Tag Archives: Meaning of Christmas

Remembering the Missing Pieces at Christmastime

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See the missing piece? (Puzzle is an image of a painting by Robert Lyn Nelson.)

For Christmas six years ago, my aunt gave Robby and me a beautiful puzzle. We’ve worked on that thing for years, and we finally completed it this month! I thought I’d be happy to finish it and reclaim my dining table.

But once we were down to the final few pieces, we became nostalgic. We began to think about all our experiences over the past several years and about our loved ones who have passed on

Just as my mood was turning from merry to melancholy, we realized our 1,000-piece puzzle had only 999 pieces.

Suddenly, that one missing piece symbolized all those who are now missing in our lives, from our sweet kitty Sue to my late grandmother. It was like the hidden holes in our hearts were made visible, right there on the dinner table. I started to cry. Then Robby said Sue probably ate the missing piece, and we laughed. It seemed appropriate somehow.

The Interlopers

The emotions of loss and grief seem especially cruel at Christmastime as they settle over our merriment like a blanket of snow. What’s even worse is that we’re taught that it’s inappropriate to feel anything but happiness around the holidays. It’s as if negative emotions aren’t spiritual enough for Christmas.

But where does this idea come from? Why do we feel that sadness and loss are interlopers in the Christmas scene? Perhaps we need a refresher on the real meaning (and cost) of Christmas.

 

Cost of Christmas

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Christ, or the Anointed One, whose name is Jesus. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He brought salvation to mankind. That’s why the angel spoke of “great joy” when he announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. (See Luke 2:10-11.)

At Christmas, we recount the story of the birth of Jesus, His parents Mary and Joseph, the heralding angel, the shepherds, and the wise men who came from far away.

But this year I keep wondering, what about God the Father? What was He going through during the miraculous birth of Jesus?

I’m sure the Father was glad to bring salvation near to us. I’m sure that, like any good parent, He was proud of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, I can’t help but think that the Father was also sad.

We know that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Although He spoke to the Father constantly through prayer, this was the first time that He was physically separate from the Him—and not just for a day or a week but for 33 years! This idea is hard to understand mentally, yet our hearts empathize with the feeling of separation, and perhaps even loss, that the Father and Son must have felt toward one another.

One in Heaven. One on Earth.

Our gift of Christmas came at God’s expense.

 

Missing Pieces…Found

When we lose loved ones, we feel like our lives are incomplete. They’re in Heaven, and we’re here on Earth.

But the good news—the great news!—is that God is in the business of restoration. Just as the Son reclaimed His position at the right hand of the Father, so we, the children of God, will claim our rightful place with Him in Heaven. That’s where we’ll find our missing pieces.

 

Encouragement for Christmas

If you’re struggling this season, I encourage you to let go of worldly expectations. Christmas isn’t a time for us to be fake with our loved ones or with God. It’s a time to remember that God is real and holy, and that through His sacrifice, the missing pieces of our Christian family will be restored.

If you need more peace this season, start with a simple prayer like this one:

“Thank you, Father, for all that you have done for me. Help me to remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and to appreciate what it cost you. Please give me peace and comfort, especially during this season when I miss my loved ones more than ever. I trust that all things happen according to your plan, and that you love me and want good things for me. Thank you, Father. In the name of Jesus, the reason for every season. Amen.”

May you come to know the heart of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—this Christmas season.

“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).


[Click to Tweet: Our gift of Christmas came at God’s expense. #bigsisterknows #crosslife #christmas2017]

 


I want to hear from you! How is the Lord helping you deal with loss during the Christmas season? Are you helping others who are going through a difficult time?

 

Christmas Tree Traditions

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Christmas Tree Traditions

 

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Our 2015 Christmas Tree

When Robby and I got married, we had the usual makings of a household – towels, linen, baking dishes, etc. What we didn’t have was a Christmas tree, and I was hesitant to invest in a fake tree, lights, ornaments, and the necessary storage containers. Fortunately, the previous owners left us their old tree and decorations in the attic!

We spent all day pulling out the tree and bags and boxes full of lights and ornaments. Many of the decorations were lovingly homemade and – since the house was built in 1939 – were older than I was. Unfortunately, some of the bags had gotten buggy, but we were able to salvage most of it.

The tree was small, but we learned that it fits perfectly on top of its storage container, which actually looks pretty nice with a tree skirt around it. It also gives us plenty of room to put a few presents under it. There was even an old train car, which we put out every year. We liked the old school lights, but we eventually replaced them with similar ones that are newer and safer.

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Handmade ornament

We still love our old tree. More than anything, we appreciate the connection it gives us to the past and the family that carefully decorated it long before us.

 

New Traditions

 

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Our river otter

Although we’re just a few miles from the capital, our lot is surrounded by trees and is close to a low-lying swampy area, which makes it seem like we’re out in the country. The local wildlife agree, so we see more animals in our yard than we would expect in the city. We’ve even named our yard “Jones Park.”

A couple years ago, I had the idea of a Jones Park Christmas Tree. In addition to the usual lights and colored balls, it would feature ornaments of creatures that we’ve seen on our property. There’s the usual red and blue birds and a squirrel. Then there’s the deer we saw after the Fourth of July fireworks. My favorite is the otter – yes, an otter – that we saw running down our road one morning. I finally found a raccoon last month, and now I’m on the hunt for an armadillo and a possum. You should see the looks on the store clerks’ faces when I ask them if they have any armadillo ornaments! (I know I could just go online, but the year-long hunt is part of the fun.)

We also have some ornaments from the places we’ve visited, like St. Augustine and Boston. These are great reminders of fun trips throughout the years.

 

Hodge Podge

 

I’m not sure what Martha Stewart would say about our hodge podge Christmas tree, with a pine cone fox next to a ceramic figurine from Virginia, but we like it. It seems to represent who we are – a mix of old character with a bit of fun. And we love to show our tree to friends and family, telling them about the owl that stays in our live oak tree and about our trips to the St. Mark’s lighthouse. We also remember to appreciate the family that lovingly built our home and lived in it for so many years. It reminds us to appreciate our own family.

 

The Meaning of the Tree

 

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Reminder of the Cross

Throughout the Old Testament, the symbol of a tree is often used in reference to Jesus. Terms like the Branch, the Branch of the Lord, and the Branch of David are seen in Scriptures such as Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15, and Zechariah 6:12. In the New Testament, we see that Jesus dies when He “hangs on a tree,” meaning He is crucified on a wooden cross (Galatians 3:13).

When we put up our Christmas tree each year, we remember these things. The star on top reminds us of the star the three wise men followed to reach the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:2). The tree itself reminds us that Jesus was born so that He might die on a wooden cross (Hebrews 10). The lights remind us that God is Light, and His light shines within us (1 John 1:5 and 2 Corinthians 4:6). Even the silly ornaments remind us that He is with us through every adventure, every day (Matthew 28:20).

If we never put up a Christmas tree, we would still be Christians. If we never had ornaments and presents and watched corny Christmas movies, we would still be His. But thank God for sweet reminders of His sacrifice, His blessings, and His presence that stays with us all year long. These are the real gifts of Christmas.

 

Your Traditions

 

Do you have any neat Christmas traditions (or hacks)? We’d love to hear them! Please share them below in the comments section.

 

 

The Meaning of Christmas

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Our first Christmas with Sue, 2011. She loves Christmas (but not the Santa hat).

 

I admit it: I’m hooked on Christmas movies. I like the sweet, funny, crazy ones, even the low budget ones. I appreciate that they’re wholesome and family-focused, with themes about forgiveness, love, and generosity.

Most Christmas TV shows and movies tell us Christmas is a time for:

  • Gifts
  • Children
  • Forgiveness and second chances
  • Rebirth and renewal
  • Telling the truth
  • Falling in love
  • Being generous with the needy
  • Hope and faith
  • Family traditions
  • Wishes and miracles
  • Christmas spirit.

 

All of this is nice, but it’s incomplete. The truth about Christmas is so much bigger and more meaningful.

 

Words of Meaning

The term “Christmas” comes from “Christ mass,” or a church service in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The word “Christ” is a descriptive title that means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.” The Jews were looking for the promised Messiah, or Savior, for thousands of years because the Old Testament indicated He would come to save them. When Jesus’ followers referred to Him as the Christ, they meant that He was the promised Messiah; He was the Savior they had been looking for.

Even the name Jesus has special meaning. Mary didn’t thumb through baby name books before settling on Jesus. No, an angel of God told her specifically to call Him Jesus (Luke 1:31). Why? Because the name “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.”

Paul said the following to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:9-11, NAS  Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That’s why Jesus is the name above every name – it summarizes the one truth that we should all know and accept: Jesus is Lord, and He saves. Fortunately, He isn’t just the Savior of the Jews; He’s our Savior, too.

 

His Story

The Bible says that Jesus was and is God and that He took the form of a man when He was born of a virgin about 2,000 years ago. He taught people that He came to serve and to save the lost. Jesus then gave Himself up to die on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins – the only sacrifice that could put us right with God the Father. He then raised Himself from the dead three days later so that we might share in His resurrection. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the Father where He intercedes (prays) on our behalf. (For more on Jesus’ life on earth, you can start with Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.)

You see, when the story doesn’t include Jesus, it’s not complete. When it’s not centered on Jesus, it’s out of focus. How can we talk about real hope, faith, and forgiveness without talking about the One Who gives us those things? How can we really bless our children if we don’t share with them the real Blessing? What value is there in gifts, if the real Gift isn’t shared?

 

The Line in the Sand

Have you ever wondered why characters in TV and movies talk about everything but Jesus? I’ve even seen movies where the characters actually pray to Santa for miracles. Why not just pray to Jesus, the real God? Why do movie producers go to such lengths to keep Him out of it?

I believe it’s because most people love the trappings of Christmas, but they’re uncomfortable with the real meaning of it. The gospel – the good news of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection – gives us no wiggle room. We either believe in Jesus and go to Heaven or we don’t. He’s the ultimate line in the sand, and we’re either on one side or the other.

John 14:6, NAS Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

For those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior, our job is to love God and love our neighbors. Through that love, we can share the hope we have in Jesus with the rest of the world.

 

More than a Day

We can fill our holidays with gifts, Santa Clauses, and reindeer, but we can’t really celebrate Christmas without Jesus the Christ.

But this also means that we can’t limit the spirit of Christmas to one day out of the year. If we believe that Jesus is the Christ, then our hearts should be full of His presence and love throughout the whole year. Christmas should be a reminder to us to be thankful for the gift of our salvation and to be generous as we share the meaning of this gift with others.

Yes, I still love corny Christmas movies, but I keep them in perspective. I remember that Jesus isn’t just the “reason for the season,” He’s the reason for everything.