★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 110 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 2The second purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Peace and today’s “Reason for the Season” is going to explore how we can experience that in the midst of a busy season by making the choice to live out each day with the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts.  Let me ask you; are you a Little House on the Prairie fan?  If not, I strongly urge you to start binge watching it on Netflix or set the DVR to record it from the Hallmark Channel.  10 - Daily Dependence - Little House in the Prairie castIt is without a doubt, one of the most outstanding TV shows, which to this day, my family and I continue to watch daily!  For those not familiar, Little House on the Prairie (LHOTP) first aired in 1974 (the year I was born.)  It is a pioneer/western TV drama adapted from the books that Laura Ingalls Wilder authored about her life in Plum Creek, Minnesota.  41 years later, this timeless classic TV show is just as relevant in teaching great life principles in a realistic but uplifting way, as it was when it first hit the airways!  Growing up I had heard of LHOTP but never really watched it.  I came to love the show later in my life, when my wife introduced me to it in our first year of marriage.  I remember so clearly watching every night in our one bedroom apartment, the episode that we had recorded that day on the VCR player, (if you have no idea what that is, consider yourself blessed!  Hahaha!)

One of my absolute favorite episodes is “Christmas at Plum Creek,” in which each member of the Ingalls family works hard, and makes great sacrifices in order to buy or make gifts for each other.  Though none of them has much money, they want to make the first Christmas in their new home a special celebration.  One of the repeated lines in the episode about Christmas coming, is that

“It is a time for secrets and not to ask questions.”

And my family and I even say that to each other as a result.  [ Spoiler Alert ] The part that gets me every time is when they are opening their presents and Caroline10 - Daily Dependence - Little House in the Prairie Opening Presents (Ma) is dying to know what is in the giant box next to her, (reminds me of the child-like anticipation and curiosity of my wife!)  Believing it is from Pa (Michael Landon), she is shocked to find out that it is actually from her little girl Laura, who sold her beloved horse “Bunny” so that she cold but the stove for her!   Every time, I chock up watching the sacrificial spirit of that act of love…which every time results my daughters laughing and regaling that “Daddy’s crying again!”  I cannot emphasis how great the show is.  Laura Ingalls Wilder penned this beautiful sentiment…

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

I so love that.  Before Christmas I challenge you to stream this episode and experience this tangible example of what the Spirit of Christmas is for yourself.  The Spirit of Christmas is not about getting stuff (as we looked at on ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★,) but about finding ways to give to others.  Day 5 of the of 121 Advent Bible Plan said,

“The beauty of the hope ushered in through Christ and made alive in us through His Spirit, is that it gives us the ability to have abiding hope, that transcends earthly circumstances and uncertainty.”

One of the reasons that Christmas is so wonderful is because it’s the one time of year when people start to think of others less fortunate than themselves…whether it is buying presents to give to “Toys for Tots,” or serving in a soup kitchen for the homeless or some other form of community service.  Calvin Coolidge once said,

“To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” 

That is the Spirit of Christmas to be the hands and feet of Jesus, spreading God’s love to those around you.

Last week while I was on a business trip to Indiana, I saw the Polar Express movie (from 2004) again. Every time I hear Josh Groban’s song “Believe,” it warms my heart because of the message it conveys. As I watched the climactic scene of Santa giving out the first gift of Christmas, he said something that just resonated with me…

10 - Daily Dependnece - Polar Express - The True Spirit of Christmas lies in your heart
“The true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

And that is so true!!  Titus 3:4-0 (NIV1984) says,

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

10 - Daily Dependence - Charles Dickens - Honor ChirstmasAs a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, when we accept Him as our savior we receive also the Holy Spirit which is the greatest gift ever!  I will close with this last thought…As we have been ruminating over these past 10 days, let’s do what Charles Dickens said in his classic novel, “A Christmas Carol”…

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year.”

Let’s live with the Christmas Spirit in our hearts, not just on December 25 but for the other 364 days!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness

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★ Thought for the Day – Christmas or X-Mas? ★ 

63 - Daily Dependence - Chirstmas or X-MasLast night we were watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which today is still my favorite cartoon to watch!  It is amazing to me that back in 1965, when this first aired, how much materialism that Charlie Brown saw amongst everyone during the Christmas season.  It was so pervasive that if you remember, even the Christmas trees he picked out did not meet the standard.  What is shocking to me, 49 years later, the same spirit of consumerism prevails.  I wonder though, what the cartoon would be like if it was re-done today??

My favorite part has always been Linus’ citation of what the real meaning of Christmas is.

So we know where Linus stands…what do you think Christmas is all about?  I am sure by the title of this Thought for the Day, you probably have an inkling to what direction this will be going in, but I pray that though you may know what the answer is, that the Holy Spirit will make the truth penetrate your heart…And that this Christmas season will be more meaningful than it ever has been in the past.

Hypothetically speaking…if an alien just landed on Earth and saw the yuletide craziness in Wal-Mart, or constant the barrage of an advertising through TV, emails and old fashion mailings, what do you think they would believe that Christmas is all about?  I think definitely about shopping, a fat man in a red suit, and about putting trees in your house and decorating them.

It is not too hard to get lost in the “stuff that needs to get done,” and fulfilling “wish lists,” but if we are not careful, we can easily get one-off track.  Christmas should not be about getting stuff.  There needs to be an intensive effort on our part to combat against the “get me this bug,” and try to reverse the impact of the heavy marketing that is confusing the meaning of Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, I want my children to enjoy all the fun things of the season, but at the same time I don’t want the true meaning of Christmas to be lost on my daughters.  Take a look at this cartoon, I think it makes Charlie Brown’s point well!  63 - Daily Dependence - Tree Comic

“I hate to ask you nice folks to move, but the inn’s marketing department figures that it will only be a matter of time before this tree gets better recognition than your son”

So how about it?  What do you think, is it Christmas or X-mas?  Does it matter?  Do you see a difference between the two?  For many years I didn’t.  In fact I still have storage totes with “X-mas” written on them.  Have you ever wondered where X-mas came from?  I mean how did that evolve to be an abbreviation for Christmas?63 - Daily Dependence - Evolution of X-mas

Well the word “Christmas means the “Mass of Christ.”  It was later shortened to “Christ-Mass.” Then further shortened during the 1500’s in Europe to “X-mas” which is derived from the Greek alphabet, in which X is the first letter of Christ’s name: “Xristos,” therefore “X-Mass”.  That is how X-mas is a derivative for Christmas.  But in today’s culture and how the term is used, I believe there is a big difference between the two words.  X-mas is no longer a short version of Christmas but a replacement.  You don’t have to look far, to see how modern-day consumerism and marketers have completely “X”-ed Christ out of Christmas.

Christmas is now a franchise, a holiday that is marketed in a million different ways, none of which have to do with Jesus.  Just take notice of all the printed advertising and commercials that are on TV this time of year.  There is very little mention of Jesus if any.  We have removed the part of the holiday that is the true “reason for the season”.  And all that we are left with is whatever products store owner’s can convince us that we need to have.

Christmas is not about getting stuff but about Jesus.  It is the Birthday of Jesus, the day that God was manifested into flesh and blood.  It is about a King.  Not a King that rode into battle to conquer his enemies but a King who laid down His crown, humbling Himself to become a man. 63 - Daily Dependence - King Size BedIn doing so, He surrendered His majesty and position and sacrificed Himself for us.  So the answer to the question “what is Christmas all about”, well it is about SACRIFICE and HUMILITY!  You don’t really consider that when you think about Christmas, but when you look at what had to happen in order for Jesus to open the gates of heaven for us, it is crystal clear that the baby in the manger was born to be the sacrificial lamb to die as the payment for our sins once and for all.  W.J. Cameron once said that,

“There has been only one Christmas – the rest are anniversaries.”

I love that!   Jesus became human and then gave up His life for us so that we could gain eternal life.  He had to lose His life so we could keep ours!  Through His Sacrifice, out past, present and future sins are forgiven!  And we are Redeemed!  Redemption, what an awesome word.  It is defined as

“The act of delivering from sin or saving from evil” or “Purchasing back something previously sold.”

We have been delivered through His death on the cross.  The greatest gift will not be delivered by the man in the red suit, the best gift is Jesus!  Jesus63 - Daily Dependence - The Real Gift paid the ransom, paid the price for our sins to save us from the evil one so that the lost could be found, the sick…healed, the broken…repaired and the captives set free.  Because Jesus came into the enemy’s territory (by coming to Earth), we are redeemed and reconnected to our Father in Heaven.  We are the children of God as it says in Galatians 4:6-7:

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.    

Christmas is about the sacrifice of Jesus and the redemption that resulted from His selfless act.  And through it all we have become heirs to the riches of heaven.

You know, there is nothing wrong with all the holiday preparations, but we need to keep in focus what we are celebrating on December 25!  Our Biblical or Christian Worldview needs a little fine-tuning.  Like everyone else, I have a long list of things-to-do associated with the Yuletide season, from decorating to getting a Christmas tree to shopping for gifts.  There are many things to plan for and to pull you in different directions and to distract you…BUT I love how Henri Nouwen defined Christmas…he said that

“Songs, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and sweet words do not make Christmas.  Christmas is saying yes to something beyond all emotions and feelings.  Christmas is saying yes to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel.  Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine.” 

Christmas is my favorite holiday.  Not only for the significance of Jesus’ birth but also for the other stuff as well.  I love all the holiday preparations and the warm fuzzy feeling you get during this time of year.  But as we just read, Christmas is much more than that.  We need to check ourselves and where our biblical worldview is, not only in regards to this one day but also for the other 364 days a year.  So the proper biblical worldview of Christmas is all about Sacrifice and Humility!  Philippians 2:5-7 says that:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” 

Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus and the coming of God’s salvation for His people.  Jesus was born and walked on this Earth to show us the way to heaven through His example.

“He became what we are that He might make us what He is.”  Saint Athanasius

 Verse 8 of chapter 2 of Philippians finishes this though with:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

So I want to challenge you to really understand the Reason for the Season, and not allow consumerism to “X” Christ out of Christmas.  Follow Jesus’ example, and be a servant to your “fellow man.”  Look for ways to impact the people around you…family members, co-workers, friends or even strangers.  Serve food to the homeless or buy a present for a child who will have nothing under the tree this year or be a shoulder to cry on for a depressed friend.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Don’t let season passed by without letting it penetrate your heart!  Be Jesus for the people who are around you.  Be the miracle in their life.

63 - Daily Dependence - Merry Christmas