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FullSizeRender-3My calendar is full and getting fuller as the fall season picks up momentum.  Work responsibilities move like a rising tide with appointments, meetings, reports, problems and initiatives.  Woven inside the fabric of the ministry is life at church, home, friends and the events of the season.

Did you catch that last one?  Halloween is coming.  Or for many of us it is the Harvest Season.

Not long after that Thanksgiving is waiting to get us even more busy than ever.  Family events, travel, food and reunions line up for attention.  Home decorations increase as the fall season moves deeper toward winter.

Of course, Christmas is the zenith of all events as the calendar year closes out.  The decorations are the pinnacle of everyone’s planning.  Just about everyone looks forward to Christmas.

Organizing our lives to make room for each of these calendar events crowds even the most gifted of administrators.  Unless we get a jump on the forecast we will miss out or even overlook important opportunities.

Our church, Houston First Baptist has a spectacular Christmas program called “Celebrate!”  Note the exclamation point.  It is fitting.

FullSizeRender-2Getting tickets for this sensation production is not difficult but it calls for a little planning.  Ticket sales opened up on Saturday October 17 at 8:00AM.  When I saw the notice, my lips pursed tightly.

I could make it to church to buy tickets that day, but I needed to be an hour away for a speaking engagement that very morning.  My mind was organizing that morning carefully.  If I showed up at church by 7:30AM and got my tickets by 8:45AM I could hurry to my speaking engagement in time for a 15 minute early arrival.

In my mind I was certain that I could be one of the earliest in line on a Saturday morning.  Who wants to get up early on a Saturday to buy tickets for a Christmas program that is months away?

That strategy was way off the mark.  The conversation that spawned that plan had no clue about the interest of Christmas even in October.  Hundreds of people who were in line before I showed up testify to my tactical limitations.

At least I made it to my 10AM speaking appointment on time.  But, the wait for Christmas tickets sure shows the joy of the season.  Merry Christmas, even in October!

photo credit: brucefong photography

Dec 2013 031Everyone in this country is wearing a smile or a frown.  Those who voted for the guy who won are elated.  But, surely everyone must also recognize that there are a lot of Americans who voted for the other guy.

Nearly every sports event that we watch or participate in with all of our energy has both supporters for one side or the other.  No one really enters an athletic event and hopes that their team loses.  Competing is about winning not losing.

Yet losing is an essential by-product of competition.  Think about the other half for just a few moments.  No matter what the event there exists the objective to rally ALL the participants into one unified group in order to move forward and make strides together.

One step toward this objective is for each person to adopt a post-competition perspective.  It is easy on one level.  But, on another level it is very difficult.

Here is the Biblical strategy: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12.15) The last half is easier.  When someone is overwhelmed and beaten down, we can show mercy and encourage them.

The first part to celebrate with someone when they are rejoicing is tougher.  Usually that means we have lost.  Our team came up short, our vote was not added with the winner or our opinion will no longer be germane to the future discussion.

The disposition for those who win and those who lose needs to shift.  Of course the winner enjoys a time of celebration. It comes with the territory.  All of us enjoy those moments.

At the same time when we lose and we all will lose some time in something, need to shift as well.  For a time we will be sad, mourn and even sort out our feelings in solitude.  None of us like those times but we have all experienced them.

If we can learn those dynamics in something as simple as sport, then perhaps we can bring those same feelings to real life moments.  It is too bad that our human spirit crowds out the possibility of experiencing something supernatural.  Our personal bias gets in the way.

When someone we do not like gets a blessing we do not feel like rejoicing with them.  Instead, we are annoyed.  If we had our way that person would be hurt instead of helped.  That is sadly our sinful nature expressing itself.  Leave the natural reaction aside and try the supernatural option instead: rejoice with those who rejoice.

photo credit: kristin  photography

 

Christmas is all about celebration.  This is the time of year when everyone can find a reason to rejoice, be happy and get into the spirit of this most favorite season of the year.  It’s odd when we have to tolerate a small number of loud humbuggers who are trying to eliminate Christmas.

Some call it a war on Christmas.  I’m not sure who declared hostilities against something so good but it seems weird.  It really doesn’t make sense to the vast majority.

I liked a comedy TV show that interviewed people on the streets.  They asked people a simple question of identification.  He stopped some pedestrians on the street for a simple survey.

What followed was remarkable and pointed.  It was so simple that the war on Christmas took a major hit in a manner of moments on national TV.  All it took from the host was a wry smile.

He pointed to tree in the town square.  It was decorated with lights, ornaments and garlands.  Then, he simply asked, “What is that?”

The unsuspecting pedestrians answered the obvious, “It’s a Christmas tree.”

“Are you sure about your answer?” the host pressed his guests.

“Yes,” they responded incredulously, “it’s a Christmas tree.”

“That’s correct!” the host exclaimed.  “Did you know that there was a war on Christmas? Some people are trying to get rid of the name ‘Christmas’,” he informed them.

“Why would anyone want to do that?” they shook their heads in disbelief.

Turning to the TV audience, the host rolled his eyes, “It seems overwhelmingly obvious that Americans still believe in Christmas.”

That suits me just fine.  Reasonableness aside or in the middle of the discussion, why should a few complaintants impose their opinion that infringes on the opinion of others.  I’m not offended when someone says “Happy Holidays” to me but I feel just as free to say to others, “Merry Christmas!”

No use getting all PC on each other.  Just celebrate freely.  Your individual joy will not be offensive to anyone.  It might be someone else’s excuse to express their complaint.  But, what can you do for people who are by nature sour and looking for a fight?

Christmas is special.  Sure, Jesus is the real reason for Christmas.  If people are offended by Him, then that’s between them and the LORD. 

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  We will also celebrate His birthday.  We are into rejoicing.  Merry Christmas!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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