Tag Archives: pagan Christmas

Why I love Advent–Which Starts Sunday! (And a free Advent devotional book for you.)

The ribbons and bows looked funny on that avocado plant, but my little brother and I beamed at our parents, showing off our “Christmas tree.” To their credit they didn’t reprimand us, but the delight my nine-year-old heart hoped to see in their eyes was pain instead. They hated to disappoint us, but they couldn’t encourage such “pagan” behavior. See, I was raised with the belief that Christmas and all its trappings were not of God. Jesus was from God. He was sent to save us. But Christmas was not His birthday, and the Christmas tree was nothing more than leftovers from people who worshiped a false god.

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My first Christmas tree

It was to be another forty years before I owned my first Christmas tree. Perhaps this is one reason I dearly love Advent worship. The process to shedding the beliefs of my childhood and learning to celebrate at Christmas has been long and confusing, but the search has also been pure gold. Since I wasn’t raised with traditions around the holiday, my heart hungered to understand why people did what they did, what God thought about it, and what was right for me.

 

The Advent devotional readings became one of my favorite things, and I’m always on the look-out for a good devotional book—one that makes me think about worshiping Jesus and celebrating not only His birth, but what He came to do.

When I wrote Soul Scents: Flourish, which is a thirteen-week devotional book about my journey out of spiritual, emotional, and mental abuse, I didn’t expect a month’s worth of writing to center of Advent worship, but it’s what God placed in my heart to write. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Captivity of heart, mind, and emotions is the result of abuse and my heart has fought for years to fight out of the captivity connected to my Christmas worship.

Advent cover smallThis fall, as I worked on my Christmas novella series, Tinseled Tidings,  the Lord prompted me to pull out the weeks of Advent worship and off them free on my website. I am pleased to do this. I like to think of it as giving a Christmas gift to all who will receive it! (You can get yours by visiting for free at my website.)*

As I wrote these devotions I found myself typing, “I was created to celebrate. The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.

From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.”

As the words flew from my fingers I grasped something big. I wrote, “It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me. It is life!

The right to be who I am and breathe my own air the unique way He created me to do it!
You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.

But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all that evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.”

As I share those words** with you today, passion rises, jumps, screams out of my body asking, “how about you?” Where has the enemy stolen your joy? Taken away your worship? Lied to you, forcing you into a box of unending self-examination and rules or held you back from enjoying abundance?

My friend we are FREE.

Remember the truth of the beautiful carol, “In His name all oppression shall cease!” and join with worshipers of the ages singing:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim! ***

May God meet you in joy and freedom this Advent season. I hope you’ll download my *free* Advent devotion and let me be a part of that.

From my heart to yours!

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*If you prefer to read on Kindle instead of downloading the free pdf, Selections for Advent is available on Kindle for 99 cents.

**Taken from week 2 of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent

***O Holy Night’s original verse by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847, translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893)

 

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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But We Don’t Celebrate Christmas (1)

~From my heart to yours~

My latest book, Soul Scents: Flourish, releases later this month. It includes devotional thoughts exploring Christmas. For the next few weeks I’m sharing excerpts. It’s my Christmas gift to you!

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(Excerpts from Christmas Memories found in Week 9 of Soul Scents: Flourish)

Christ made us free. Stay that way. Do not get chained all over again in the Law and its kind of religious worship. ~ Galatians 5:1 NLV

The ribbons and bows looked funny on that avocado plant, but my little brother and I beamed at our parents, showing off our “Christmas tree.” To their credit they didn’t reprimand us, but the delight my nine-year-old heart hoped to see in their eyes was pain instead.

They hated to disappoint us, but they couldn’t encourage such “pagan” behavior. See, I was raised with the belief that Christmas and all its trapping were not of God. Jesus was from God. He was sent to save us. But Christmas was not His birthday, and the Christmas tree was nothing more than leftovers from people who worshiped a false God.

It was to be another forty years before I owned my first Christmas tree.

Our daughter, Sarah, was three the first Christmas Jerry and I no longer worshiped in the denomination of my childhood. The church we attended had a tall, two-story Christmas tree. Lovely, it captured my heart and Sarah’s. But steps away from childhood beliefs are often tiny and faltering.

“When are we getting our Christmas tree?” our daughter asked from her booster seat.

“We aren’t planning to get one.” I tried to keep my tone light.

“Then I will go and get one myself.”

Knowing Sarah was too small to carry out her plans, I didn’t answer her. I wasn’t comfortable giving her the theology of my childhood, but I was not yet ready to embrace Christmas, especially the pagan tree. I would belt out “Joy to the World”—oh how I love that song—but trees were a different story. Still the yearning of my nine-year-old heart had never faded. How I craved celebration! How I longed to understand how to celebrate the birth of the one who’d been my faithful companion since childhood.

How hungry I was for freedom.

1a70f259b20f21b688679e5e15d60bcfI watched others I respected. The leader of the women’s Bible study and I had a conversation about the origins of some of the Christmas decorations. She agreed that many had been used in pagan worship.

“Then why are you comfortable with them?” I asked.

“God knows the intent of my heart. I don’t see pagan symbols, I see beauty that draws me to worship.”

I pondered her response.

Always seeking. Trying to understand.

One friend shared with me about an especially intimate time she’d had with Jesus. One night after her family was in bed He prompted her to grab her journal and come away with Him for some alone time saying, “Come sit under the Christmas tree with me.”

It was hard to process. If the tree was evil, why did Jesus invite her to sit close to it and enjoy its beauty?

Maybe it was that picture of intimacy which most broke through my reserves.

I longed to savor the magic of Christmas with Jesus.

Eventually I embraced the idea of celebrating Jesus, from the heart, at Christmas time. But the progression of thought about how to do that has been a life-long journey. Jerry and I struggled for years with what was “right” and what was “wrong” in a nativity celebration.

As I look to the Advent season this year, I think worrying about the “hows” and “whats” of celebration miss the point entirely. What I truly yearn for is freedom to worship. However and whenever I feel the desire rise up within. I want to think less about the “right” way to worship and simply do it in joy. Christmas was stolen from me. In my desire for purity, I missed the freedom of redemption. In my efforts to follow Jesus perfectly, I missed an opportunity to worship Him fully.

A few years ago I walked through our neighborhood alone as dusk turned to night, and holiday lights began to flicker. As I passed one particular house, I gasped. Through the clear glass door I saw a glow that literally stopped me in my tracks. The beautifully appointed staircase with its carefully wrapped greenery, red bows, and glowing white candles took my breath away. As holiday decorations go, I suppose it was actually somewhat simple, but it was so lovely that my thoughts immediately lifted to Jesus. I stood on the sidewalk worshiping the most beautiful One of all. The King who willingly left heaven’s splendor with one goal—my redemption.

Jesus, You are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thank you for emptying Yourself of the splendor of heaven to walk among us on this earth and pay the redemption price. I declare You worthy of worship and glory and praise and splendor. You are my Loving Savior. Please lead my Christmas season. Help me feel free to worship with as much—or little—pomp as this year calls up within me. Let each holiday action remind me of You. Fill my home with peace and worship.

Until Tomorrow,

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