December 16, 2012

Christmas Nonsense

Christmas. The celebration of a child.

Christmas. A season to reflect on the truth that Christ humbled himself and came to earth as a child, a precious baby.

Christmas. A preview of that child who would later lead a world-rocking ministry, die a horrible death, and perform a salvation-giving resurrection.

How do we even begin to celebrate such an awesome event in our earth's history, in our faith's history? How do we celebrate Christ's humble birth to a virgin, that took place in a stable, that was fortold many years ago, which was announced by a multitude of angels to a few shepherds, who ran to Bethlehem to worship their new King, who were later followed by wisemen from the East who used a bright, shining star to map the way to the house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived so that they could bring gifts to honor their holy child?

We make our classroom door pretty.

And we have lots of parties.

And we wear ugly sweaters and swap white elephant gifts, so that we can have a plastic Pikachu that lights up.

And we dress up our 1st graders in sweet sheep costumes for the elementary Christmas pageant.

And we have "Secret Santas" so that we can give more gifts.

And we have more parties and eat too much food and give even more gifts to people who don't really need them. Because that's what we do with Christmas, isn't it? That's what we do with many of our Christian holidays. We do a bunch of things that are actually kind of fun, yet have nothing to do with anything. 

I like to call it: Christmas Nonsense.

It's kind of like getting that picture taken with Santa when you're two years old. You know, that picture where you're face is red from screaming, and your body looks a mangled mess as it tries to squirm out of the lap of a man who smells like beef and cheese? And even though it was torture for you, you plan on doing the exact same thing to your child? "I mean, I'm not going to actually teach my kid that Santa is real, it's just for his scrapbook."

It's kind of like saying you're celebrating "Reformation Day" when you dress your kid up and bring him to church to get a bunch of candy on November 1, instead of October 31. It's kind of like painting eggs and eating marshmallow peeps and coloring pictures of bunny rabbits on Easter.

We all do a lot of things at Christmas time and during other Christian holidays that really don't make sense, a bunch of nonsense actually. "Jesus was born in a stable today. I think I will make my favorite 'triple-chocolate-brownie-fudge-delight-that's-better-than-you-know-what cake' to celebrate. And then I'll sing a song about a boy who played his drum for Jesus at the stable."

It doesn't make sense, which sometimes is okay. It's fun to put up tacky lights on our houses, and cook good food, and bake good sweets, and give gifts, and make a point to see family, and listen to Delilah's radio show, and sing songs about Rudolph, and dress kids in adorable costumes and listen to them sing off-tune in their Christmas pageant, and wear ugly sweaters, and watch "Elf" and "Christmas Vacation," and take a break from work.

I mean, those things aren't only for the people who say "Happy Holidays," right? Those things are for the "Merry Christmas" people too!

I just hope and pray that we may all enjoy this season with our quirky Christmas Nonsense, but that we may also look outside of ourselves to reflect and do things that show the true love and humility and passion that surround Christ's birth. This can be done by simply reading Luke 2, or by reading "Revolution in World Missions" (shout out to my favorite book), or by sponsoring a child who has real needs, or by exchanging gift giving for ministry supporting, or a whole host of other things that aren't Christmas Nonsense. It just means sacrificing a little for others as a reflection of Christ sacrificing his whole life for us.

And for those of us who still like the cliche "Jesus is the reason for the season"...some classic Avalon Christmas...

We are the reason that He gave His life.
We are the reason that He suffered and died.
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live.

I finally found the reason for living.
It's in giving every part of my heart to Him.
In all that I do, every word that I say,
I'll be giving my all just for him.

Grace and Peace...and Merry Christmas,

ps. We are looking forward to seeing you and partaking in some more Christmas Nonsense with you all during Christmas break! Here is our general schedule of our trip home...

December 20: Fly to Grand Rapids
December 21-24: Wisconsin
December 24 -28: Michigan
December 28-January 2: South Dakota/Iowa/Wisconsin
January 2-7: Michigan
January 7: Fly to Guatemala

December 2, 2012

Grateful Hearts

It's the holiday season. We just celebrated Thanksgiving, and December is already here. Although Thanksgiving has passed, we would like to share a few things we are thankful for lately...

First Graders
Thank you, Jesus, for first graders. They are adorable, they teach me patience, and they make me laugh at least once a day. Their innocence and purity is refreshing.

Native Americans? Or posers?

1st and 2nd grade Thanksgiving celebration. (2nd grade = last year's class!)

Elementary singing "Give Thanks" before school's Thanksgiving dinner.

Cheap Traveling
Dear Jesus, we get sad when we don't get to be home for certain holidays. Thank you for the opportunity to live in a country where traveling is inexpensive and helps us stay busy so we don't get too homesick. 

Rio Dulce

Tikal - famous for many huge, amazing Mayan ruins

At the top of one Mayan temple, with others in the background

Mark your calendars and thank the Mayans for building temples but not planning a little bit farther ahead: the world ends December 21.


Collin's dream pet.

A Spanish fort near Rio Dulce. Built in 1651.

Aguas Calientes. The waterfall is very hot, the river below is cold. Relaxing.

Thank you, Jesus, for opportunities. Thank you for the opportunity to lead high school girls in Bible study. Thank you for the opportunity to spend quality time with them on a retreat and carnival day at Eagle's Nest this past weekend. Thank you for laughter.

Friday night retreat in Panajachel with Bible study girls. Baking cookies for the kids at Eagle's Nest. 

Carnival that we put together for the kids who live at Eagle's Nest. (Eagle's Nest = orphanage in Solola.) We had all sorts of stations, such as a candy walk...

sponge races...

corn hole...

a balloon relay...

and tattoos.

We also had a special chapel with all of the children. It was a really wonderful day! Thank you, Carly and Kinsey Bykerk (more SCHS grads!) for helping us get set up.

First Graders
Dear Jesus, did I mention that I was thankful for first graders? Here's just one example why...

Practicing to make a time line. This student happened to be sick "Yesterday."

And thank you, Jesus, that there are only a few weeks left of school before Christmas break. Thank you that we get to spend three whole weeks with friends and family back home. And thank you, that although the Mayans did not finish the calendar, the world will probably not end on December 21, 2012.


Grace and Peace,