Tag Archives: Christmas

8 Books for the Christmas Break

So, I officially finished all work for my master’s classes last night. That means – time to read for fun!! So, I thought I’d share my top 8 books for the Holiday Season. Let me know your picks in the comments!!

8. To Be Perfectly Honest: This is a good, beginning a new year, fun, light, but thought-provoking read.

7. The Chronicles of Narnia: You know I love these. Especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is perfect for this time of year.

She made it always winter but never Christmas.

6. The Hunger Games: If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you’ll know that I flew through these and absolutely enjoyed the ride. You won’t even need the whole break to get through all three (and you MUST read all three!!)

5. The Patrick Bowers Files: You will also have noticed that I have been a big fan of these books for the last 2 years or so. These are great thriller novels that go really fast and are great for a snowy afternoon with a cup of coffee.

4. Story: Recapture the Mystery: This is another Steven James book, but it is more of a Biblical Theology that walks through the story of the Bible. I read it around Easter time two years ago, and it was really great. It is a great reminder of what we believe and why it matters.

3. The Judge Who Stole Christmas: This is a good Christmas story revolving around conflict over a living nativity in a small town. The questions the book raises are really interesting regarding faith, religion, and politics, but at the same time it is a good Christmas story. I have posted reviews on books by Randy Singer before, and have really enjoyed the legal perspective that he incorporates into his books.

2. Classics: If you’re looking to read up on some classics over the Christmas Holidays, let me suggest my few favorites. Dracula, The Scarlet Letter, The Phantom of the Opera.

1. Island of the World: if you are looking for something a bit heavy and substantial, then this is the book. This is an excellent description of recent history, an deeply moving book, and just a beautiful, if heartbreaking story told by a masterful storyteller.

Right now, I personally am reading Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres and The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak is the next one on my list. How about you? What are you reading right now?

(You can find review of most of the books listed in this post by searching in the search bar on my blog.)

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9 Christmas Videos

I hope that these bring a smile to your face and remind of you of the meaning of Christmas! Some are fun, some are moving, some are fundamental to the season. (I may have shared some before, but I’ve deleted my previous posts, so there are here for you again, along with some new ones.)

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4. This one made me cry . . . I miss America.

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2. This whole album is great, especially for putting the big storyline of the Bible and Christmas to music.

1. Forgive me, but I share this one as often as possible.

12 Days of Christmas

So, my blogging every day of December didn’t work out so well. Last year on my other blog, I did a series on the 12 Days of Christmas (ELT style). I’m going to carry over the same themes here this year, but adapted to reading, writing, and life in general. Here we go!

12 Awesome Quotes:

All quotes have been taken from Pinterest. The content is not my own. 

Enjoy!!

Christmas is Coming!!

So, Christmas is coming! The excitement is already beginning to infuse every celebrating home and heart. It is nearly impossible to escape! Even here, where Christmas is not celebrated, I have been able to catch a bit of the merriment from the internet -blogs, youtube, facebook, etc. I have been getting increasingly excited about blogging throughout the holidays. I was coming up with different plans and schemes for my blogging schedule, and I still do hope to have lots of posts up over the next month. But, I feel compelled to share something with you before I delve into the excitement of all that Christmas brings.

A Warning for the Christmas Season

I listened to this message yesterday. I would really encourage you to listen to it when you have a free hour – maybe while you’re driving or walking or doing the dishes. This message was a HUGE encouragement and challenge to me. Matt Chandler shares from Ecclesiastes and John a warning about the Christmas season. This season, more than any other in our Western calendar is bursting with excitement and tradition and hope. But, at the bottom of everything in our society, Christmas often tells us that we are missing something. The commercials show us just one more thing that we need to make us happy. The movies paint an idyllic family picture that make us feel like something is wrong with our less-than-perfect relationships. Stories of Christmas merriment seem to leave us feeling like we just don’t measure up. All of these feelings can lead to discontent and discouragement. That is because we have shifted our focus from what Christmas really is about – the birth and life of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world – to temporal things. These things will never satisfy us eternally. Pastor Chandler points out that, yes, these things can feel good – a promotion, a nice car, a new house, things – but they only make us happy for a short time. We are never completely satisfied, because we were created for eternity. Only eternal things can satisfy us eternally. Pastor Chandler quotes C.S. Lewis when he says,

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The challenge for us, then, is to remember that this Christmas, the real meaning is about eternity. It is about something much bigger and better than this life. So, with that challenge, to remember the big picture and the real meaning, Pastor Chandler then encourages us to go and enjoy all the Christmas has to offer. Because we were made for something bigger does not at all mean that we cannot enjoy the things that we have here, temporally. It just means that they should not be the goal, or the end-all. They should not over-rule the eternal aspect of Christmas.

So, yes, I am going to blog about fun and exciting aspects of the Christmas season that have little to do with eternity. But, I want you to know that underneath all of it, the foundation of this season, the real meaning, is eternal. None of the little things will be enjoyable without the knowledge that Jesus is what we are really looking for. He is where eternal hope and joy stem from. Please, keep Him first. Make Christmas primarily about Christ, and then enjoy all of the cookies, the movies, the music, and everything else that comes with Christmas because He has given you the opportunity to do so.

I’m so excited about blogging regularly during the month of December and sharing ideas for making this season special. I’d like to make my first suggestions today about how to make Christmas Christ-centered. Head on over to Dayspring, and download their 25 day Advent devotional cards. They are free, beautiful, short, and perfect for family devotions. Each day presents a promise that Jesus has given to us, and then has discussion questions to encourage you to find a way to claim the promise as your own and make it part of your life. I’d love to hear if you are going to be doing these during the month of December. I’m going to be printing out several sets (they are free!!) and giving them to some families in our church along with an ornament or cookie cutter. Who can you think of to encourage with a month-long devotional packet at the beginning of this season?

Also, I’ve created this desktop calendar to use for your computer background. I hope that it will be an encouragement to remember the purpose of the season and the eternal purposes you were created for. Please feel free to download (right click and save to your desktop) and use it for your own computer! I look forward to celebrating Christmas with all of you!!

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CC8: Peppermint Mocha!

So, Jeremy is allergic to milk. Starbucks has been kind in introducing soy drinks into their menu, but they are pretty expensive. Generally, however, Jeremy sticks with plain coffee because it is safer. Well, I’ve been wanting to experiment with some different coffee specialty drinks recently (I was a barista for 6 months!) This morning I think that I found a good combination.

Dairy-free Peppermint Mocha:

First, brew your normal coffee. (I’m sure that this would be great with espresso, but we don’t have that, so normal coffee it is!)

On the stove, heat up some soymilk (I did a about a cup and a half for two servings.) I added in three squares of a dark chocolate candy bar and stirred until it was completely melted. Next, add one crushed candy cane. I also added two splendas to the milk concoction just to be sure it would be sweet enough! Once the milk mixture is completely melted together, pour it into a mug (it should fill up half of your mug.) Pour your coffee on top, add half a candy cane, stir and enjoy!

It was simple and delicious!

 

CC10: White Elephant

So, we decided on a white elephant last night with a group of friends that I meet with every week. So, today I am thinking about white elephants.

For those of you who don’t know what a white elephant is, contrary to what you’d be led to believe, it is not this:

but something a bit more like this:

A Christmas “White Elephant” is a gift exchange where people bring any gift that they want – it could be something nice, something awful, something laying around the house, etc. Everyone puts their gifts into a big pile, then they all choose a number. Number 1 chooses a gift first and opens it in front of everybody. Then, Number 2 opens their gift. This sounds like a normal gift exchange, but the fun is that Number 2 can choose to either keep her gift or take Number 1’s gift if she thinks that looks nicer. So, inevitably, there is a lot of laughter and hiding and screeching and squalling during this game. People are trying to hide and protect the coveted gifts, while others are just hoping that someone wants whatever bizarre or disgusting thing they ended up with. It is always a lot of fun. I used to do this with my youth group every year growing up, but tonight I was thinking about one of the most fun white elephants that I have done.

We were in Senegal in the summer of 2010, and I was teaching an English course. One of our lessons we decided to do on Christmas. We were going to teach some of the cultural aspects of Christmas, and I decided it would be fun to do a white elephant with our students. So, we told them to bring presents and prepare for the game, but sadly only one student brought a gift. That left us scrambling at the last minute to come up with anything and everything we could before class started. We ended up with gifts like an American dollar in a box, a bottle of sand, a bottle of sunscreen, and a few other odds and ends from our luggage of things we ended up not needing.

That white elephant ended up being hilarious. I think that the most coveted gift was the sunscreen, which people kept hiding and claiming they didn’t have (though they did have white smears on their necks, which were quite obvious due to the color of their skin!) Why sunscreen was so exciting I will never know, especially when the person who finally ended up with it had to come and ask what it was for after the party ended. That white elephant is one that I hope I’ll always remember. It was a good memory, even if it was in June, in 100+ degree weather, surrounded by sand.

Do you have any white elephant stories? I’d love to hear them!!

CC11: Christmas Spirit

How I’ve been getting in the Christmas Spirit . . .

1. Listening to Christmas music every time I utilize public transportation.

2. Reading about the story of Christmas in my storybook Bible.

3. Decorating the house with red accents, a Christmas tree, Christmas candles, and stockings!

4. Singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with my six year olds 15 times in a row.

5. Making a Christmas tree with my class! (see the picture ->)

6. Attempting cookies.

7. Watching Christmas movies.

8. Wearing red sparkly nail polish (for a few days at a time.)

9. Making an Advent Calendar for my husband and getting one from my Mom!!

10. Listening to “A Christmas Carol” on audio.

What are you doing to get in the Christmas spirit this year?

CC12: Christ in Culture

My husband and I had a really good conversation tonight. It’s Christmas time again, so time for the questions about where we can and cannot have Nativity Scenes again. I’m not really going to touch the subject.

But, Jeremy and I were talking about tonight about how important it is for everyone, and Christians in particular to understand culture and how it relates to religion and life. This semester has been an eye-opening adventure for me in respect to issues such as religion, race, class, and ability. There’s a lot that goes into it, and because I doubt my ability to clearly and adequately articulate it tonight, I’m not going to expound.

I would like to mention however, the topic that started our conversation in the first place. The offensiveness of the Gospel. In hearing people get upset and raise issue with Nativity Scenes at this time of year, or many other things that seem to aggravate people at other times during the year (take for instance the Tim Tebow phenomenon), we Christians should not get up in arms, we should not respond with harsh criticism or anger, we should not tell all of the people they’re wrong. Why?  Because, the Gospel IS an offense. The Gospel does make people uncomfortable. It still makes me uncomfortable at times. The people are responding the only way they know how to without Jesus.

We’ve known that this is the case, we’ve read it in the Bible.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief. –Mark 6:3-6

Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” –Romans 9:31-33

But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. –Galatians 5:11

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
I Peter 2:6-8

So, just don’t forget. This is how it’s supposed to be. Not in God’s perfect, restored world, but in a world confronted by the truth of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in that, and pray for opportunities to share the offense.
And, on the topic if Nativity Scenes, isn’t this one beautiful?