Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

When Exactly Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Live Manger

Live Manger (Photo credit: comprock)

Link: When Exactly Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

My husband, David Tinker, who is a Lutheran pastor, wrote this informative piece about the 12 Days of Christmas. He clears up some common misunderstandings and also suggests some ways to celebrate. (Click the link title above to view his post.)

Elves, Santa, and the True Meaning of Christmas

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My family settled into our seats for a live production of the Elf musical in Houston over the weekend.

Someone asked on Twitter recently about favorite Christmas movies. And do you know what I said? Hands down, I chose Elf as my favorite Christmas movie. I love the movie so much that seeing a live production of the Elf musical over the weekend was a highlight of my December.

I’m sure, as a religious professional, that is way the wrong answer. I mean, there is very little (if anything) in Elf about the true meaning of Christmas. It’s all Santa and elves and the whole naughty & nice list.

Now to be sure, lest you think I’ve completely lost my theological framework, I despise the whole naughty & nice list. It goes against every theological touchstone I hold sacred. It also goes against my parenting philosophy–this subject alone could be an entire post, but I’m sick this week and don’t feel up to that one.

I don’t know what it is about Elf the movie. I guess it’s the plucky human raised among elves that gets to me. It’s the classic underdog archetype where this guy who feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere ends up saving the day.

Pluswhich, he wins over the grouchiest people by his genuine zeal for spreading cheer and his unshakeable determination to look for the good in others (except for the fake department store Santa who “sits on a throne of lies,” but that’s just because of his loyalty to the real Santa, and that loyalty is part of his charm as well).

I know that the secularization of Christmas with the proliferation of Santa & elves is a bit removed from the true meaning of Christmas, but I can’t help but be taken in by the magical side of it.

My son knows the truth that the modern concept of Santa is based on legends surrounding a man who lived hundreds of years ago. But we still take him to see Santa and we wonder aloud how exactly Santa accomplishes all that he does.

It is as if I am powerless to dismantle the Santa illusion.

Maybe it’s the power of a good story and the willingness that we have to suspend disbelief when a story is compelling enough.

It’s the same way that we think of Mulder and Scully being real FBI agents even though we know they’re just characters from a TV show. It’s the same way we like to think of hobbits and Middle Earth and argue about the details of whether movie makers are really getting the story right.

Do these “beliefs” in fiction undermine faith in Jesus?

Nah. I don’t think so.

If anything, I think the tenacity of our belief in elves’ good cheer, Santa’s generosity, Mulder & Skully’s heroism, and hobbits’ determination–all of these point to something bigger than ourselves.

And if there is one thing that God in Christ Jesus came to show us, it is that there is more to this life than ourselves.

Am I grasping at straws to justify Elf as my favorite Christmas movie?

It’s possible, because sometimes even I get a little too wrapped up in myself. But it really is a super cute movie.

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For more on what I believe about the true meaning of Christ coming to this world, you can check out my Advent meditation series The Arrival of Christ: Past, Present & Future which is online now at Life & Liberty. Click the series title to see all three meditations in one place. You can listen to the audio recordings (less than 10 minutes each) &/or read the manuscripts of all three meditations online now.

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What about you? What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why?

Advent Meditation: God in Us

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This week I preached the second of three meditations for a weekly series I’m presenting at my church for Advent.

The series is called, The Arrival of Christ: Past, Present & Future. This week’s meditation is about Christ’s arrival in the present as, God in Us.

The meditation is inspired by John 13-14; please look that up when you get the chance.

>>>Click here to listen to the meditation or read a text version of God in Us<<<

Advent Meditation: God in Flesh

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The link below is for a meditation, the first of three for a weekly series I’m presenting at my church for Advent. The series is called, The Arrival of Christ: Past, Present & Future. This week’s meditation is about Christ’s arrival in the past as, God in Flesh. The meditation is inspired by John 1:1-18; please look that up when you get the chance.

>>>Click here for audio and text of the meditation: God in Flesh<<<

Special thanks to my friend & publisher, David Housholder, for hosting this at Life & Liberty.

What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

When we need to talk with someone we trust about a situation that is beyond our control, we need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode. First I’ll review what I mean by a situation beyond our control and then I’ll explain a little more about active listening.

In a previous post titled, 3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed, I defined “situations beyond our control” like this:

This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions.

Now, I’d like to spend some time talking about the “active listening” that often helps in these situations. Since we may sometimes be the listener and sometimes be the speaker, I am going to write about both listener and speaker in the third person.

What is an Active Listener?

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As the term “active” implies, the active listener is engaged deeply in listening to the speaker. A completely passive observer is not nearly as helpful as an active listener.

In addition to the Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend I posted previously, here are some important observations about what an active listener does and doesn’t do:

  1. An active listener asks clarifying questions when something is unclear. This can help the listener understand the speaker better, but can also help the speaker process the thoughts and emotions involved.
  2. An active listener takes care to key into important details about what the speaker is sharing. This requires a high level of attention to the speaker.
  3. An active listener observes verbal and non-verbal cues beyond the words used to more accurately interpret what is being expressed. Observing the speaker’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can all help the listener understand the speaker.
  4. An active listener shows empathy and concern but does not have to adopt the speaker’s emotions about the situation. Simply acknowledging and helping to name the speaker’s emotions can help the speaker process the situation.
  5. An active listener avoids solving the problem for the speaker. The active listener does not try to “fix” the situation or the speaker, but gives the speaker the room to thoroughly process the situation at the speaker’s own pace.
  6. An active listener avoids judging the speaker for negative or extreme emotions expressed. The listener recognizes the extremes as part of the speaker’s way of processing or coming to terms with the situation.

As you can see “active listening” is a more than just sitting idly while someone rambles about a problem. Rather active listening is a dynamic process that can help when situations are out of control.

Note: much of what I have learned about “active listening” has come from my training as a Stephen Leader by Stephen Ministries of St. Louis.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed