Archive for Joy to the World

React…with JOY

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by erikball123

If you’re anything like me, then you’re finding yourself buzzing through your everyday with the Christmas station on. You might find yourself oddly complacent with the fact that Aaron Neville’s “Let it Snow” and anything remotely “Christmas Beach Boy” related is considered fine music “for now.” I think the holiday season is the only time of year I find myself actively letting things fly with regards to things I absolutely despise. (I mean…does anyone actually like the dude who sings Feliz Navidad? Who is that guy? I heard a Jimmy Buffet version for the first time this year and almost wet myself with excitement!) Perhaps it’s the spirit of Christmas. Perhaps it’s good will toward man? Perhaps it’s the long lines, materialism and overpriced Wii system and Wii Fit accessories that I MUST HAVE!! I tend to think it’s the later. Weird? Not really. Joy to the world seems to come quickly around Christmas time…and why not!?

I won’t get into the whole “it’s okay to wish someone Happy Chanukah, but God forbid we say Merry Christmas…instead we blanket a Happy Holidays around everything so as not to offend anyone” thing. That’s an overwhelming argument that I refuse to get into anymore. Instead I’ll continue to say Merry Christmas to the Starbucks cashier, knowing I’ll piss off the occasional atheist. “Thank you for the Latte, Devin…I’ll pray for your soul. Nice eyeliner.”

Instead, I wanna say that Christmas is full of times for us to cuddle by the fire and watch a multitude of seasonal movies about family disfunction that we all can relate to. Tragedy, even in its simplest forms (Clark Griswold, for example) is something we all deal with. Whether it’s stubbing your toe on the cedar chest…or giggling at someone’s impression of Hitler (a mass-murdering poop head)…we all find great comfort in laughing at tragedy and/or someone else’s expense.

Today in church pastor talked about Joy. (I remember…because the pink advent candle was lit.) Here’s the thing…I guess you could say that my mind works like a Swiss watch maker. I tend to over-think things. I take what someone is saying and dissect it over and over to see what was on the inside. While this tends to give me great topics for this blog…it also leaves me over-analytical and paranoid half the time! But, I digress…Pastor said something kinda cool. He said “Joy is not manufactured…it’s a reaction.” It got me thinking about times in my life I found great joy. Personal experiences where I didn’t paint a smile on my face or conjure up a chuckle to accompany someone’s not-so-funny joke. A true, joyful experience.

When I thought of these times…I realized that he’s right. My joyful feeling, and likewise my fond memories of past times were unscripted and they totally caught me off-guard.

As human beings we tend to come together in times of great tragedy. 9-11 pops into my head right away of a time when the whole country picked up a flag and said “I’m an American…and this sort of thing won’t ever happen again, so help me God.” As time went on, our sorrows and memories of that event faded slightly…and we remained proud, but not as proud as that moment when others NEEDED us to be proud. We still feel it. Anytime I see footage of that tragedy, I’m transported back to that day when I felt united with a country I believe in, and people I care about.

Christmas has a tendency to do that for us. You don’t have to be a Christian to have to believe in Peace on Earth and find comfort in family and friends in a season of giving. You don’t have to send cards to people you never talk to, or sings carols, or drink egg nog, or tune the radio station to Karen Carpenter or Burl Ives. Santa Claus is lots of fun…but he can’t stuff Peace on Earth in everyone’s stocking.

The Holiday season is a time for remembering. I have a friend who lost someone very dear to her this past week. I have a student who cried when we as a school group sang for a senior center, because she misses her grandma, who was called home last year. I have family far away that we will not be seeing this Christmas because of financial concerns and the trip is expensive. But in light of these “tragedies” (big or small)…we can find hope. That’s why tears flow…that why a song on the radio, or the smell of gingerbread, or the sound of a baby laughing can bring us back to a time when we experienced joy. Christmas is a special time of year for just that reason. It’s is referenced and celebrated because of the coming of the Christ child. The Savior that was sent to earth to die for our sins. It’s easy to say “find great joy in knowing that your sins are forgiven.” I have such a hard time imagining that someone would die…just for me. Doesn’t seem possible. But I do believe. And I do find that joy. Not because I met Jesus. Not because I personally witnessed his death and resurrection…but moreso, because I have witnessed what God has done in my life and the lives of those I care about. Christmas is a time for reliving the joy in our hearts that we share with one another. It’s as innocent as the thrill of hope displayed by a child opening a gift….or as complex as someone’s mended relationship that was once sorted, complicated and painful. Joy can be found in all of those things.

When I hear “Joy to the World” on the radio…and I think of the lyric “let every heart, prepare Him room.” I like the idea that perhaps our hearts are indeed filled with joy at Christmas…and as crazy as our schedules get this time of year, we need to remember that the joy in our heart needs to blanket the love we have for our Lord….like a $20 Snuggie. I love my Lord…and I love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Both bring me joy….and I think there’s room in my heart for both.

But I need to make sure that there is.

“…UNTIL THEN, WE’LL HAVE TO MUDDLE THROUGH SOME HOW.”

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2008 by erikball123
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Outside the Faith Lutheran Chapel / Performing Arts Center - Dec. 18, 2008

I wonder if non-believers of Christ handle fragile, glass Christmas tree ornaments with the same “in heaven’s name, don’t even BREATHE…or it may break-like” care as they do their equally fragile, and (some would argue) sensitive beliefs? I betcha they break a few. I also bet…when they do, they simply thrown them away and buy some more.

That’s what is comes down to, isn’t it? A secular Christmas. At least it is for those who have a problem with the inclusion of a religious symbol, a Christmas Carol or even a simple “Merry Christmas.”  Some passers-by are as droopy as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And what about those who sit comfortably in their chairs at home watching A Charlie Brown Christmas? If they decide they don’t approve of Linus taking center stage….they don’t simply sit, endure and complain. No, no, no! They simply press a button and change it to something else, that appeals to their liking.

Christmas is becoming a private holiday that we have to celebrate behind closed doors in order to avoid offending anyone. I mean…it’s “JOY TO THE WORLD” not “joy to those who believe exactly what I do, and appropriately demonstrate it through worship and outward like-mindedness.” That doesn’t have the same snappy ring to it, does it?

It’s as if every cry of “Joy to the World” is accompanied by an  icy snowball in the face of those not wanting to receive it. What’s the matter with proclaiming JOY at the coming of our Savior? Even if you don’t believe in my Lord…what’s the matter with wanting to spread JOY? If you don’t even want that…you can hit the mute button, you know, or change the channel.

Thirty of  my students (the school’s drama troupe) and I wanted to spread the joy and sing carols at a local BORDERS bookstore before sipping cocoa and sending each other off for the Christmas Break. The store we wanted to offer our sleigh-driven merriment was a big BORDERS bookstore located in an area 2 miles from the school next to a BEST BUY and a BED, BATH and BEYOND. A perfect place to fa-la-la-la-la while freezing our freshman fingers off, I thought. We spoke with the manager (and for his protection, we’ll call him Penjamin) who told us that because “only a small amount of Border’s customers are of the Christian faith, we’d be upsetting the others” and he turned us away. (Let’s just forget the fact that the last poll I read marks 82% of U.S. Citizens claiming to be Christian.)

Even after we offered to include secular songs into our “play list” (who doesn’t like a rousing offering of FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, my niece’s favorite.) still, no dice.  I guess the fine print his mission statement includes: No Manger, No Menorah, No….whatever Kwanzaa peeps believe….No Lawsuit. He said that Borders is “very concerned about potentially offending their customers,” but they continue to sell ANY book to ANY person, ANY time. A contradiction, some may say. I found it even more interesting when I visited the Borders website that on the front page there is a large section highlighting the Christmas and Christian books. Under shipping there are several options to get your order there BY CHRISTMAS. And under the staff picks…I found a variety of Christmas CDs and books. Other religious-based offerings were shockingly missing.

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Located on the front page of BORDERS.COM - Dec. 18, 2008

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BORDERS Shipping Options - From Website: Dec. 18, 2008

Granted…I’m sure Penjamin (Santa’s little helper working inventory on the second shift), doesn’t speak for Borders world-wide and I don’t hate Borders…per se. I was just disappointed.  I can’t help but hope that there are businesses, companies, and individuals who still wear their “Merry Christmas” on the sleeve of their coat, laced through their coats arms like mom used to thread our mittens so that we don’t lose them.  But then, my question is, why do people continue to bury their heads in the ground when faced with religion? With all the holiday buzzing and running here and there all around the square…why do people only pause a moment to holler “STOP?”

Wasn’t it Tiny Tim (Dickens, not ukulele) that said he hoped that people would see that he was crippled so that it would help them remember who made the lame beggars walk and blind men see? Why should we be any different? Shouldn’t we be walking, living, breathing examples of the saving grace of Christ? Are we all JUST AS CRIPPLED as poor Tim? Even Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree was transformed when a bunch of people CARED for it.

“Even Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree was transformed when a bunch of people CARED for it.”

Why should anyone else have a say in it? By law there is nothing unconstitutional about displaying religious symbols (I looked it up), and I can’t imagine any non-Christian grabbing a torch and leading a movement to replace the pluralistic Mall-of-America with a secular one. It would be too much work. Then again, so is getting up out of our chairs to change the channel, right? Without the remote, we’re lost.

I want people, young and old, good and bad, frozen as an icicle or warm as a chestnut…to know who my God is. I want them to see that there is a hope of salvation through Jesus Christ…and I want that joy to be the fire that ignites their Christmas spirit.

Did you know that we can all enjoy EGG NOG year ’round? Sure! I know, I’ve seen it in the stores. We don’t need Christmas to come around to sprinkle the nutmeg. “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!” is a call to action. A battle cry! A prayer. A mission statement. A comfort. A reminder. And that sort of thing doesn’t just come around once a year.

We had snow in Vegas yesterday. Lots. Today school was canceled and I celebrated my first Vegas “snow day.” (I also spotted a winged pig in the air too! Ha!) I sat at home looking at the snow falling steadily thinking, “I would have never thought this could happen.” (Then I turned over and went back to sleep!)

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When I woke back up and thought about it…I was reminded that when the Lord comes again…we won’t expect it. There is no Weather Channel that forecasts the coming of Christ.  That moment will surprise us…then we’ll all have to stop for a snow day.

So, why should we allow those that are too busy dealing with economy ruin our Christmas? Why should we let those afraid of minor, potential backlash cancel our merriment? Why should we let things like the weather, the gift-buying, the travel, the unsettled family matters….the hurt, the resentment, the hate….the fear…..why should we let that SNUFF out Christmas, like Scrooge extinguished the Ghost of Christmas Past? We shouldn’t. Ignorance is fleeting…passions soar…emotions run deep…and like any director tells his/her ensemble of actors, “you’ll never appease every audience member.”

Should we force those with equally wet Uggs and frost-bitten agendas to sit, hear, and learn the story of the Christ child? We should want to, I suppose. We should offer, I bet. We should try, I know. But, as sinful beings I suppose we can ONLY try. In the meantime, instead of stirring waters and challenging the boundaries of any store manager’s “borders”….I’ll don my Merry Christmas hat…stand tall….remember the reason for the season….and take my kids to Barnes and Nobel, who gladly accept us.

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