my light grows dim

Advent is a time of waiting…and a time for hope. I’m off to a rough start in the hope department.

Every day we pull down a day from our Advent calendar. Every day I read a short story from the Bible and a very short devotional. It’s very much like the Jesse Tree devotionals for kids. It follows each of the Bible stories about why we need a savior in the first place.

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Tonight we read the creation story at dinner. About how it was all perfect in the beginning.

At bedtime, Charlie randomly chose a story out of his Story Bible–the story of God telling the prophet Isaiah about a Savior that would come. About “Operation No More Tears.”

I want to believe these stories so much.

The simplicity of the story in Isaiah for this children’s Bible. They put it in the form of a letter from God to Isaiah that he needed to share with people. It spoke of a baby being born to a girl with no husband. Of a man who would be a king, but not look like a king; in fact he would be very poor. He would fight evil, but he would have no swords or armies…or guns. He would be a Prince of PEACE. He would be the answer to all this awful in the world.

As Christians, we believe that was Jesus.

He came; he lived in poverty; he spread the message of love; he was an early adopter of non-violent protest and civil disobedience. Then he died.

We are told he went to hell for all of us, then came back from the dead to let his posse know he was the real deal. He told them to tell the world about him. Then he went to heaven.

We are told he will come back to fix this mess.

I’m going to be honest here. I am having a hard time believing in the midst of all this shit that keeps happening in our country and in the world. I’m having a really difficult time believing that I can pray, have it be heard, and have it mean anything or have any effect.

I love the message of Advent. I do.  And I so badly want to believe that this is how it works: we wait and hold on to hope and then Jesus makes it better.

But you guys? Do you ever have those dreams where you are trying to tell someone something because it’s incredibly important. So you shout, but nothing comes out. Or you try to get to them, but obstacles get in your way or you get lost or your legs won’t move. And it’s not just frustrating, it’s the worst feeling ever. You are on the verge of a full-on panic attack and may even wake up shaking or crying, most definitely sweating.

That is how I feel when I see this crap unfold, and then like a fool, I look on Facebook or the comment sections and see crap like this:

Problem: Here is this thing that people keep using to kill people.
Solution: GIVE EVERYONE THAT THING.

WHAT???

I just feel like we are throwing prayers into the wind. We pray for the victims, shoot we even pray for the shooters, and what happens? More acts of terror.

I feel like a damn hypocrite almost every Sunday. I show up to teach my 2nd and 3rd graders in Children in Worship all the while second-guessing, questioning the very stories and lessons I am trying to impart to them.

A couple weeks ago I told them about Joseph and how his brothers sold him into slavery. The theme of the lesson was that God turns bad choices into something beautiful. If life is a woven fabric, we humans make stupid choices in threads, but God can take those bad threads and weave them into something utterly wonderful.

But I am having a hard time right now with seeing how more violence is going to turn into something beautiful.

I know, I know…”but Katie, it’s not for you to know!”

Well, right now, my eyes need to see…something. Because the light of my hope is running out of oxygen and growing very dim.

So THIS is Christmas?

I don’t usually like to post about “hot topics,” but Galit convinced me a hot topic is better than no post at all.

Like most of my posts about “controversial” topics, this stems from something I saw on facebook.  It never fails.  This time of year brings out the copy/paste status updates that claim that Christians are under siege and that the government is out to de-christianize Christmas by making everyone use the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This is one of those cut/past updates that caused me to “hide” quite a few people:

WHAT A CROCK ….. We can’t say Merry Christmas now …we have to say Happy Holidays. We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone. If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE …I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions …If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM …

Yesterday I saw this blog post (you may have to scroll to the exact post.  This site is actually blocked at school, so I can’t get you the exact link) and in turn, I shared it on facebook.

I knew I would catch some grief.  And to be honest, I don’t agree with everything the post says, but I do agree with the sentiment.

I believe that Jesus was more than just a “good guy,” however, I concur about the whole nonsense of people getting their panties in a bunch about semantics surrounding the holiday season.

It bothers me to think that people really believe that there is some sort of coup going on to destroy the Christian part of Christmas.

And to go so far as to call Christmas “ours” (um..whose? ) and that they are our “customs” (why is in this in quotes and again..whose customs?) and to call for people who don’t believe to “get out” (get out of where?  The USA?  But we have more than just Christians here…huh.), is simply not, well, Christian.

I could go on and on here giving you the history of Christmas.  I actually know quite a lot about it since I went through a very long doubting and questioning phase, but I’ll just give you the nitty gritty.

But what it boils down to is this:  December has been a month of holidays (yes, plural) for thousands of years. WAY before Christianity even existed.  In fact, Christians placed the celebration of Christ’s birth in December rather than when he was probably born (September or March) because there were already celebrations going on and this way they could justify all the celebrating.

In fact, Christmas celebrations became rowdy, drunken very immoral events throughout Europe and part of the “religious persecution” that Puritans came to the Americas to avoid was due to their disgust with how un-Christian and corrupt these practices became.  The Puritans did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas.  In fact it was outlawed.

Christmas celebrations went in and out of favor right through the American Revolution because Americans didn’t want to celebrate something that was British (since we were trying to find our own identity).

The actual revival of Christmas, which lead to Christmas as we know it, mostly had to do with Charles Dickens’ novel in the mid-1800’s, A Christmas Carol (which is where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from).

Christmas didn’t become a “legal” holiday in the USA until close to the end of the 1800’s when the Christmas card was introduced.

Up until the twentieth century, with The Night Before Christmas  (which is where Santa first appeared as we think of him today), Christmas in the USA was small and religious.  It was with the re-introduction of pagan symbols as part of marketing that Christmas is what it is now.

Sooo…what does all that historical stuff mean?

Nothing if you are celebrating Christmas because you are celebrating the gift of love and hope to the world.

But what about the other “holidays”?

Well there is Kwanza (a strictly USA holiday started in the 60’s) and Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.  People who celebrate Kwanza do not necessarily NOT celebrate Christmas.  Kwanza is a celebration of culture and community for African Americans.  Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday–and not necessarily their biggest (their new year, Rosh Hashanah, is actually bigger for most Jews), but has been made big by the media and marketing effects of the overall season of trying to be inclusive.  And the winter solstice is a collection of many holidays both pagan and religious from all over the world and in many cultures that happen around the same time in December.

What do ALL of these holidays have in common?  They celebrate a new hope.  New beginnings.  Something better for their culture/community/religion.

They celebrate a miracle of newness that brings hope and joy and goodness for this world.

Is it important to recognize that there are more holidays than just Christmas in December?  I think so.

Is it an attack on Christmas to recognize everyone?  No.

Nobody is forcing you to say “Happy Holidays!” I know I tend to say “Merry Christmas!” because that is what my family celebrates.

We focus on the birth of a baby that brought hope and joy and love to so many.

Do I get offended when Target tells me “Happy Holidays!” in their commercials?  No.  It IS the holiday season.  Some I celebrate (Christmas and New Years) and some I don’t.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that we spread cheer and love and kindness.

The point is hope.

And my hope for you is a beautiful season filled with love and joy.  But mostly hope.

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