Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do We Need a Spirit Kick to Enjoy Christmas?

Hey gang!

I was going to write about some of the cool gifts I’ve received over the years, but I did a slant of that last year. I then thought of a tirade of how Christmas has been commercialized by retailers and that the real meaning of Christmas has been lost. However, I want to try to stay positive at this time of year.

But I did start asking a question. Is the problem us? Have we sold out to the commercialism? I started looking at Christmas music and a lot of it doesn’t even talk about Christ, the reason that the season exists in the first place. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer? While mildly entertaining when thinking about old ladies being run over by Santa (mall variety or otherwise), it is done in comedy, making fun of the season. Jingle Bell Rock and all the other bell songs? They talk about bells, which can be cool, especially if you’ve ever seen the concert performing ringers.

Then there are all the songs done about Santa. I know, don’t mess with Santa. Look I love the story of old Kris Kringle and I believe the original one had his heart in the right place. My kids are at the age of loving Santa. He brings all the presents. Great, fantastic. However, I really like what a couple of my friends do about Santa. They tell their kids the truth. Yes, we all do eventually, but they start out that way. They tell their kids that Santa was a great guy, but that he is fiction. They tell them that the reason the original Santa did what he did was because at Christmas, Christ loved us so much that we get to give gifts and receive them. They tell them about the ultimate gift that Jesus gives us, but I’ll talk more about that tomorrow. However, they also tell their kids not to ruin it for other kids. Let them believe the lie until their own parents tell them the truth. I think it’s a great way to go.

Now of course I say that knowing that if I was one of those parents, my wife would have my head. Why? She wants them to have Santa. So Santa is still part of our Christmas celebration. However, I also tell my kids about Jesus and that he is the reason for the season. I tell them all the other stuff that my friends do without killing Santa, yet.

I also think about television. The mentions of Jesus are minimal, with only the full-blown story of Jesus being presented on Christian TV. I thank for TBN, Cornerstone and all the others at this time of year. But even our Christmas shows of childhood are being changed. The traditions of Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town or almost disappearing for Prep and Landing, A Shrek Christmas and the one that I’ve had to watch over and over, A Dora Christmas. While all these shows have a cuteness about them, we are losing tradition.

I know that many of you will say that each generation has their own traditions with Christmas. That is true. I will give you that much. However, when tradition is easily rolled over, the tradition that needs to remain is sometimes lost or even forgotten.

I also know that in the present economy, it’s hard to not be a Scrooge at any time of year. Many people have lost jobs over the past year and it is has caused major stresses in family life. Some so much so, that the family has been lost too. I feel for people who have lost love ones at this time of year, whether by death or divorce. We need to keep our faith regardless. It is something worth not giving up on.

In 1994, I came to Christ. I won’t say that every Christmas before it was awful, because they weren’t. For years, my friends Kevin Hess, Alvin Smith and a host of others would go to the movies the night of Christmas. It was a tradition that helped keep our family of friends together on the holiday. All of us did the mainline family dinners and football, but those evenings were special. We would watch movies and then head to a restaurant that was open and just talk about the good things of life.

But the Christmas season of 1994 was different to me. I remember being anxious for it in October. It meant something more to me. Not only was I giving presents, spending time with friends and loved ones, but I was also starting to understand about a Savior that loved ME. It was another holiday without a girlfriend and it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was great. I bought a nativity set for the mantle and took time to think about Jesus instead of all the cool stuff I got.

I’d like to say that the last 15 Christmases since were just as wonderful. Not always. I think as we spend time with the gift of salvation, sometimes we end up taking it for granted and forgetting about it. We know we have salvation and that heaven is our eventual home, but we lose the feeling of it.

People will say that your salvation is not supposed to be in feelings and they are right. What I mean here is that life happens and it overtakes us occasionally. We forget that Jesus is with us continuously in the Holy Spirit. That even through the hard times of life, we should never ceasing in prayer and thanksgiving.

Just like Peter, as he was walking toward Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, he took his mind off of Jesus and placed it on himself. We forget that it’s Jesus’ season. We forget that we are servants of the Most High God. We begin to think that life is so awful because we don’t have the money or the large gatherings or great new presents. What we need to remember is that we have His presence.

I truly hope that during this season that you take time out to have a good time. Hey, we all deserve a good time, now and again. I also hope though, that you take time to remember the One who keeps you, no matter the season. God is with us always. We may get some great gifts. They are out there. But I pray that you remember the one that you already have if you’re a Christian.

If you’re not a Christian, this last section is for you. I’m not going to sit here at my computer and lie to you. Accepting Christ and beginning to walk with Him may not instantly change the appearance of your life to you. You may still feel down. You may still feel short of whatever you think is missing. However, if you do accept Christ, you have a hope. The next day may not be that much better, but that eternal tomorrow, that’s when it all changes. You get to spend eternity with a Savior that loves you. You get a Savior that is looking out for your best interests, even if it seems your closest friends aren’t. You get a Savior that no matter how much money you have, you are of high society to Him.

Even if you can’t bring Jesus a present above yourself, know that is the present He wants most. You!! Don’t feel like you are not good enough for Jesus. If you wait until you are good enough, you’ll miss out on the best Christmas friendship you’ll ever have. Jesus wants us to have a better life with Him. It’s Him that makes a day worth living. Letting him clean off the pain in your heart will change it. It will allow you to be more loving, more compassionate with people and most importantly, at peace with the man in the mirror.

Like I said in the beginning of this blog, I could’ve written about all the great gifts I’ve received in my 40 plus years on this planet. But it was on April 7, 1994, when I got the best present I could ever ask for. I told Jesus how I’ve missed the mark in life. I’d blown it, over and over. I also said that night that if He could do anything with me, that I’d gladly walk that way with him.

Almost two years, my Christmas dinner was potatoes with a ton of butter. No, there was a smorgasboard of food available. My throat was shutting down and that was all I could eat. Two days later, I almost died. I found out when I woke up, after almost forty hours in a coma, that I was a diabetic. I had hated who I was physically and went on a crash diet that put me on a crash cart.

I always share this with people. While I was in the coma, I didn’t get an “It’s a Wonderful Life” story. There was no, “Here Frank, this is why you should live.” We’d all love that, wouldn’t we? Here are all the people and the reasons that you should keep going. I got nothing in that coma. It was darkness. Total, complete darkness.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but had I died that night, there would have been no happy ending. My life would have been in a lake of fire, burning eternally. I would have been blaming all those people that should have told me, when in truth I had no one to blame but myself.

God brought me through it. I awoke and gave my life to Him. The coma and the life with diabetes has been my wake-up call. There are still times I don’t appreciate it though. This year has been a tough one. I’ll be honest when I say it has been hard to get into the right spirit this year.

As I started reviewing that piece from last year about the great gifts last night before I went to bed, I began to think of all the other great gifts that are in my life that I didn’t receive on Christmas. I thought of my wife, my three kids, my mom and dad, my friends, my church and each of you that actually take the time to read anything I write. I am blessed. Sure, I may not be a millionaire, have my own TV program or a nationally syndicated weekly column. As KJ-52 says, “…I have a scratched up used I-Pod. But all I need is God. All I want is God, even if you think that’s strange and odd.”

So this week, think about what Jesus means to you. Not just in the Christmas season, but year round. He’s not just a present to open once a year, but He’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Tomorrow, I encourage you to read my last column before Christmas. It’s the story of a man, born to a virgin, that became a Savior to us all. His name is Jesus. His birth, life and death was like no other. He’s the reason that I have a column to write tomorrow.

Starting Saturday, with interruptions by some special guests on Monday and Tuesday, I am presenting you with some of the best writings of my past year. On Sunday, I share my testimony. I admit, it’s a little long. But the story of the 16-month adventure to my Jesus from December 1992-April 1994 is a great read. I’m not sure exactly what Saturday and Wednesday are yet, but they’ll be good ones, I promise.

On the 31st, I look back at how the ministry has done in 2009. I share honestly if we’ve met the challenges that God set in my heart a year ago. Finally, to open 2010, I’ll share where God wants One Man Revival to go next year on January 1st. I can’t thank you enough for being part of the adventure, letting the revival begin in you.

I love you guys!
Merry Christmas!

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