Category Archives: Christmas

Last Year I Gave You My Heart, Now It’s For Sale In a Resale Shop

Three years ago I wrote about my disgust with a familiar Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” That was three years ago…

This is now.

Back In 1984

I was a senior in high school; I was infatuated with Pheobe Cates and Susanna Hoffs; I drove a 1979 Pinto station wagon, and that Chrismas season the English pop duo Wham! released “Last Christmas.”

The year was 1984.

George Michael (the famous half of Wham!) wrote “Last Christmas,” and in the end donated all royalties toward the Ethiopian famine relief. However, it’s my belief that there was an alternative purpose for writing “Last Christmas.” Besides feeding the hungry, the idea was to create a song which every new and up-and-coming talentless pop star could record in lieu of composing something original.

It was December of 1984…the year the movie Dune came out. No wonder I hate this song.

It’s Now 2017

It is now December of 2017, and everyone from Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Swift, to Crazy Frog and Gwen Stefani has done a cover of “Last Christmas.” Just about every time I get in the car and turn on the radio, or walk into any store, restaurant, or torture chamber, “Last Christmas” can be heard degrading the airwaves.

You know, if mankind is supposed to be evolving, why doesn’t Gwen Stefani just do a cover of Handel’s “Messiah”? Oh, yeah, I forgot.

Why I Hate It

So what is my gripe about “Last Christmas”? I’m glad you asked.

It’s the chorus…the chorus that gets sung over, and over, and over, and over again.

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart / But the next day you gave it away /

This year / To save me from tears / I’ll give it to someone special.” – George Michael

Questions:

  • Was the person this song was written about not a special person when the singer’s heart was given away?
  • If this year you’re going to give your heart to “someone special,” what does that say about the person to whom the song is being sung? Was she nothing more than some floozy you met at the ski lodge? Did she wake you up before she went went?
  • If you’re in the habit of flippantly giving your heart away to non-special people – people who think so little of your heart that they give it away the very next day – what makes you think this year’s “special” person won’t do the same on December 26th?
  • I can see how a person would receive a heart, like during a transplant, but how does one “give it away” the very next day? Does one say to a new lover, “Hey, baby, let me give you this heart – some other guy gave it to me yesterday for Christmas”?

The Answer

The other day my wife and I stopped by a charity to donate some items for resale. Before we unloaded the items we no longer needed, my wife asked, “Do you want to go inside and look around?” “Sure,” I replied. “Anything to make you happy.”

A few minutes into our exploring of used or discounted items, my wife saw this strange, yet interesting music box sitting on a shelf. She said, “Look…a music box…it’s different…I wonder how much they want for it?”

Valerie reached up and turned the music box up on its side, and then she asked me to look at what she saw. Immediately I was struck with the awkwardness of the message and realized there was a potential blog post waiting to be written.

Here was the answer to at least one of my questions to George Michael and all of his subsequent knock-offs. Obviously, George was giving his special and non-special Christmas relationships tacky music boxes…

And they gave them away. 

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Filed under Christmas, Humor, music

Shopping – Evidence We Need Jesus

Last Minute

I will confess, I’ve not yet purchased any Christmas gifts for my loved ones and friends, all except for one particular gift that I’m more excited to give than any other ever. I really don’t care if anyone gets anything for me, just as long as they keep Jesus the main thing this year.

However, I did play the part of a loving dad and stood in a cold Black Friday line in front of Best Buy with two of my daughters

The Perfect Gift

But this whole shopping thing got me to thinking: will we ever find the “perfect” gift? So often people spend hours and hours navigating traffic, long lines, websites, and clearance racks trying to find a gift that is just right, one that is just “perfect” for the recipient. Color, size, flash, style, and price all play a part in trying to determine how the gift will be received – will they love it or hate it? Who knows?

Unfortunately, because of the stress of it all, much gift-giving has been reduced to whatever is on sale or the ultimately non-personal gift card. The fact is that the “perfect gift” is an illusion, or a sign, rather, that there is something just beyond our grasp – the real perfect gift.

Already Given

You see, here’s the thing: the only “perfect gift” has already been given; all other gifts pale in comparison. Jesus – the meaning of the season – was the Perfect Gift from God to man, making all other gifts mere reflections.

Seriously, what other gift can compare to the One that was delivered in Bethlehem?

  • He was given at the perfect time (Galatians 4:4);
  • He was wrapped like no other gift could ever be (Luke 2:12; Philippians 2:7);
  • He was exactly what everyone in all the world needs (Luke 2:11);
  • He was the greatest expression of love the world would ever see (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

There’s nothing you’re going to find at any mall or specialty store better than what was already given two thousand years ago. Our search for the “perfect” gift is nothing more than a sign – that there’s always something better, something that can’t be purchased, something only grace can provide.

Have a merry Christmas!

(The following video was made a few years ago. It features my wife, Mr. Monkey, and our little dog Nugget – we miss him very much ☹️)

https://youtu.be/fVOSYAjUvJo

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Santa Claus Is Riding My Bus

Larry’s On Board

This morning, as I was pulling off the lot with my school bus, one of the dispatchers waved me down. “Are you still going to be having surgery?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied.

“So, you’re gonna be out after the first of the year?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect!” she exclaimed. “I want Larry to ride with you this morning, because he needs to learn your route…he’ll probably drive it while you’re gone.”

So, no big deal, Larry stepped on to my bus and took a seat. But it’s Larry…not Larry the Cable Guy…but Larry the Santa Claus.

Santa’s On Board

Larry not only looks like Santa, but he is a professional Santa for hire. Larry dresses up and poses for photos with children – like as a mall Santa, etc.

So, when it came time to pick up my elementary students, I told Larry it might get amusing – and I was right 🙂

Earlier on my route I told Larry (a.k.a Santa) that my young kids are not bad, just a little unruly. However, once the little loudmouths saw this older man with a familiar appearance sitting in a seat on their bus, taking notes, attitudes were strangely calmer.

Not one child asked the obvious question, but it was obvious in their glances and demeanor. It was clear what the sneaky little cookie snatchers were thinking: “He looks like Santa Claus…but he’s riding a bus…but he could be Santa…he’s probably not…but what if he is?”

As we approached the school, I began softly singing – just loud enough to be heard – an altered version of a classic Christmas tune.

“You better watch out / You better not cry / You better not pout / I’m telling you why / Santa Claus is riding your bus.”

I looked in the student (rear view) mirror and saw the emotionless, yet slightly-anxious faces of quiet children, all looking forward, except with their eyes darting back and forth in the direction of Larry…

…or was it Santa?

Jesus On Board

It shouldn’t be difficult to guess the spiritual application of this story. What would you change about how you act in life if Jesus were to ride along on your bus?

Oh, but that’s silly, isn’t it? Jesus wouldn’t just show up one day and ride with me to school, would He?

I don’t know. Could He? Does He? Actually, yeah! All the time. Consider these two verses alone:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me. – (Jesus) Matthew 25:40

[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. – Hebrews 13:5

I guess you could say He’s one of those children I transport…or not…or maybe… And beside that, as a believer, He’s always with me. Hmmm, maybe I should quit laughing at the kids and start treating them more like I would treat Jesus, should He ride my bus.

And He does, you know.

How are you behaving on YOUR school bus?

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Fear In the Christmas Story

Christmas Sermons

You may have never considered it, but it’s a challenge to come up with Christmas sermons year after year without being too repetitive. Sure, one could simply preach through Luke 2 every year, but a little creativity can go a long way.

This year I will preach a couple of sermons I have preached in other places, but they will be new to the folk here at South Soddy Baptist. The first Christmas sermon of the year will be based on the notes I’m going to share with you this morning.

To Fear, Or Not to Fear

Did you know there are actually some honest-to-goodness phobias related to Christmas? Here are just a few.

  • Selaphobia – the fear of flashing Christmas lights.
  • Ghabhphobia – the fear of presents or gifts.
  • Krikophobia – the fear of church services.
  • Cyssanophobia – the fear of kissing under the mistletoe.
  • Festivalisophobia – a phobia of the whole Christmas thing.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be any wonder that we can find several places in the Bible where angels told people to “fear not.” Folks back in Bethlehem around 2,000 years ago probably didn’t have a fear of kissing under the mistletoe, but they had every reason to be frightened by talking beings clothed in bright light telling them about babies in mangers, virgin births, and wedding plans.

The story of Christ’s birth is associated with great joy, but it was also full of great initial fear. At least one person in the story (King Herod) never got over his phobias and paranoia, but he never heard an angel tell him “fear not,” either.

Below are my notes/outline from which I will deliver this morning’s sermon at South Soddy Baptist Church. When you have a moment, read the Scriptures I reference. See for yourself what the Spirit has to say.

“Fear In the Christmas Story”

1. Luke 1:12  Zacharias (a faithful, praying priest) was “troubled” (G5015, tarasso), and “fear”(5401, phobos) fell upon him.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not…thy prayer is heard.”

2. Luke 1:29  Mary (a confused young girl) was “troubled” (1298, diatarasso)

The angel said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.”

3. Matthew 1:20  The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph (hurt and scared) in a dream and said, “fear (phobeo) not to take Mary thy wife…”

4. Luke 1:65  “Fear (phobos) came on all that dwelt around” Zacharias and Elisabeth when Zacharias’ “mouth was opened…his tongue was loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”

5. Luke 2:9  The shepherds were “sore afraid” (phobeo phobos megas) …see also Daniel 10:7-8 and Revelation 1:17.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

6. Matthew 2:3  Herod, because the wise men asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews,” was “troubled” (taraso), and all Jerusalem with him.

7. What should we take away from this today?

  1. True holiness will expose humanity’s sinfulness.
  2. Godly fear will be answered with peace, result in obedience, and respond with praise.
  3. The fear of Christmas will manifest itself in hate, a lack of peace and joy, and no hope.
  4. If you trust in Jesus, He promises the peace of Christmas year-round. John 14:27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Boston Psychotherapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin (an agnostic) said: “[Some atheists are] not unlike the bully who pushes other people down in order to make himself feel better. There are atheists who have a very uncomfortable belief about [their non-belief] they feel the need to push other people down. There is an emotional confusion among some atheists that drives them to promote their product on others [to make them feel better about themselves]. – From an interview on Bill O’Reilly, 12/2/14

 

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Please Don’t Ask This Question

It’s Inevitable

Every year I get asked the same question from the same people, and then a few extra (I’m always meeting new people). It is a question that is usually, if not always, asked with only good intentions. However, it’s a question I hate to hear, much less answer.

As a matter of fact, last week our oldest daughter sent the question to me via a text message. I did not reply.

What was the question? What did she ask me with a text? What did she ask that others have also begun to ask?

“What do you want for Christmas?”

I hate that question.

What Is a Gift

I guess what really bothers me about the whole question is the fact that I’m being asked. You see, if you want to give me a gift, give me a gift. If, however, you don’t know me very well, and you have no idea what I would like to receive, don’t ask me – that’s cheating.

Folks, I  am at the age where most of the things on my “wish list” are beyond my budget or I’ve already deemed them an unwise purchase. Otherwise, I’d already have them. For example, I can’t afford a Rolex, but I’d love to have one. On the other hand, I’d hate to know I was wearing a timepiece that cost the equivalent of a mission trip that I could have taken.

Just last week my wife suggested, “Why don’t you just ask for something you need?” Well, then, would it be a gift? No, it would be asking for charity wrapped in shiny paper.

If you want to give me a gift, seriously, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If it does, and it was from your heart, then fine. However, the gifts that mean the most to me are those that imply you’ve made the connection between the gift, the giver, and me. The gift I want is one which tells me, “This gift is because I care; I thought of you when I got this.”

What is a gift? Actually, a gift is something special. If it’s not special, then what is it, exactly?

Why the Gift?

Stop and think about it, my friends. Why do we give gifts during this time of year, anyway? It’s because God “gave his only begotten Son” to those He loved, who needed Him, who couldn’t afford Him, and in most cases didn’t even know how or what to ask for.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. – 1 John 4:9 

Thanks [be] unto God for his unspeakable gift. – 2 Corinthians 9:15 

So, don’t ask me what I want – it might not be what I need. Don’t ask me what I need, because needs change, and sometimes I don’t know what I need more.

Just think of me, think of what might put a smile on my face, and let it be from your heart – that’s what matters. The best gifts I’ve ever received were the hand-made little trinkets my kids have created, so money shouldn’t be a concern – unless you’ve got it to burn, of course 😉

Whatever you do, do it with love. That’s all that matters. After all, isn’t that Who the first Christmas Gift was?

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Before the Fullness of Turkey Was Come

Galatians 4:4 (KJV) But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…

Remember that verse…

This morning, as I was driving in to work, I turned on the radio and tuned it to one of our local Christian stations, 103.1. It was 6 a.m., and I was anticipating something spiritual, something encouraging, to start off my day.

The time has not been changed. It was actually 6, not 7.

What did I hear when turned on the radio? What did I hear when I turned on the radio this morning on the 20th day of November? What did I hear when I turned on the radio three days before Thanksgiving?

I’m ready for some mistletoe and kissing…”

Uuuughh! Noooo! Not now! It was dadgum Christmas music, and the heathen kind at that!

Folks, why can’t we learn from Scripture? If Jesus Himself didn’t come to Earth until the appointed time, why on earth can’t we hold off on the mistletoe and kissing till after Thanksgiving?

For crying out loud, can’t we take a moment and show some respect for all the turkeys who gave their lives so that we could manage to be thankful?

Good grief! Can’t we just wait till the fullness of December has fully come? At least till the 25th of November?

Probably not. That’s why I’m not going to listen to anymore radio until I’ve prepared my first leftover turkey sandwich.

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Blues and Better

The following post was originally posted in 2013. The truth of it is even more relevant today.


Post-Christmas Blues

At some point in your life you have probably experienced the “blues” after Christmas. You know, those sad, melancholy feelings that come after all the expectations of Christmas day are over? They’re the “now what?” feelings.

Well, it took a while, but sometime this afternoon I began to feel depressed and kinda sad. In one way I was glad everything was over, but then I was also sad that there was nothing more to look forward to.

Next on the list? Clean house, clean carpet, paint a cabinet, plan sermons, clean a garage, wash windows and blinds, and wonder how to repay what we just borrowed to make people happy for one day.

Post-Christmas Perspective

But if you have experienced the blues after Christmas, be thankful. Being sad that the expectations of this world only bring temporary happiness is a good thing – actually, it’s a great thing! It means that there is something else…something more…something better…something that won’t get old the next day…something that will leave you never having to wish for anything ever again.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The post-Christmas blues are just reminders that I haven’t made it home.

“I’ll Rise”

Several years ago I wrote a song talking about a place better than this one, a place called Heaven. This year, standing beside a Christmas tree and surrounded by crumpled wrapping paper, my daughter wanted to sing it.

You can believe that this world is all that there is, and that’s OK. If you are right, then an infinity of nothingness won’t bother either of us. However, since no experience in this world, even the best Christmas present, can satisfy for long, I am going to assume there is better place, somewhere beyond the “blues.”

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Filed under Christmas, Faith, Future, Relationships and Family, the future, Uncategorized, World View