Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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.)

That Time When A Dinosaur Saved Christmas


Howard the Christmas Dinosaur

An Original Story by Jennifer Clark Tinker and her son

We all know that dinosaurs are extinct, but we’d like to tell you the story about a time, not long ago, when a dinosaur walked this earth…and saved Christmas! 

It all started in a lab where scientists figured out a way to clone dinosaurs. Just to have a little fun, the scientists spliced in the genetic material to allow the dinosaur to talk and experience emotions. The result of this wild experiment was Howard.

Howard could do everything they hoped and then some. The “then some” was that Howard had an insatiable thirst for understanding the world around him and he asked a lot of questions.

Howard’s first Christmas led to even more questions than usual. Everyday he looked out of his habitat and saw the giant Christmas tree in the town square. He had so many questions about Christmas that the scientists could not answer them all.

But as good scientists, they appreciated Howard’s need for inquiry. So they set up a series of interviews with people in the community for Howard to learn more from them about Christmas.

The scientists were very thorough in selecting interviewees. Howard learned all kinds of things about Christmas. A history student told him all about the history of Santa Claus. A local firefighter told him about how to have a safe Christmas. The mayor told Howard about the giant Christmas tree farm where they always get the town Christmas tree from.

But the one interview that finally put the whole thing in perspective for Howard was with a local pastor and his son.

The pastor told Howard the most amazing story about the God and creator of the world—who was even more powerful than the scientists that cloned Howard. Just like the scientists who cloned Howard cared for him, God cared for the people he created.

Just like Howard, the people God created had questions, but they wanted to find their own answers. They did not trust their creator to take care of them and to help them with their questions.

The pastor said, “This led to people arguing over answers, making bad choices, and hurting—even killing—each other in the process.”

“Killing?” Howard asked.

The pastor’s son, Jack, spoke up, “I sometimes watch the 5 o’clock news with my Grandpa and there was this one story about someone coming into a school and shooting and killing a bunch of people!”

“I’m not allowed to watch the 5 o’clock news, and I think I see why,” said Howard.

“I’m not supposed to either,” Jack whispered.

“But what does all this have to do with Christmas?” Howard asked.

The pastor explained how God gets very sad about the kind of tragic answers that you see on the 5 o’clock news, so he decided to do something. He explained that God’s answer was to go down to earth as one of the people.

“He came in the form of a baby named Jesus. The name Jesus means, ‘savior,’ because Jesus came to save the people from their bad choices and arguing over answers,” the pastor said.

“It is the birthday of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas,” the pastor continued. “Some people get into all the gifts and decorations—which are great. I mean, seeing the big tree on the town square all lit up at Christmas is really special. But Christmas itself is about the birth of Jesus.”

Just then a big CRASH came from the center of town. Howard, the scientists, and the pastor and his son all ran to see what happened.

When they got to the town square, they saw that the giant Christmas tree had fallen over. And there was lots of commotion around the tree.

People were confused, sad, and angry about what happened. This beloved icon of their celebration had fallen down and with it their hopes fell as well. Their biggest question was, how would they have a real Christmas without their beloved tree?

Then more questions came.

“Who did this?”

“Why didn’t you use the brand of Christmas tree stand that my cousin suggested?”

“How could you get Douglas Fir this year when we always get Scotch Pine for the town square tree?”

“Isn’t somebody going to do something?!!!”

And then the arguing began as one person after another had their own answers about what should be done. The arguing was so loud that Howard couldn’t hear himself think.

Then suddenly, a voice from the crowd said, “Hey Howard! Can you help us?”

Howard recognized the voice from one of his interviews. It was the mayor who was at the front of the crowd. She asked, “Could you push this Christmas tree back up? You’re the only one strong enough and who can do it quickly.”

Howard did as she asked and in no time the tree was back up. The townspeople cheered!

“Christmas is saved!”

Indeed, it was a relief to have the special tree standing tall once more. But Howard knew there was more to Christmas than just that tree.

Howard realized that since all the townspeople were gathered in one place, it would be a good chance to tell everyone in the town all that he learned from his interviews. And he especially wanted to tell them what he learned about the true meaning of Christmas and the baby Jesus.

When Howard explained the part about people arguing over answers, all the townspeople looked around at each other. They realized how unkind they had been to one another in their panic about the tree falling.

The people were silent as they pondered all they had learned from Howard. Then a faint clapping began, and then the applause grew louder. And the people started to cheer, “Yay for Howard the Christmas Dinosaur!”

And that is how a dinosaur saved Christmas.


Authors’ Note


Right before leaving the Lane of Lights, my family and I posed in the warm glow of a lit Christmas Tree.

The story of Howard was inspired by a seemingly out-of-place display on our recent visit to the Christmas Lane of Lights in Ledbetter, Texas. The Lane of Lights is an annual fundraiser and community service of the Ledbetter Volunteer Fire Department.

At the Lane of Lights there was a 1/4 mile walking trail with various light displays. One of them was a lit-up dinosaur. We chuckled to ourselves about them having a “Christmas dinosaur” and we wondered what his story was. But before we could ask anyone, we made up our own story right there on the walking tour.

We knew then that we had to write our story and share it because it is not everyday that you see a Christmas dinosaur!

Rejoice in the Good News

of Jesus Our Savior!

Merry Christmas from the Tinkers


Elves, Santa, and the True Meaning of Christmas


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?

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