Tag Archives: Christmas devotion

Are Christmas Trees Pagan?

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

~ Jeremiah 17:7–8 NIV

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I enjoy beautiful trees wherever I go!

The happy ending to yesterday’s story writes like a Hallmark Christmas movie, and while it is a glorious, joyous memory, the reality of the experience wasn’t quite so simple. It was a huge challenge for my husband to make the choice to bring home a Christmas tree. The teachings that held him back ran deep. He bought the tree out of a desire to obey God and a desire to love me well, but the tree’s presence in our home made my man uncomfortable.

I spent untold hours enjoying its twinkling lights and crisp, fresh fragrance, but for a while my husband avoided the room where it was. He had acted in obedience and love, but the choice went against every fiber of his being. It was hard for him to get used to the foreign object in his home, one he’d vowed would never be there.

Jerry made the choice to buy the tree after praying for many days about a note he’d received from a friend. It encouraged him to buy a Christmas tree, by sharing the following thoughts:

“The tree is Mine,” says the Lord. “It is beauty. It represents how I am forever green, even when life is full of snowstorms and cold winds. When stripped of its leaves it represents the foundation of the cross. And when it produces pinecones it represents newness. . . . It will be a healing tree and a place that marks a new beginning for you. When you look at it you will be reminded that My promises are true. . . . The pagans and the world lay no claim on it for My Word says, ‘Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time’” (Ecclesiastes 1:10, NIV).

I love that my husband was willing to ponder our friend’s message. I love that he went before the Lord and spent the nights tossing and turning and seeking confirmation that those words were really from his God. I love that once Jerry was convinced God spoke to him, my dear husband acted in obedience, doing something completely foreign to his upbringing, something he never expected to do.

We printed out the words about the tree and framed them. It’s important to Jerry that the children and I understand why he made the choice to bring the tree into our home. He did it out of obedience because the Lord showed him that before there was even a Christmas to celebrate, the evergreen tree was created to bring its Creator glory. It stands beautiful and tall as a metaphor of God.

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This tree is at the Briarwood in Golden, CO

I sense a whisper inside that it is also a metaphor of what He does in us. As God remakes us into the image of Jesus, He gives us the strength to stand forever green—alive—even when our life is invaded by cold wind and storm—or heat and drought as today’s Scripture talks about. Sometimes we feel stripped of our beauty, scarred, and yet in all things He works to make us into a symbol of hope and redemption. We experience rebirth in salvation and rebirth as we are healed. He produces new things, good fruit, from our lives.

I hope you enjoy your Christmas tree as deeply as I enjoy mine. As we gaze upon its beauty this year, may it remind us of God’s creative, redemptive heart. May we worship our God as One who is forever green, vibrant, verdant, and alive in every storm, the who helps us choose life in our storms! Even as our hearts lift in wonder of the incarnation, when we look upon our Christmas tree, may we also see it as a reminder of His greatest act of love—the willingness to sacrifice Himself upon that cross, so we can be made anew!

Oh, Lord, how beautiful You are! Nothing in all creation can be stolen from You, debased to be less than it is. Your creation, whether an evergreen tree or a person is beautiful and right, pointing all of creation back to the wonder of who You are. You are forever green no matter the struggles of this world. Help me to be alive, too, not deadened by the storms I’ve endured, but living awake—flourishing. Verdant! You came to earth anticipating the cross. Your act of sacrifice purchased me for Yourself, so I can live in the fullness of who You meant me to be. No one. Nothing. Not in this world or the unseen realms. There is nothing in heaven or earth that can debase me or put a godless mark upon me or take away my beauty. Your act on the Golgotha’s tree promises I am new. Thank You, Jesus for coming for me. As I gaze upon the gaily lit Christmas trees this year, remind me of Your strength and the strength You give me. Remind me that even when I feel stripped, You create a vessel of honor. Remind me that You make all things new. Help me to stand tall gazing at Your beauty, and to believe that You see beauty when You look upon me.

More thoughts about trees coming the next several days.

Until tomorrow,

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Tossing and Turning (5)

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can find this series here.

O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You are the God who keeps his kind promises to all those who obey you and who are anxious to do your will. ~ 2 Chronicles 6:14 TLB

Funny things happen.

imag0270Yesterday I told you about my friend’s vision of my husband bringing home a Christmas tree and how for many years this promise went unfulfilled. Each year we tried to figure out Christmas, and over time we fostered some good family times to look forward to those last two weeks of December, but still I felt stifled, like the opportunity to celebrate in freedom during my children’s formative years had passed me by. Here is the rest of the story.

Strange occurrences marked the days after Sam and I hung the cross in the upper window that year, and I prayed God would help me worship. It started when my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, David, asked if they could move in for a few months between apartments. My first response was to ask if they could wait until January. With the two oldest boys on break from college over the holidays, I simply didn’t know where to put everyone! But the reality was Sarah and David’s lease was up in November, and the boys would return home soon after. I finally shrugged off the worries about wall-to-wall stuff and the reality that there wouldn’t be enough beds. I told Jerry, “We’ll just pile up like puppies and enjoy the family being together.”

My husband just grinned at me. He loves being surrounded by his children.

The beauty of the season began to seep into me. Jerry took me on a date and seemed to actually enjoy the twinkle lights lining the river pathway where we walked. I liked having imag0271Sarah and David home for the little traditions of Sarah’s childhood. Cutting snowflakes out together was fun. David, and Seth’s girlfriend, Amanda, created exotic designs unlike those our original family had made. We hung them in the window, commenting on the unique artistry of each person.

Then Jerry began tossing and turning at night. We typically enjoy open communication, easily sharing our concerns with each other, but when I asked him if something was wrong that we could pray about together his no was sharp. Immediately, he softened his tone, explaining that at some point we would talk about what was bothering him, but that he needed some space to process.

Little did I know he was praying intently about God’s perspective on Christmas and its traditions.

One day my sweet husband asked, “Honey, has it hurt you that we haven’t celebrated Christmas like you wanted?”

“You don’t know?” Oh how I fought to keep sarcasm out of my voice!

“I know it’s not been what you wanted, but has it hurt you? I mean deeply hurt you.”

My tears answered his question.

“Are there ways you haven’t felt freedom to celebrate and worship the way you want?”

After the years and all of the discussions I couldn’t believe he was even asking.

“What specifically?”

Too vulnerable with a pain carried for too many years, I offered a vague answer and excused myself from the conversation. Then I hid and prayed through my emotions. The issue of how to celebrate Christmas had blocked our intimacy for years. I’d felt so alone. I was disappointed in myself for shutting down now that he was asking questions and trying to understand. Later that night when we were alone in bed, I apologized for how I handled the conversation and told Jerry I would answer any question he wanted to ask. I didn’t want anything to come between us and the intimacy we desired.

“It’s okay, honey.” He snuggled up to me, comforting me with his presence. “I got my answer.”

What I didn’t know then was how gently God was revealing His heart and mine to my husband.

How about you? Is there anywhere you feel God’s gentle nudge this Advent season? For Jerry and me the journey is to learn to celebrate, to let go of old teaching, to discover new freedom. Maybe it’s different for you. May He’s asking you to refocus your Christmas. Or to include someone new in your traditions. Or to let something go that you’ve held onto in your celebration. Maybe God is revealing His heart to you in a new way.

Change can be hard. But God’s plans are always good.

Father, Please open my heart to how you want me to worship and celebrate this Christmas.

The story continues tomorrow!

Blessings,

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Vulnerable at Advent

20161201_173427.jpg“We start with intimacy. Longing. Vulnerability,” said our choir director. “We’re moving from Advent to the Incarnation.”

He was talking about the progression of Christmas music we’ll perform at our concert on Sunday, but I heard it with heart-ears. It’s exactly how I feel.

Vulnerable. Intimate. Longing.

How I long for deeper connection to Jesus! How I long for release to joy. To celebration. How breathless expectation both rises in me in hope–and falls within me in fear of disappointment. How I need Jesus to come and meet me in some very tender, raw places. How I’ve tucked myself next to His heart as I ponder. Wait. Wonder.

Advent. The longing for the incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

How confused I get at what that means and how it looks.

I have Christian friends who say the same thing. “I don’t really get Advent. What exactly is that anyway?”

Their admission surprises me. Maybe I thought my background uniquely set me up to not “get” all things Christmas. See, I didn’t celebration Christmas for most of my life. There was no Advent calendar at my house. Heck, there wasn’t even a Christmas tree. Jerry and I grew up in a denomination which taught that Christmas was pagan worship. We left that church twenty years ago, but our struggle with understanding Christmas continues to this day.

My latest book, Soul Scents: Flourish, releases soon. In it I talk about a lot of stuff I’ve never shared publicly before. The last section of the books talks about my struggle with–and longing for–Christmas worship.

I can’t help but wonder if you might relate to my struggles to find Him in this season. Oh, our stories are very different, but maybe you and I both feel a little vulnerable. Hungry for more of Jesus, but kind-of afraid He won’t show up. Or that He will and we’ll miss it.

As I pondered what I want this Christmas season to look like for me, I realize I long to celebrate Jesus and give good gifts. The very best gift ever given is Jesus, and so for the next 25 days I offer Him to you by sharing a little of my personal journey to the manger. I feel like the little drummer boy. I have nothing of earthly value to give you, limited resources, but I offer what I have to give. He played his drum. I write my words. And I give them, as a Christmas present, to you and to Him.

The devotional thoughts I share until Christmas come from Soul Scents: FlourishSome will be published in their entirety; others will be edited for brevity or clarity (since you don’t have the context of what comes before them in the book).

So I hope you’ll journey with me for the next 24 days. Invite your friends. Comment. Send me little Christmas notes via the blog-o-sphere and I’ll write you one back. It’ll be like exchanging mini Christmas cards! Let’s celebrate and journey together.

Until Tomorrow,

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