Christmas Stinks (And I’m glad)

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PRESENTING:

The Yankee Candle Christmas Eve Edition.

Unfortunately, my monitor isn’t scratch and sniff, so I can’t absorb the scent personally.

But it looks like it would be delightful.

One reviewer described the scent like this:

First bought this scent over 20 years ago, and it is our Christmas family favorite. Reminds me of Christmas Eve at church with the scents of the newly decorated trees, and candles burning as you walk into the dimly lit building..a mild scent of sugared plum, with the essence of vanilla…perfect for setting that Christmas Eve ambiance in any room!

It’s enough to make you nostalgic for Christmas Eves gone by.

Except the first one.

The first one didn’t smell like that.  No sugared plums.  No pine trees.

Nope, if they ever made an authentic Yankee Candle scent for the first Christmas Eve it might look like this:

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And don’t get me started on the lovely scent of unwashed Shepherds!

No, years and years before Christmas became an annual tradition, before the whole notion of the Savior’s birth became sanitized and mass-produced, Christmas was in all likelihood a stinky mess!

That’s helpful for me to remember.  Jesus was not born into a sterile environment, under ideal conditions.

No, God chose to come to Earth where there was POOP present!

Poop, and blood, and smelly hay, and smelly animals, and even smellier shepherds.

Christ’s birth was visceral.  Primitive, even.  Organic.

The very earthiness of that first Christmas Eve should inspire us.  Challenge us.

God did not separate God’s self from God’s creation.  Not in the least.

From Jesus’ first breath and first cry, he was immersed in the world.  The beautiful parts, and the stinky parts.

And as anyone who’s lived a full life can attest…

One does not rule out the other.

Merry Christmas!

Mitch

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CAN YOU HEAR CHRISTMAS NOW?

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This time of year, my ears start ringing.

No, it’s not just the salvation army bell ringer, or the bell choir at church.

It’s from all the noise of the season.

Music and parties and pageants and crowds.  So much noise.

I love it.  I love all of it.

But here we are, in the last few days before Christmas, and I wonder:

Underneath all of that, is there something we are unintentionally drowning out?

Something wondrous and awe-filled?

I think so.  And I don’t want to let Christmas come without experiencing it.

And so, here’s Mitch signing off early this week.  (Written words can be “noisy” too).

Instead, I invite you to take a few deep breaths, and read the following quote:

It comes from an ancient song that is based on the writing of the Prophet Habakkuk,

and it just may give you and I what we need to hear most of all.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand.

 

Christmas is for adults, too.

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Everybody always says, “Christmas is for Children.”

Been there, done that.  It was great.

However…

I’d like to raise a few points on behalf of those who find themselves with a few gray hairs.  Or a lot of them.

Christmas is no less magical or profound or sweet or challenging now than it was when we were whippersnappers.

In fact, it may even be better.

Let’s talk about Hope:  I must confess I’ve done my time on the Island of Misfit Toys.  Feeling broken. Not sure where I belonged. But I’ve learned that everyone gets broken.  Everyone feels like a misfit from time to time.  It is the coming of Christ that gives our lives meaning and purpose.  Now I know what it really means to have HOPE!

Let’s talk about Love:  I’ve learned that there is no perfect present underneath the tree.  Hard as we might try, we can’t fit love in a box.  There’s only one gift that truly satisfies to that extent.  It is the gift that God gave to us, so that we might pass it on.  Now I know what it really means to have (and give) LOVE!

Let’s talk about Peace:  Every year I find myself saying, “has the world ever been this bad?”  My attentiveness to the suffering around me has developed, but so has my faith and resolve.  I believe there is no turmoil that the Prince of Peace cannot transform, and I want to help.  Now I know how to look for signs of PEACE!

Let’s talk about Joy:  Whereas once a gadget or a toy would make me giddy, now joy strikes me much more deeply. It is in the presence of family and friends.  In witnessing simple acts of grace.  In the Christmas story.  More than just the excitement of a season, I am reminded of what God With Us truly means both now, and the whole year round.  Now I know the ongoing thrill of JOY!

Oh, I’d never take back those wondrous years of Christmases past.

But that wonder has never left, if we know where to look!

It’s in any heart that embraces the HOPE, LOVE, PEACE, and JOY of Christmas…

and never lets go.

Merry Christmas.

Mitch

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Wonderful Counselor

 

Christmas Quiz:  Which of the following counts as “Wonderful Counselor”?

A.  Deanna Troi, from Star Trek: The Next Generation

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B.  Carl Jung, founder of analytical pyschology.

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C.  Jesus Christ, Savior.

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D.  All of the Above.

– – – –

I could see why you might be tempted to say “D”.

After all, Counselor Troi was a pretty valuable, if fictitious, addition to the crew of the Enterprise.

And Carl Jung (very much real!) made some amazing advances to understanding and treating the mind.

But of all the counselors in all the world, only Jesus can claim that phrase as a bestowed title.

It’s not just a description–it’s a name!

The answer is “C”.

– – – –

In Isaiah, chapter 9 we read these words:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  –Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

– – – –

Awesome words from Isaiah.  We Christians look back at those words and see them as descriptive of Jesus.

There’s Prince of Peace and Mighty God, and even Everlasting Father.

I can see how those all fit.

But why “Wonderful Counselor?”  What is that supposed to even mean?

Does that mean Jesus wants us to lie down on his couch and talk about our earliest memories?

Not exactly…it helps to look at the Hebrew behind the words.

The word we translate as “Wonderful” is a Hebrew word, pele.  It’s a word only used to talk about God.  It refers to something wonder-filled, that only God can do.

And the word for “Counselor” is yoetz. It means to advise, or guide.  It’s less like our modern understanding of talk-therapy, and more like strategizing.

– – – –

When you put the two words together, a picture emerges of Jesus as:

Our Ultimate Guide.

Our Excellent Spiritual Advisor.

Our Wonderful Counselor.

Isaiah could have used all kinds of words and phrases to describe the Child who is to be born, but the Savior that he describes is the very one we desperately need.

Speaking of… if you’re feeling desperate this season, seek out some help.  Sit down with someone and talk it out.

But this Advent journey is an invitation for everyone to make an appointment…

with the most Wonderful Counselor of all.

(He can see you right away.)

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

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