Christ, not Claus | A Christmas Harangue

This past weekend, Sweet T and I had the opportunity to check out a Christmas program at one of the local churches in our neighborhood. During the performance, a couple sitting next to us noted that “they sure are singing a lot of secular Christmas songs. Where are the church songs?” The show, which had started with a manger scene, ended with a brief plea by the pastor to not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas amid all the regular holiday festivities. While the individuals performing in the show did a magnificent job, I left scratching my head about the intent and focus of the show.

ha·rangue

[həˈraNG]

NOUN
  1. a lengthy and aggressive speech.
    synonyms:
    tirade · lecture · diatribe · homily · polemic · rant · fulmination · broadside · verbal attack · verbal onslaught · invective · criticism · berating · censure · admonition · reproval · admonishment · exhortation · declamation · oration · peroration · speech · talk · address · sermon · tongue-lashing · spiel · pep talk · philippic · obloquy

Last year, at another big church in our area, Sweet T and I witnessed a Broadway-style production involving thousands of volunteers and what I imagine a very healthy budget. The show spent about an hour focused on secular Christmas traditions, complete with all the trimmings and an airborne Santa Claus flying onto the stage in his sleigh. That transitioned into a more traditional focus on the story of the Incarnation and the First Advent of Jesus, Son of God.

Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Santa Claus.

To be clear, I get that come December there are a lot of different holiday traditions that are celebrated in 21st America. Growing up, December was all about Christmas. And yes, I understand that we have a mix of Christmas traditions that focus on gift-giving, Saint Nick, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Old Tannenbaum. And you know what—that’s all ok. In fact, I love me some Santa Claus and Jingle Bells.

So, what’s my problem?

I expect the one place that we would keep Christ in Christmas is church.

christmas harangue

After nearly 90 minutes of barely mentioning Jesus—IN CHURCH–and hoisting Santa on a HUGE golden throne, the plea to not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas likely fell on dumbfounded ears.

After all the uproar a few years ago about saying “Merry Christmas” and “keeping Christ in Christmas” in public domains, have we the church succumbed to touting the Claus while barely giving a head nod to God taking form in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ? Old Saint Nick can surely be heard crying “Say it ain’t so…?”

If we, the church, aren’t boasting of Christ during Christmastime, who then?

Again, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with presents under the Christmas tree, going caroling, or celebrating all our other family Christmas traditions. Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a fantastic story. Yet, it pales in comparison to the Birth of Christ. And Christ should be our focus during this season. After all, He truly is the reason for the season. If nowhere else, foremost among the body of believers who call us by His name. For us Christians, Christ should always stand front and center. But especially during the season celebrating His Advent. After all, 2,000+ years ago, those Wise Men weren’t navigating the desert in search of Kris Kringle.

Blessings,

The Devotional Guy™

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Sunday Prayer | This Sunday Be Grateful

Sunday serves as a reboot spiritually, mentally, and physically. Last week is done. We’re resting; celebrating what God has done and continues doing in our lives. Some of us have heavy burdens that we need to lay down at His feet. Others of us are experiencing great victories for which we need to give God the glory.

It’s Christmastime and our minds travel back to those childhood memories of long ago when we still dared to dream and weren’t afraid to believe. Christmas renews our spirit, refreshes our hearts, and rekindles our minds. Sure, life may be tough right now. But we’ve got SO much to be grateful for, don’t you agree?

In the book of 1 Chronicles, we find an early church hymn sung during a time of great thanksgiving after David and his men have returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. It serves as a great model for us as we consider the breadth of our magnificent Maker and the many blessings He has showered down upon us, including the special gift of His Son, Jesus.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (NET2)

7 That day David first gave to Asaph and his colleagues this song of thanks to the Lord.

8 Give thanks to the Lord!

Call on his name!

Make known his accomplishments among the nations!

9 Sing to him! Make music to him!

Tell about all his miraculous deeds!

10 Boast about his holy name!

Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

11 Seek the Lord and the strength he gives!

Seek his presence continually!

12 Recall the miraculous deeds he performed,

his mighty acts and the judgments he decreed, 

13 O children of Israel, God ’s servant,

you descendants of Jacob, God’s chosen ones!

14 He is the Lord our God;

he carries out judgment throughout the earth.

15 Remember continually his covenantal decree,

the promise he made to a thousand generations –

16 the promise he made to Abraham,

the promise he made by oath to Isaac!

17 He gave it to Jacob as a decree,

to Israel as a lasting promise,

18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan

as the portion of your inheritance.”

19 When they were few in number,

just a very few, and foreign residents within it,

20 they wandered from nation to nation,

and from one kingdom to another.

21 He let no one oppress them,

he disciplined kings for their sake,

22 saying, “Don’t touch my anointed ones!

Don’t harm my prophets!”

23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Announce every day how he delivers!

24 Tell the nations about his splendor,

tell all the nations about his miraculous deeds!

25 For the Lord is great and certainly worthy of praise,

he is more awesome than all gods.

26 For all the gods of the nations are worthless,

but the Lord made the heavens.

27 Majestic splendor emanates from him,

he is the source of strength and joy

28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the nations,

ascribe to the Lord splendor and strength!

29 Ascribe to the Lord the splendor he deserves!

Bring an offering and enter his presence!

Worship the Lord in holy attire!

30 Tremble before him, all the earth!

The world is established, it cannot be moved.

31 Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be happy!

Let the nations say,  ‘The Lord reigns!’

32 Let the sea and everything in it shout!

Let the fields and everything in them celebrate!

33 Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy before the Lord,

for he comes to judge the earth!

34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good

and his loyal love endures.

35 Say this prayer: Deliver us, O God who delivers us!

Gather us! Rescue us from the nations!

Then we will give thanks to your holy name,

and boast about your praiseworthy deeds.”

36 May the Lord God of Israel be praised,

in the future and forevermore.

Then all the people said, “We agree! Praise the Lord.

christmas-1867048_1920

This thanksgiving hymn is a medley of several psalms and probably one of many that God’s people sang to celebrate on these types of occasions. The song expresses the hopes and thoughts of the Israelites gathered that day to worship and give thanks to the Lord.

It shows us the important role songs play in our worship of our God and emphasizes the salvation that can only come through Him. Our Lord is sovereign and He is always looking out for us, those who love Him and have received His Son as Lord and Savior.

So as you gather in your house of worship today, be grateful. You and I have so many reasons to give thanks.

Blessings,

The Devotional Guy™

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2 Corinthians 517

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Scripture | 5 Verses to Combat Your Anxiety

Are you feeling anxious today?

I know that I sometimes do. I wrestle with things beyond my control. I worry about stuff that might be as if it is when it isn’t. This can cause me to be very uneasy.

The inner turmoil brought on by our anxiety wreaks havoc on our emotions and sensibilities. We pace. We fret. We panic. Butterflies flutter in our stomachs. Our sleep pattern is disrupted. Our minds are overwhelmed with our distress.

Anxiety differs from fear in that fear is an appropriate cognitive, emotional response to a perceived threat. Fear involves a present threat. For instance, you come home and find a stranger in your house. Naturally, you become fearful. Anxiety results from our inability to cope with something negative we believe will happen in the future, be it real or unreal. For example, you might worry about failing a class if you don’t do well on a test. You work yourself into an uproar, unable to concentrate, expending all your energy contemplating your impending doom rather than taking a deep breath and studying for the test.

All of us get anxious from time to time. Some of us stay anxious. We need help beyond ourselves, including medical professionals.

There are lots of things we can do to help alleviate our anxiety. We can eat a healthier, more balanced diet. We can reduce our caffeine intake. We can go for a walk. Studies are said to show that 30 minutes of exercise, 5-6 times a week, can reduce anxiety. We can get up and go to bed at the same time every day, ensuring we get enough sleep. These are just a few things we can do to cope with our anxiousness.

Finally, there’s one more thing you can do…open your Bible and pray through these Scriptures. Reading them aloud, even committing them to memory, can help relieve your anxiety. God’s Word heals what ails us.

Are You Anxious

Here are 5 verses to read when you are feeling anxious:

 

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 52:22 (ESV)

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13 (ESV)

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

Matthew 6:25 (NLT)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 

These verses remind us of the healing power of Scripture. Hopefully, they will ease your cares and relieve your worries. I know that when I read God’s Word, I feel a peace wash over me as I am reminded of the wonderful truth that God loves me. Focusing on His Word helps shift my eyes off my concerns and back onto Him, where they belong. I know that I can trust the Lord because He has demonstrated His trustworthiness since time began. Lots of things will let you down in life. God is not one of them.

Blessings,

The Devotional Guy™