December 2010


Comfort –

and JOY –

With love, peace, and blessings,

The past couple of weeks have been fabulous, and I’m really looking forward to the events to come in the next two.

Right now, I really should be doing laundry instead of blogging, though, so I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures.

On December 19th, we officially joined our church and became Methodists, and welcomed Madeline into the family of believers. God’s grace is such an incredible thing. It really is difficult for me to fully wrap my brain around it. But, we are covered by it and saved by it and we have vowed to raise Madeline to know how wonderful and powerful it is. Thanks be to God!

Let the Christmas spirit abound!!

As you can imagine, there will be much more to tell as the Christmas season progresses. I helped Santa shop for Madeline and I think she’s going to be quite happy with her rewards for being on the “nice” list. (Every single gift is pink and girly. Shh! Don’t tell Dan!)

Tune in for Christmas pictures!!

Yeah, I know. I said I would post last night and I didn’t. We live in a litigious society – sue me.

Let me just say, upfront, that I know everyone has their own way of thinking when it comes to faith practices, zeal, holiday observances, etc. Just because I have some pet peeves does not mean that I judge myself to be more “right” in these matters than anyone else.

I do love the Christmas season. I love the reason we celebrate it and my feelings on the miracle of Jesus Christ are too many to confine to one blog post.

I do not, however, believe that I have to wear a sweater proclaiming MERRY CHRISTMAS and earrings that depict manger scenes while cheerily shouting, “Jesus is the reason for the season!” at each passerby for the entire season of Advent. That would not make me more Christian, would it?

Does it mean that I am anti-Christmas, or even anti-Christian, if I recognize the significance and validity of Hannukah? Nope. I still love and serve my Savior.

So, then why do we expect retail stores to dress their employees like shepherds and wise men and proclaim the Good News from behind the cash register? Why would we assume that saying “Happy Holidays” means that an establishment is anti-Jesus and needs to be boycotted? Um, self-righteous, much?

The other point of the article is that if you’re making Christmas about your experience in a retail store, you’re missing the point. It’s not about that. Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with what you buy in a store. It’s not about what the cashier in the store says to you as you finish making your purchases and walk out the door. It’s not about how much you spend or how many gifts you give to which person. If you think it is, YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT!

It’s about peace and the child who came to bring peace. It’s about love and the child who was born to teach us to love. It’s about hope and the child who was born to bring us hope. It’s about forgiveness and the child who was born to teach us the ultimate lesson in forgiveness.

It’s about the baby who was born in the dirty, mucky barn and grew to be a carpenter, just like his earthly father. He was never wealthy and it never mattered to him how many brightly wrapped trinkets people gave him. That’s not love.

He is love.

I borrowed this link from a friend’s Facebook page because I knew she wouldn’t mind.

http://www.popehat.com/2010/11/19/jesus-may-be-the-reason-for-the-season-however-jesus-is-not-the-reason-you-are-shopping-at-dicks/

There are a couple of links I’d like to share, which have thought-provoking messages for us to consider this time of year. I believe they encourage us to be grateful for what God has provided and to put more stock into the real reason we celebrate Christmas. It’s not “Giftmas” or “Travelmas” or “Spendmoneymas” or even “Make-Sure-Everyone-Observes-YOUR-Traditionsmas.” It is CHRISTmas.

It really shouldn’t be about putting pressure on ourselves. It shouldn’t be stressful.

That’s not what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Here’s the first one. I’ll post the other one later today.

Pastor Kip’s e-Letter  
 
Asbury United Methodist Church

One Asbury Way
Birmingham, Alabama 35242
 
Website: 
 
All of Pastor Kip’s e-Letters:

 

December 15, 2010  One of my favorite pieces of literature to read during this season of the year is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It seems to always hold a fresh and special magic for me each holiday season.  There is one portion of the story that has always fascinated me. The Ghost of Christmas Past has just paid a very disturbing visit to Ebenezer Scrooge. Clearly the old penny pinching miser is shaken by the eerie episode. But when he awakens from his sleep, he simply dismisses it by famously saying: “Bah, humbug! It wasn’t real. Just a bit of last night’s undigested beef.”  Scrooge seems incapable of taking the message to heart. 

It is a question that always haunts me at Christmastime. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals scrounging for food? Would I have spotted the star in the sky, and would I have had the courage to follow? Would I have comprehended the message of Emmanuel, “God with us”, or would the cosmic implications of that evening been totally lost on me?  Would I have been like the Magi and had the honesty to stop and ask for directions to the manger? 

I know what you are probably thinking – If I had been there at Bethlehem that night I would have understood what was taking place.  I would have understood.  Would you really?   

There is one way of knowing: Ask yourself what you are really seeing this Christmas Season. When you went out to do your shopping did you see only masses of people in the stores pushing and shoving for the latest deal, or did you notice the worried expressions on some of their faces…people needing to hear a word of hope?  Do you see the burdens hordes that are facing this Christmas without employment and unsure how they are going to make ends meet.

You need to also ask yourself what you are hearing this Christmas.  Did you hear only the redundant sounds of music and carols, or did you hear the heavy sighs of the lonely and the bereaved who may be dreading Christmas because it only accentuates their loneliness?  Can you hear those who seem to be skipping Christmas because it is just too painful to celebrate?  And in the midst of the honking horns and people arguing over parking places at The Summit, did you hear the holy sounds of laughter that will come from downtown because someone furnished toys for impoverished children? 

You see, so often what we see and what we hear centers on ourselves instead of others.  If we can but take our eyes off our own desires this Christmas, we just might have understood the meaning of what happened in Bethlehem so long ago.  In the end perhaps one of our carols says it best: “No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin. Where meek souls shall receive him still, the dear Christ child enters in.”

 

May it be so in your life this Christmas!

Pastor Kip

 

 

Last Christmas was, technically, Madeline’s first. But, she was three weeks old and slept through it; I was tired, Dan was tired, and we were so focused on adjusting to having a baby in the house that we didn’t even get a tree. Don’t get me wrong – it was a wonderful Christmas! Who wouldn’t love a Christmas morning with a tiny bundle of sweetness to cuddle?

But, this is Madeline’s first Christmas for watching Christmas cartoons, listening to Christmas carols, opening presents and playing with them, and being mesmerized by the pretty lights and Santa. I’ve almost gotten her to say Ho! Ho! Ho!

I’m very excited for this time of year. The weather is colder. There are lights, trees, and ribbons everywhere. Christmas carols are being played and sung at church. The Carpenters are singing “Merry Christmas, Darling” on the radio. Oh, and did I mention that I love giving gifts and seeing how much people enjoy them?

SO, to all you Grinches and Scrooges out there who look at the negative things about the season (the debt, the mess, the traffic)…

…Yeah, I’m talking to YOU!

Keep your Grinchyness and Scroogeisms to yourself, or take them somewhere else. Just because you are choosing to have a nasty Christmas attitude doesn’t mean the rest of us are going to let you ruin it for us. Sweet Pea and I are going to HoHoHo and Falalalala from now until December 25th. You’re going to hear it, you’re going to listen, you’re going to smile, and you’re going to LIKE IT!

Oh, and one more thing.

Santa Claus is watching you.

Happy Birthday to our beautiful girl!

Sweet Pea is a whole year old!! Can you believe it? We celebrated the day with family and close friends. And, the only kids there are still waiting to be welcomed to the outside world (and, of course, those who are still kids at heart!)

!

Gotta love a birthday girl with a cake-stained face!