Christmas With Strings Attached

My vivid memories as a child were the special events at Christmastime. It was during the war years so money was scarce and presents were few. But winter brought Christmas, a very special time for the children of the community and that didn’t stop the churches from celebrating the season. My brother Dick and I looked forward to the Christmas program at church. There was lots of carol singing, listening to the Christmas story from the Bible, and watching a play of some kind usually put on by the kids. We liked that. But the best time came at the end of the service when every boy and girl got a red mesh and cellophane stocking filled with candies of all shapes and colors, stapled at the top with a little red string attached for hanging. We rushed home to show Mom before we carefully opened our stockings and dumped out the candy.

Our childhood gave way to adulthood and the programs and the candy stockings may have taken a lesser place of importance, but the stories of Christmas acted out from the Bible, the carols we sang, and the message of Jesus remain the integral memory of Christmas – when the eternal God became the earthborn infant Jesus so that we might become the heaven born children of God. The greatest Christmas gift ever given. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14. “And she gave birth to her first born, a Son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” Luke 2:7.
Excerpted from my memoir Naked With Clothes On, Chapter 13. Available on Amazon.com.

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No God in my Manger

“What! You want to stage the nativity scene without the Infant Jesus in the manger? Then there’ll be no God in your manger.”

“That’s right. No God in my manger.”

The Christ Child Festival, an annual celebration, held in the Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Indiana and open free to the public, attempts to visualize the meaning of Christmas without any secular commercialism, including Santa Claus. Booth displays, set up by individuals, organizations, churches, and schools, stage some aspect of the Christmas story.

One Christmas I decided to set up a booth at the Festival and selected the theme, No God in my Manger. The manger was filled with a Monopoly Game, a portable TV, sprayed gold bricks, stacks of paper play money, and a model red Mustang convertible with Mary and Joseph staged around the stuff-filled manger. The purpose was to provoke dialogue on the real meaning of Christmas.

The irony of this whole scenario was that I had contradicted the theme, “No God in my Manger,” for there was a god in our crib. It just happened to be the gods we substitute for the Incarnate Christ. So having an empty manger was inconsistent with the theme. Then I reasoned, wait a minute, there is still NO GOD in my manger, at least, not the true and living Almighty One, but only false gods fashioned by the creature of the Creator-God.

My prayer was that those who visited our booth would come away with pricked consciences from the visualization of how commercialism usurps the holy celebration.

This Christmas season I can toss out the false gods cluttering my nativity and be like Mary, who in her Magnificat, bursts forth with “I’m dancing the song of my Savior God” (Luke 2:7 The Message). She had already laid her God in the manger. As Mary picked up her firstborn, her son Jesus, and cuddled her Savior God in her arms, I too can”cuddle” my Messiah for there are no false gods in my manger now.

Is your manger, for the most part, filled with the “gods of trinkets, toys, and trifles” or
is it filled with the living God, Jesus?

Santa at the Manger

At Christmas time when I visit a Christian book store and see the figurine of Santa with his cap in his hand kneeling at the manger where the Son of God is sleeping on hay I am saddened and offended. Santa, a fairy tale figure, bowing to the real Son of God.

We were shopping in a store and an elderly man stopped us and asked our young daughter, “What’s Santa giving you for Christmas tonight?” She so adult-like replied, “Santa doesn’t come to our house. Our mommy and daddy give us presents.”

Another example of a child being confronted by the fat Red Suit asking, “What is Santa leaving under your tree this year for such a sweet little boy?” The young boy answered, somewhat shyly, “Mom and dad put our gifts under the tree for us.”

While we enjoy the story of St. Nicholas, we need to consider three attributes that we are ascribing to Santa.

1. He is omniscient for he remembers what every “good boy and girl” in all the world wants for Christmas and he wraps that specific present up, puts each child’s name on it and signs it “From Santa.” It is estimated that there are more than five billion people in the world and 2/3 of those are children. Wow! He and his elves must have been busy making all those gifts, signing and wrapping them.

2. He is omnipresent for he delivers to most of the countries in the world in one long, very long night., especially if he’s got to climb down a chimney and back up in every house that happens to have a fireplace.

3. He is omnipotent for he is powerful enough to ride in an open vehicle powered by 6 or 8 reindeer who suddenly fly to every house in all the neighborhoods in the world, in all kinds of weather conditions, where Christmas is observed, speak all the languages and dialects, and  able to carry in one vehicle all the billions of presents he’ll deliver. And he’s got to get all the gifts into one bag and load them into his open sleigh,

These are attributes that should only be ascribed to God.

In addition there’s a slight moral issue also. Every time he signs “From Santa” and a parent has purchased that gift, then he is lying. The Apostle Paul encourages us to “Speak the truth to one another.” But are we accusing Santa Claus with deception and even lying?

We tell our children lots of fairy tales – Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs. And these are part of their imaginative childlike spirit. But let’s not tell the “Night Before Christmas” without telling them the true story of Christmas. Perhaps minimizing the Santa Claus story may help us to focus more on the “Indescribable gift” (2 Cor 9:15) God gave us in that hay-filled manger–His own Son.

Haiku Images

I thought you might appreciate reading through the Haiku Cluster that the judges thought were worthy of first place winner in the competition. All of the haiku spring from the Scriptures related as listed.

Appropriate for the Easter season is “To say ‘I love you’ God sent a cross.” The truth that we are co-heirs with the eternal Godhead is incomprehensible, but the Scriptures certainly remind us how rich we are in Christ.

If a haiku or two moves you and you would like to share your thoughts, I would love to meditate on them with you.
A HAIKU CLUSTER
I bequeath to you,                                                                   Romans 8:17a
every sunrise I’ve painted,
all originals. -God

Adam, while you slept,                                                           Genesis 2:21-22
God slipped Eve into your bed,
then he left, smiling.

To say “I love you,”                                                                  John 19:17-18
we send flowers or a card,
but God sent a cross.

Five little fingers                                                                       Luke 2:7
squeeze young Mary’s nose and face
as God lies on straw.

Often mothers ’ prayers                                                         I Samuel 1:27
mend the broken jars of clay
they molded from birth.

Silent, by a grave,                                                                   II Corinthians 1:4
arm around a friend, healing
a hole in the heart.

Before life’s bookends                                                         Amos 4:12b
squeeze away your last-held breath,
prepare for closure.

A Christmas Trust

Let’s do a quickie quiz.  In ten seconds, name five Christmas characters who trusted God unconditionally. (You’ll flunk, if you start with Santa Claus!)

Did you pass the test? I knew you were smart ’cause you’re reading this blog.

Now one more quiz. Can you list these people chronologically? 

If you needed help, here they are.

Mary, an unwed virgin, TRUSTED Gabriel who said, “God has a surprise for you. You’ll be the mother of God’s son.”  Joseph, a humble Nazareth carpenter,  TRUSTED an angel who said, “Joseph, don’t hesitate to marry her. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived.” Shepherds, social outcasts, TRUSTED an angel who announced, “I’ve joyful news. The Messiah-Savior has just been born to you, and he’s kicking straw out of a cow’s crib.” Magi, powerful, wealthy Persian scholars, TRUSTED a star to make a pilgrimage to find the newborn King of the Jews. The most incredible–God himself, the power “giant” behind the universe, TRUSTED human beings to care for his son.

And that son one day promised, “Whoever TRUSTS  in me will have eternal life.” Now that’s my kind of  trust!  Eternal trust.  And that’s my kind of Christmas!

Email me with an “I trusted God experience” you’d like to share with others to encourage them. leonpippin@gmail.com

God’s Pleasure Places

Swing your arms  through clouds. 

     Run with the wind.  Discover

          God’s pleasure places.         dlp

 

We all know what we find pleasure in, but what does God find pleasure in?  Consider these pleasure places to visit. 

*God finds pleasure in a righteous lifestyle. “If the Lord delights in our behavior, he manages that lifestyle for us.” Ps 37:23

*God takes pleasure in his family. “The Lord delights in his sons and daughters.” Ps 149:4

*God smiles with pleasure in our worship in his house. “Build my house that I may take pleasure in it.” Hag 1:8

*God hears with pleasure our requests in prayer. “The Lord was pleased that Solomon asked for a wise and discerning heart.” I Kings 3:9,10

*God takes pleasure in his eternal attributes lived out on earth. “I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” Jer 9:24

Now that we have discovered God’s pleasure places, let’s discover together how to experience them with Him during this Christmas season.

Consider sharing with me via email God’s pleasure places you’ve discovered. My link is leonpippin@gmail.com

No God In My Manger

“What! You want to stage the Nativity scene without the Infant Jesus in the manger? Then there’ll be no God in your manger.”

“That’s right. No God in my manger.”                 

The Christ Child Festival, an annual celebration, held in the Fort Wayne Coliseum, Indiana, and open free to the public, attempts to visualize the meaning of Christmas without any secular commercialism, including Santa Claus. Booth displays, set up by individuals, organizations, churches, and schools, stage some aspect of the Christmas story.

One Christmas some of my college students and I decided to set up a booth. We selected the theme, No God in my Manger. The manger was filled with a Monolpoly game, a portable TV, bricks sprayed gold, stacks of paper play money, and a red Mustang convertible model with Mary and Joseph staged around the stuff-filled manger. The purpose was to provoke dialogue on the real meaning of Christmas.

Our prayer was that those who visited the  booth would come away with pricked consciences from the visualization of how commercialism usurps the holy celebration.

The irony of this whole scenario was that we had contradicted the theme, for there was a god in our crib. It just happened to be the gods we substitute for the Incarnate Christ. So having an empty manger was inconsistent with the theme. Then we reasoned, wait a minute, there is still NO GOD in our manger, at least, not the true and living Almighty One, only other gods fashioned by the creature of the Creator-God.

This Christmas season we can toss out the false gods cluttering our Nativity and be like Mary, who, in her Magnificat bursts forth with “I’m dancing the song of my Savior God,” (Luke 1:47 The Message) had already laid her God in the manger. As Mary picked up her firstborn, her son, and held her Savior God close in her arms, we too can hold our Messiah close for there are no false gods in our manger now.

Do you agree that our society, for the most part, has filled its manger with the “gods of trinkets, toys, and trifles?”