Posts Tagged ‘True Meaning of Christmas’

No Crying He Makes?

Away in a Manger used to be my favorite Christmas hymn and I still think it’s a lovely tune. But I have become critical of it on account of the “no crying he makes” line.

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I mean, are we really saying that Jesus wouldn’t have cried? It’s a sign of health when a baby cries; a baby communicates his or her needs through crying!

If* the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus is real, then Jesus cried as a baby.

But this year my son noted that Away in a Manger is kinda babyish. And that prompted me to reflect some more on the lyrics and melody. I gave it some thought and I realized it’s a lullaby. So, yeah, maybe it is kinda babyish.

But also, it occurred to me that as a lullaby, its purpose is to quell cries, to calm a baby or young child.

With that, I thought maybe the line about “no crying he makes” is actually be more of a hope or vision of the lyricist. I mean, as much as we might want scream, “hey kid, knock it off with the crying already!”, that’s only gonna terrorize the infant worse. A positive, future projection of a cessation of crying all packaged in a soothing song is much more gracious.

So, maybe the songwriter never was trying to claim that the baby Jesus wasn’t a crier, rather that he was. He really cried. Because he was a real baby. And babies cry.

And would they please stop already!?

_______

*Of course, I believe it is.

Christmas Glow

Light in Darkness

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. John 1

 

Light has always been an important symbol of Christmas for me.

In 8th grade I wrote a short story about a teenage young woman who was having trouble getting into the “Christmas spirit.” No matter what she did, she couldn’t work up the giddiness she used to feel about the season.

Then in church on Christmas Eve, during the candle lighting ceremony, she had an epiphany. The warm glow of the lights around the darkened sanctuary reminded her of the Good News of Jesus coming into the world to bring the light of God’s love to all people.

The story was a fictional representation of what was in my own heart–and often still is. I don’t get giddy about Christmas anymore like I did when I was a little kid. A lot of the “magic” of Christmas has faded in its importance and impressiveness in my heart and mind.

But this news–that God brings light to our darkness–I need that every-always.

If I’m going to feel anything special at Christmas, it’s almost certain it will involve light (or gel pens, but that’s kind-of the same thing).

During Christmas break in 1994, while I was engaged to my now husband, I got to go as his date to his brother’s wedding in Florida. I was in college in Kentucky at the time and went home to Ohio for Christmas and had my wisdom teeth pulled right after Christmas. I was miserable, but didn’t want to miss the wedding–the first wedding among my now husband and his siblings!

My now sister-in-law Angela was from the area where the wedding was, so she had insider knowledge on local attractions. One of the nights we were there Angela wanted to take us all to a Christmas village of some kind. I didn’t know what to expect and my mouth was sore, and I was weary from travel, so I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go.

But I am so glad I did!

The Christmas village was this whole lot filled with sweetly painted wooden-facade little houses and buildings. All of the little structures were decorated in lights. You could go up and down the “streets” of this village and see all of the places lit up.

I don’t even remember if there was anything distinctively Christian about the display, but the light–Oh! All those lights! They lit up my heart that night and I will always remember the night Angela took us there.

To this day, even if I can’t manufacture any “Christmas spirit,” I am filled with hope, awe, and wonder when I see peeps of light at Christmas in candle lighting ceremonies and light displays.

There’s something about light shining in darkness that speaks to my heart in a way that daylight or a brightly lit room doesn’t quite do.

I often think of my depression as darkness as worries close in on me, and my sense of worth dims. So, I understand darkness all too well. So when tiny lights defy the darkness, I am reminded that God–my God–is bigger than my darkness.

My favorite Psalm says it this way, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Even in my darkness, my God sees me and knows me and loves me.

Once again this Christmas, I can’t seem to manufacture that giddy Christmas feeling of my childhood. But the glow of God’s love fills me with hope at Christmas time–and always.

May you too know God’s love with a tenacious hope that defies darkness.

Want to Simplify this Christmas?

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The pressure is on to find the right gifts for everyone on your list, to prepare the perfect holiday meal, and to make it to every party. With all the obligations of the season though, can anyone remember what Christmas is all about? Something about a baby—Oh no! I forgot to put the Smith family’s new baby on my shopping list!

Oftentimes we lament the consumerism of the season, but we can’t quite seem to back our sleigh ride away from that slippery slope. Over the years I’ve dabbled with various ideas of simplifying my celebrations to focus on what is most important to me: faith, family, and friends.

In my latest post at Life & Liberty Online Magazine, I wrote a sampling of ideas to help you be more deliberate about how you spend your time and money this holiday season. You can read the full text of the article over there, but here is the basic list broken down by three categories, gift-giving, cooking, and celebrations…

 

Put Joy (Back) Into Gift-Giving

  1. Shorten the gift-giving list.
  2. Make gifts using a craft or skill that is truly enjoyable.
  3. Create gift baskets.
  4. Make a music mix.
  5. Give a copy of a favorite book.
  6. Give gift cards/certificates.
  7. Give a membership.
  8. Write an original story or poetry collection and give it as a gift.
  9. Give yourself permission to give the same gift to more than one person on your list.
  10. Give family gifts.

For more on any of these gift-giving ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Cook Up some Holiday Spirit

  1. Consider potluck.
  2. Say “yes” when someone offers to bring something.
  3. Choose simpler preparations for at least some of your dishes.
  4. Stick with what you know.

For more on any of these cooking ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Keep the Merry in Your Merry-Making

  1. Rethink “White Elephant” parties.
  2. Make kits to give away to charities.
  3. Enjoy the arts together.
  4. See the lights!
  5. Serve together.
  6. Make a special treat or meal together.
  7. Reschedule your celebration for a less-rushed time.

For more on any of these celebration ideas, read my full commentary on my post, “Tis the Season to Simplify,” at Life & Liberty.

 

Pick and choose from this list, take or leave what works for you and helps you have the most joy this holiday season.

That Time When A Dinosaur Saved Christmas

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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.

THE END


Authors’ Note

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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