The Gift That Keeps on Giving

One year, when doing my taxes, I realized that my son’s birth on December 31st had given me a tax credit for the entire year. Those few hours of life on one day covered the past, present and future with regard to the amount I owed the government.

This year, I’m reminded of another birth that had past, present and future implications but much more important ones than taxes and money. The birth of Jesus Christ set in motion events that would forever affect our relationship with God.

In the book of Hebrews we find that “…since death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant [the laws of Moses], those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15-16). Later we see that “…now once, at the consumation of the ages He [Jesus Christ] has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

As we come to the end of 2018 and look forward to a new year, we can continue to celebrate this perpetual gift of salvation that has covered the cost of man’s past, present and future sin.

Christmas Memories

I have fond memories of Christmases past. Although we stayed home many years, some of my most remembered holidays were the ones when we traveled. 

We would often go to visit my grandparents. My cousins were usually there and we had a great time playing, exploring and eating.

Like most kids, presents on Christmas morning was the highlight of our time. And of course, we were always trying to get our parents to let us open presents on Christmas Eve. From what I remember we might have been able to open a small one that night but for the most part we waited until morning.

Games were a big part of family gatherings at Christmas time as well as around other holidays. I have a lot of very game savvy family members. I remember many happy nights staying up late playing Rummy, Up to 10 and Back, Pictionary or Boggle. Sometimes I would even win.

But my memories are just snapshot views. I don’t really remember everything in vivid detail. I think that’s why I rarely sit around reminiscing. I prefer focusing on living in the moment and making sure that those happy memories from my past get translated into happy future memories for my kids and their cousins.

And while games and food and presents are all important and fun, I remember being taught the reason for the celebration. Above all else that’s what I hope my kids remember most about Christmas; that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save us and give us the gift of true freedom.

I hope your Christmas was a great one and that you can store its events away as happy memories to be enjoyed for years to come 

Putting Christ Back In Christmas

The other day I was going into my local Home Depot when I noticed their holiday hours sign on the entrance door. For Christmas Eve and Christmas day, someone had written X-Mas Eve and X-Mas day.

I’m not one of those people who get offended easily at things people say or do. But I was more than a little perturbed that someone had decided for everyone coming into the store that Christ needed to be removed from the name of the holiday.

Christmas has long been a celebration of the birth of Christ as he came to be the savior of a fallen world and to bridge the gap, caused by sin, between man and God. But in recent years, there’s been a push by some to avoid any talk of God and Jesus Christ in relation to Christmas.

Instead, many today put more emphasis on celebrating a magical, obese, reverse burglar who enslaves flying caribou and little magical people in a bid to put toy stores out of business by giving everything away for free.

I’m a quiet person who usually doesn’t say anything about things that bother me in society. But the X-Mas thing really bothered me. Not only did I think it dishonored the real reason we celebrate the holiday, but it also looked very unprofessional. So I took the initiative to make my voice heard. 

I dug around a little and discovered that the Home Depot survey you’re prompted to take on your receipt is actually payed attention to by store managers. So I took the survey and expressed my displeasure in the sign. 

Sure enough, an assistant manager emailed me back that afternoon and when I went to the store the next day, the sign was changed to read Christmas instead of X-Mas.

 A temporary sign on a hardware store door might seem like a little thing to be concerned about. But unless we take action to correct the small problems we see in our daily lives, they will slowly grow bigger and bigger.

Unnecessarily Neat

I was wrapping presents over the weekend and thought about how nice it is that most wrapping paper comes with a grid of lines on the back. Gift givers used to really need to pay attention to what they were doing to get a nice straight cut. Now it’s easy to get a perfect cut every time. What a wonderful innovation! It’s so ingenious, it must have been a Google 20% project. Everyone should be happy about this.

But then I got to thinking, what do I care if my wrapping paper is cut perfectly. I was perfectly happy eyeballing it before. What’s more, nobody else cares if you cut paper straight. Kids tear open present without giving a single thought about the paper. They just want what’s inside. They wontonly tear off what you so lovingly cut, wrapped and taped.

Adults are no better. Think about it from your own experience. When’s the last time you got a present and thought “Gee, these seems sure are neat” or “what loving attention to detail Sam applied to his cutting and taping”.  Sorry, it just doesn’t happen.

Not only do people not care about straight wrapping paper cuts but the grid lines that make it possible also have negative consequences. Think about it, it’s going to cost more to print things on both sides of the paper. Don’t think you’re getting all that ink on there for free. Your wrapping paper is costing you more. Is perfectionism really worth the extra cost?

The cost of perfectionism has other costs too. It’s probably stressing you out, giving you high blood pressure, causing internal anxiety and outward shows of anger and aggression. You might find that every time your scissors veer off the line you start yelling at your children and kicking the dog.

But if health and relationships with those you love don’t move you in this discussion, there’s a more insidious consequence to these seemingly innocuous paper grids. Now that there are lines on the white side, you can’t use scraps of wrapping paper to make little To/From tags. You’re being forced into buying pre-printed tags that you might not even like.

I’ve always enjoyed using the paper I was wrapping with to make my tags. Now that I can’t do that, the joy of present wrapping has left me. Now all I can do is make my wrapped presents unnecessarily neat.

Bad Art Ideas: Toilet Seat Wreath

I’m all for abstract art but I think there has to be a limit. For me, that limit is a Christmas wreath made from a toilet seat. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse holiday offenses out there like adults dressing up like pink bunnies, putting out cookies for fat reverse burglars and the worst offense – putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

The toilet seat wreath, however, still ought to be considered at least a minor offender.  For one thing, it’s too obvious. It’s basically already a wreath. All you’re doing is hot gluing tacky things to it.

I get it, people think it’s funny to put something associated with defecation on their door or wall. Who wouldn’t want to be known for that? But just like bad posts on social media could cost you a future job, bad decorations at Christmas can cost you the respect of, well, everyone.

No, no, no and once again – NO!

Just Say No To Holiday Leap Frog

I try not to get annoyed at too many things in life. Annoyances, left
unchecked, tend to make people miserable. But there are a handful of things
that still really get to me. One of those things is the displaying of Christmas
decorations before Thanksgiving. 

We play up Halloween as if it’s a real holiday and then start throwing up
the lights and plastic reindeer before the sugar rush has even begun to wear
off.

I understand why stores skip Thanksgiving. They haven’t figured out how to
make money from it (yet). But let me here plead with my neighbors and anyone
reading this to forgo tossing up the tinsel until after Thanksgiving.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. But Thanksgiving is a close
second. It’s a great time to get together with family and friends and show our
gratitude to God for providing us with so much in our lives.

But too often it gets ignored until that fateful Thursday when we stuff
ourselves with food, watch a football game and then go to sleep early.

It’s no wonder that we give the day such short shrift though. There’s no
build-up, no anticipation and no backing by all those people playing holiday
leap frog by putting up Santa knickknacks the day after we celebrate evil,
death and mayhem.

To these people I say: take a cold shower and rid yourself of the urge to
dilute one of America’s finest days for celebrating all we have.

 

Oh, Today’s a Holiday?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how holidays in the US have shifted so radically to be meaningless. What were once celebrations of people and events of meaning and consequence have turned into excuses to eat and drink to excess. 

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day has historically been a celebration of the life and work of Patrick, a 5th century Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. But if you asked most people today who St. Patrick is, they’ll probably tell you he was an Irish Brew Master or something. For most, this holiday is merely an excuse to drink green beer and eat corned beef. Grocery clerks wear stupid, tiny, glittery top hats and threaten to pinch anyone not wearing green. I’m considering making a line of t-shirts. The first one will be some color other than green. It will say “A punch for a pinch” or something to that effect.

Look at any of our major holidays and you’ll see the same pattern. On Easter we now celebrate rabbits that poop chocolate eggs. How do we celebrate this? By making our kids search for plastic copies of the chocolate scat while the adults eat ham and scalloped potatoes and drink too much wine. Thankfully, most people don’t color their wine green.

Thanksgiving’s become nothing more than a frenzied marathon for cooking a glut of carbohydrates and hormone injected turkeys. Then we eat way more than we know we should but still wash it all down with any beer containing the word fall, wheat or ale in the name.

Christmas now consists of cookies smeared with food coloring, lots of candy and presents that nobody needs or wants after January first. Oh, an you should start drinking hard liquor because, you know, it’s cold outside.

I know I sound bitter. I’m really not. I love the holidays. I just wish we would (as a society) pay a little more attention to the real meaning behind them. That, and stop pinching people.