Houses Divided at Christmas

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people suffer from depression during the Christmas season. Some are experiencing their first Christmas after a loved one has died. Others worry about the family dynamic on Christmas day–Will Uncle Ralph pick a fight?  Will Cousin Sarah get drunk? For others, the limitations of getting everyone together can create stress and disappointment.

Anyone who’s divorced with children knows the heartache of Christmas. Where will the children be? How do we divide up the time? As the children grow up, marry, and start their own families, it becomes even harder. Which family will they spend Christmas with? Who will we have to leave out? Add to this married children of divorce who have married a child of divorce, and the problem is staggering.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three… Luke 12:51-52

Even though these verses don’t refer to this specific situation, this is another example of why divorce is not God’s plan. We are facing it, ourselves. After many years of Christmases with most of our family gathered together, we’ve hit an interesting crossroads. One child is saving her money to come home for a wedding in April, instead. The others are headed to various family members’ homes, just not ours. Aging parents can’t make the trip.

I know Christmas is not about who is where. It’s about the birth of Christ, and the world’s awareness of God’s gift of salvation. It’s a time of blessings.

But it’s also a time when families gather together.

So, we will be trying out new traditions this year. New ways of approaching the day. On the plus side, we won’t have to rush to get dressed and get the turkey in the oven before family arrives. We can take it slower. And we will see most everyone over the next week. We get a prolonged Christmas.

Someone you know is facing a Christmas alone or separated from loved ones. Reach out to them, share with them your lives, and, most importantly, share the story of Jesus and the hope he brings.

 

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A Lesson From World War I: Christmas in July

lovecloudSometime ago, a dear friend and former pastor of mine, Carl Lancaster, added a “musings” addendum to our church’s prayer list.  He’s been emailing the prayer list to our members for many years now, and I enjoy the times he adds his own thoughts after the prayer requests.  Although this muse from him was based on the upcoming Christmas season, what he says is apropos to us today.  I have slightly edited it to make it current, but otherwise it appears as Carl wrote it.

A little over 100 years ago, Christmas of 1914, World War I had been underway for 5 months.  The Germans were fighting the British, the Belgians and the French.  They were fighting in trenches that were not that far apart.  It had rained a lot so there was mud everywhere. It turned bitterly cold where they were fighting in Belgium and France. In all the mud and the cold it was a miserable existence for everybody.

On Christmas Eve the Germans began singing, “Stille Nacht’ (Silent Night).  The allies applauded noisily and yelled, “more!, more!”  They then took turns singing Christmas Carols and the allies moved on to sing the German anthem and the Germans sang the British anthem.  After they had peeped out of their trenches without getting shot at they began meeting each other on the land between the trenches.  They traded food, tobacco, buttons from their uniforms and other souvenirs.  They discussed the best way to deal with the body lice and the rats and showed each other pictures of their families.  In many areas no shots were fired that night, Christmas day or the day after.  When the commanders heard about this they were irate and forbade any further fraternization with threats of court martial if anyone disobeyed.  Yet it was reported that in some areas soldiers continued to shoot over the heads of the opposing army as late as February!  They had come to recognize their common humanity and consequently had no desire to kill each other!

I have lived through World War II, the Cuban Crisis, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, two Iraq Wars and the Afghanistan War.  However, throughout my life at no other time have I ever heard so much hatred expressed against others even including against others within our own country.  At no time, have I ever know of so many people in so many parts of the world being so intent on destroying, in the most brutal way possible, their fellow human beings!
We remember and celebrate the Prince of Peace in our lives, so isn’t it time for us to declare a truce, a cease fire and to promote peace and goodwill rather than enmity and hate?  It seems pretty evident from the Bible that God does not want those who wear the name of his son to promote strife, enmity and hatred!  Rather He wants love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control practiced and promoted!
I challenge you to resolve to do what you can to avoid anything that would promote enmity or hate toward any person or any segment of
humanity. I further challenge you to resolve not to give audience to, encourage or listen to anyone who promotes enmity or hatred toward anyone, whether it is toward a political party, a race, a nationality or a religion. God doesn’t expect us or want us to agree with everybody.  Rather he wants us, not by enmity and hatred, but by our love and goodwill to change them for the better even including our enemies!  Our very nature gives us the same message. There is no inner peace or joy for the person whose heart is filled with hatred!
NOTE: I, myself, take responsibility for all these remarks.  No one asked me to write them.  I am not writing them to point a finger at anyone.  I was moved when I read again the story of that cease-fire at Christmas 1914!  I am concerned with all the hatred that being voiced in our own country.  If Christian people don’t do anything to promote love and goodwill, then who will????
Carl Lancaster is one of the wisest men I know. I’ve always respected him, and, for that reason, over twenty years ago, Bruce and I asked him to officiate our marriage. I’ve never know a man who understands people as well as he does.

Hark the Herald: A Christmas Nativity Memory

file0002098122241We bustled around in the basement of the church, little children fluttering in our Christmas nativity costumes.  I probably did flutter since, as one of the younger children, I was cast as one of the multitude of angels who appeared before the shepherds.  All we had to do was look cherubic and sing Hark the Herald if we remembered the words.  I wore a white shapeless gown, silver wings, and a halo that wouldn’t stay put.

I remember only bits and pieces of that night.  Many of the smaller angels dreamed of playing Mary or Joseph someday.  Not me.  I wanted to be the herald.  The angel who stepped forward and announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds as they watched over their flocks.  I can still see the girl who acted this part.  To me, she was so much older, but I was maybe three, possibly four, so I’m guessing she might have been thirteen or fourteen.  All I knew was I wanted to announce Christ’s birth to the shepherds and our congregation:

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,
and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:10-14

A few years later, our church quit enacting the Christmas nativity play.  I never got to play the herald, but even today, I still feel the awe I felt over her part in this children’s play.

Maybe that’s why today I want to share Christ’s birth with you.  Why I feel the need to shine His light on the lives of others and help them open their hearts and ears to His remarkable love.

Did you play a part in the nativity as a child?  What part? How did your nativity experience shape your life and faith?