Nailing Christmas

©LLB Images 2016

Christmas is coming!

For some readers that announcement provokes nostalgic sentiments and joy so tangible we feel it wrap around us like a soft blanket.  For others, a dread—a cynical, stressed-out and guilty dread—settles over our hearts like a winter fog even while we tell ourselves we should be, “in the Christmas Spirit,” whatever that means.

For most, the approach of Christmas brings an emotional concoction of both extremes.  We know Christmas should be a time of joy but we also admit that in reality, in our homes, it will be a time of added strain.

As Christians, this conflict can be exacerbated by the many platitudes that remind us that Christmas is no regular holiday.  For us, it is a Holy Day: celebrating the coming of our Savior and everything that has meant for us: our redemption, our renewal, our resurrection.

  • Jesus is the reason for the season
  • Keep Christ in Christmas
  • Wise Men still seek Him
  • It’s not about the presents–it’s about His Presence

And on and on it goes. We see these reminders on our social media feeds, on quaint rustic home decor and on bumper stickers in the church parking lot.  These words may function as a guilt trip reinforcing that we aren’t doing Christmas right. We know it’s all supposed to be about Jesus. He really is the reason for the season.  It really is our responsibility as parents to make Christmas less about the presents and more about His presence…but there are just so many forces at work to distract us from what really matters.  The spirit may be willing, but…still.

Is it even possible in the midst of Black Friday sales and company parties and white elephant gift exchanges and school holiday music concerts to make time to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way?  When outside expectations pressure us to have a perfect Christmas, can we really give our families a purposeful Christmas?

What if we didn’t have to conclude each Christmas season feeling like we failed it. What if when December 26 rolled around we could all collectively smile and sigh, “Nailed it.”

It hasn’t been perfect but I want to share with you what our family has done to intentionally focus on Jesus during very busy seasons of life.  We have raised four children less than five years apart.  We later added two adopted brothers to the mix.  We have been as busy as anyone at Christmastime.  But we have continued this one simple practice during the many years of elementary school parties, church pageants, basketball seasons, high school show choir extravaganzas and now the college years. We have created a tradition that continues to give our celebration significance.

I want to give your family a simple template to nail Christmas year after year.  It’s a simple tool that will help your family build a foundation for Christmas that could last for generations.  

The basic framework for Nailing Christmas is the Family Meeting.  Click to learn more…

Nailing Christmas consists of holding a couple of family meetings thoughout the Christmas season.  You are in control–you decide how many meetings, how often you hold the meetings, etc.  Our family does one each Sunday night for four weeks leading up to Christmas.

If you’ve decided Nailing Christmas is something you’d like to try with your family, more information will be available with future blog posts. 

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Thomas, Marissa, Loretta, Jake, Jeremy, Alex, & Lizzy ©LLB Images 2017

Where You Belong–Thoughts on Genesis 15

 FullSizeRender.jpgI was reading this chapter this morning as part of my daily reading plan. I love this chapter. I love how at the very start of human history faith is what saves us. And how one second after Abraham’s belief is counted to him as righteousness, he questions God with a doubtful, “How can I know it’s true?” And how God’s gracious response to that ever-present human tendency toward doubt is He makes a covenant with Himself while the recipient sleeps. It’s all Him.
But something jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed before.  After Abraham, the father of the faithful, who was just counted righteous for believing God and then in the next breath says, “Prove it.” After that, God answers him:
“I am the LORD who brought you out…”
When I read those words I don’t associate them with Abraham.  I recall Moses and Israel and the great Exodus from Egypt.  Deliverance from slavery through the wilderness and eventually triumphal entry into the Promised Land.  And an annual Passover to NEVER EVER FORGET, “I am the LORD who brought you out…”
But here we are, hundreds of years before that great Bringing Out, and God is telling Abraham the same thing.  It’s all ultimately His story into which He invited Abraham.  And Abraham’s chapter– it started way back when when God brought Abraham out.
And I thought, that’s just like God, always bringing His people out.  Out from bondage. Out from sin. Out from loneliness. Out from fear.  Out from wherever we don’t belong and leading us into wherever we do belong.
And how can I not also think of our two new boys? They too are being led out and being led in.  This ancient story is made new for their lives.  Everything familiar is in the rearview.  But the future, where God is leading them, as difficult and scary as it may be, is love, and family, heritage and belonging.
And for all of us, it is beneficial to stop once in awhile and look back. Look at our history. We’ve been brought out from someplace and been brought into someplace.  Do we see the hand of God in our bringing out?  Do we trust Him as He is writing us into His Great Story?  Even if at this moment we are in a wilderness?  His story is a story of deliverance. Always delivering. Always moving each of us to where we ultimately belong.

Genesis 15 English Standard Version

God’s Covenant with Abram

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

I love Jesus. I believe Jesus. Jesus changed my life.

IMG_7668Those words are embossed on three bracelets that O. wears.

On this very holy day, as you are tempted to rush around to buy one more, rush one more, stress over one more thing–just stop.  Contemplate the mystery.  Contemplate the gift.

Jesus changed my life. Have you given much thought to where you would be without the gift of that baby in the straw?  Any eternal hope or joy or love you have–simply blown away like a Christmas Eve candle.

So spend today breathing in the mystery of the Incarnation. And exhale the weight of the world that you were never meant to bear. He is here. God is with us. That’s all that matters. Today and always.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said throughout he prophet, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23