Bah, Humbug?

So, this is Christmas. I’m often accused by friends and family of being all “bah,humbug” at this time of year, but honestly, that’s not the deal. I love the lights, the Claymation Christmas specials, and all the rest. It’s just that everyday is Christmas to me. Yep, long after Linus gives his soliloquy and all the trees have been dismantled (Ugh!), when things get back to normal; it’ll still be Christmas. In fact, I would argue that for the most part, what is being celebrated this week is not Christmas at all. So what are we doing and why do we do it?

I was talking about these things with someone the other day, and when I mentioned that everyday was Christmas to me, they said, “No, it’s not. It’s not everyday that we have the trees, the lights, and that feeling you get this time of year.” Hmm…, that feeling. Is that what we’re after- a feeling? We all know about that feeling. I get it every time I hear “Christmas Time Is Here.” It’s a feeling that takes us back to the days of childlike wonder, back to a time when there was excitement and hope. That feeling awakens our imaginations, the ability to dream of perfect families, and a world in which everybody loves everybody. That feeling is magical, and for a brief period of time it makes everything all right. It’s a feeling we long for because we’re all grown up now, and our childhood visions of sugar plumbs dancing in our heads have been shattered by the reality that reindeer can’t really fly, snow men don’t really come to life, and there is no Santa Claus. Fortunately for us, the feeling isn’t Christmas, and it doesn’t end on December 26th.

The truth of Christmas is in the person of Jesus and the reality that’s found in him. Although our childhood visions have been shattered and our innocence forfeited, the Creator has come to his creation and we are made whole in him. Our imaginations are awakened in childlike wonder as we partake of his love, his life. In him we dream again of families restored and a world in which his peace rules in the hearts of men. Excitement and hope are ours once more as we contemplate his ability to do exceedingly more than we could even think to ask. This is the real Christmas, and it’s more than just a feeling; it’s a daily reality.

No, I’m not bah-humbug at all. I like the trees, the lights, and that feeling. I’ll watch It’s A Wonderful Life, eat way too much, and give and receive gifts. But I know that that’s not Christmas, and it’ll all be over on Friday. Like I said, “Christmas is everyday.” and you can only truly experience it in Jesus. Come Monday, my Light and Tree will still be there.

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“The View” on Santa Claus

I was taken captive and tortured today! Maybe I need to explain a little better before Big Brother and/or the other internet monitors get nervous. I needed to have new tires put on my car today, and what should have been routine turned into a three hour debacle with me having to wait at not one, but two different locations. Now Kyle, you may say, while I may see your attempt at humor about being taken captive, that’s not torture. I will have to agree. But being forced to watch (or listen) to “The View” is most definitely TORTURE!!

At one location the ownership had “The View” on in the lobby, and even though I had brought a book with me, I could not help but hear the mistresses of the meaningless and mundane cackle over whether or not Santa Clause is white, black, Latino, man, woman, etc… They spouted off such clever notions such as, “We all see Santa Clause as a reflection of who we are.” and “Children don’t see color when they look at Santa.” and “Maybe we should rethink our vision of Santa Clause so as to allow for various ethnic and gender portrayals.” I’m sure there were other solutions provided regarding the Santa Claus problem, but my having to fight back waves of nausea made me unable to clearly hear them. Amazingly, despite the blood that was shooting out of my eyes, and the nausea that threatened to manifest itself in what would have had to have been a disgusting instance of projectile vomiting, I had a moment of clarity: “These people are actually devoting a segment of their program arguing over the best way to portray someone who does not even exist.” Instead of figuring out the best way to tell a lie, how about just simply admitting that there’s no such person as Santa Claus?!!! What da ya do?

Now, I’m not a bah humbug kind of guy, but in the culture we as American Christians live in, maybe we’re gonna be forced to rethink EVERYTHING. What was once cuddly, cute, and just a little white lie (for the children’s benefit of course) has evolved into a whole other level deception. I know, I know; I’ve lost my mind. Maybe, but consider this. If we lie to the kids about the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, should we wonder why they don’t believe us when we tell them about Jesus?

And oh, by the way, Jesus was not white.

“Away in the Manger”: The Divine Assumption

The Lord only knows how many times “Away in the Manger” will be sung this holiday season. I guess millions will sing about how the “little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head,” but I wonder how many of us actually give serious thought as to what this really means. We’re all familiar with the old saying about what happens to the man who makes assumptions, but that’s exactly what Jesus did at his incarnation. He assumed it all! But what does it really mean that the Creator of all things would come and assume every bit of what it means to be human, walk among us, and offer himself upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins? Do we truly understand what was going on and who it was that lay “asleep on the hay”?

First, we must understand that this baby in the manger was God- God the Son. It was neither the Father nor the Spirit that assumed humanity, but the Son. John tells us in his gospel that “The Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created,…” In his first letter John further explains that “the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him.” That night at the manger, the Creator had come to his creation. We must understand that Jesus was fully God, in and of himself. He was not adopted as God’s Son because of the good life he lived, nor was it at his baptism that he was then indwelt by the Holy Spirit and equipped to be Messiah. No, the child in the manger was the second person of the Trinity, God almighty in and of himself.

This One who lay in the manger was also fully man. He did not merely appear to be man, pretending to be human while his divinity somehow “absorbed” his humanity. No, this baby was a real human being. An early Church Father, Gregory of Nazianzus, drove home the importance of the fact that Jesus was a real man when he said, “That which has not been assumed cannot be redeemed.” Jesus became every bit human so that he might redeem every bit of us. Any part of him that was not man is a part of us that was not redeemed. Though the child in the manger was indeed God, at the same time; he was indeed the Son of Man. The writer to the Hebrews tells us, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14,15 NLT)

When we sing of the baby in the manger we must realize that this child is God who assumed every bit of what we are so that he might share “every bit” of who he is with us. The fact that the Son became man makes it possible for we who are men to partake of the divine nature and participate in the very life God possesses within himself, for the One who slept in the manger that night is life itself. And because he is Life, he could be the perfect sacrifice and give his life in atonement for our sins, and be the way for us to once more commune with the living God. John of Damascus said, “For since [Christ] bestowed on us his own image and his own spirit and we did not keep them safe, he took himself a share in our poor and weak nature, in order that he might cleanse us and make us incorruptible, and establish us once more as partakers of his divinity.”

I pray that this year when you hear or sing “Away in the Manger,” you will be more cognizant than ever that the One of whom you sing is the God who assumed our humanity and invites us to share in his eternal life.

Twas the night before Cristmas, and all through the Kingdom…

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Kingdom

The people were wondering what the New Year would bring them

Pouring through their bibles, and pondering “words” from this past season

They were searching for clues, for rhymes, and for reason

***

Some were in fear of two thousand and twelve

For the Mayan calendar had foretold the end of the world

Earthquakes and disasters, cataclysms of all kinds

Were stealing their peace and filling their minds

***

There were those who saw trouble but had not a doubt

That Jesus was coming to rapture them out

They seemed unaffected and had not a care

“Why should we care what is coming, we’ll no longer be here.”

***

Still others saw the New Year as a time for planting more seeds

Through sowing and reaping God would provide for their needs

Their hope was in money though they claimed it was in God

I heard one of them exclaim, “Our Lord is a great Santa Clause!”

***

In the camp of the prophetic one said, “Brothers, let us do this,

Get on your computers and search the Elijah List,

Surely someone has heard what this New Year will bring

We’ll need a fresh word to make our hearts sing.”

***

Others foresaw politics and dominion as the solution

“Let’s take back America and call for revolution.”

“We’ll occupy Wall Street and usher in change.”

But there was no talk of repentance or the lost being saved

***

Some dreamt of justice and the righting of all wrongs

Postmodernity had emerged and a new day would dawn

Inclusion and tolerance and relative truth

“Yes, a good social-gospel; now that’s what we’ll use.”

***

I in the country, alone with my cat

Sat pondering this and considering that

When off in the distance at barely a whisper

I began to hear the prayer of some sweet unknown sister

***

Father, she prayed, may your Kingdom come

And on earth as in heaven please let your will be done

I see trouble a plenty but I have no fear

I know you are with me, I know you are near

***

I ask not for riches, for fortune or fame

But pray you will use me to glorify your name

I don’t ask for signs or for some brand new word

But ask in my heart that your Spirit be heard

***

I seek not an office nor make demands for my rights

For I am your servant and that will suffice

Wickedness abounds and all injustice is proof

Our only hope is in Jesus the way, the life, the truth

***

As she said amen I wiped tears from my eyes

Then thought to myself, “My what a surprise.”

The prayer of this sister, so simple and clear

Was a prayer for us all for this coming New Year

-Kyle Fuller