HOME;
MAKE SAFE THE WAY THAT LEADS ON HIGH,
AND CLOSE THE PATH TO MISERY.
REJOICE! REJOICE! EMMANUEL
SHALL COME TO THEE, O ISRAEL.

O COME, O COME, THOU LORD OF MIGHT,
WHO TO THY TRIBES, ON SINAI’S HEIGHT,
IN ANCIENT TIMES DIDST GIVE THE LAW,
IN CLOUD, AND MAJESTY AND AWE.
REJOICE! REJOICE! EMMANUEL
SHALL COME TO THEE, O ISRAEL.

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