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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas in Heaven

Well, Christmas Day 2015 is now behind us, but I was thinking the other day about my dad. He passed away a year and a half ago. I suppose it's pretty common to think about people you've lost at Christmastime, which since Christmas is a joyful, celebratory time, seems a bit paradoxical. But, it happens, and it was happening to me. I was wondering something that I'll bet a lot of people missing their loved ones at Christmas wonder: I wondered if they celebrate Christmas in Heaven?

I mean, obviously Jesus is as central a figure to people in Heaven as He is to us still on Earth. Maybe even more so in significant ways, since He is bodily present in Heaven! So, wouldn't they want to celebrate His incarnation as the Savior who got them to Heaven in the first place?

But to most accounts, time is not the same kind of thing there that it is here. I don't know if, to an occupant of Heaven, it even makes any difference at all whether or not it is December 25th on Earth. Certainly God created the cycle of seasons that make up the year, but Heaven isn't on Earth anyway. There are no seasons there, and certainly no specific dates. There's not even a nighttime! What use is a calendar when there are no day/night cycles, no seasons, and nobody even gets old anyway?

Then I thought about what constitutes "celebrating Christmas" - stripping away things like shopping (but keeping a giving heart in the mix), traditional Christmas stories like Rudolph and Frosty (but of course retaining the one with the manger and the baby), putting up decorations and lights. If you remove the cultural trappings, Christmas means celebrating the amazing miracle of the incarnation of Christ Jesus, and that brings with it the impulse to celebrate! To sing, to give, to love. To appreciate and enjoy those around you. To me, those are the things that really make up Christmas. If I miss seeing a Rankin-Bass special one year, Christmas does not truly lose anything - but if I miss the chance to love others by giving, I miss out on something important.

If those things are the central point of Christmas, then I would say in Heaven, they do celebrate Christmas. They celebrate it every single day! Every day, the risen Christ is a physical reminder to them that He came to Earth to save every human being He could. How joyful of a celebration is that?

And that's why I'm still blogging about Christmas this year, the week after December 25th. Because just because we're not in Heaven yet doesn't mean we can't celebrate Jesus' coming to save us any time we want! I know "Christmas all through the year" has become a bit of a cliché, but for Christians, it is absolutely true. We can celebrate the freedom brought to Earth by Jesus every single day. It's what makes us look to the world like something is different about us! Something is different. Jesus paid us a visit, and we can never be the same after that.

So take a moment today to celebrate Christmas with my dad. With your departed loved ones, too. And with me, and with everyone else that Jesus' coming to Earth has changed forever! Let today be Christmas to you, because Jesus has arrived in your heart!

Friday, December 25, 2015


When Santa Claus gets your letter, You know what he will say:
"Have you been good the way you should On ev'ry single day?"

When Santa gets your letter To ask for Christmas toys,
He'll take a look in his good book He keeps for girls and boys.

He'll stroke his beard, his eyes will glow, And at your name he'll peer;
It takes a little time, you know, To check back one whole year!

When Santa Claus gets your letter, I really do believe,
You'll head his list, you won't be missed, By Santa on Christmas Eve.

-"When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter" by Johnny Marks (recorded by Gene Autry)
I think it's interesting that every story we tell kids about Santa Claus says that Santa gives "bad kids" lumps of coal (or will bring them nothing at all!)... but no kid thinks that they've been bad enough for that. Every kid thinks that Santa loves them enough to overlook the bad things they have done. Nobody is bad enough to tick off Santa! Write him a letter! Tell him what you want - he'll get it right to you!
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. -Romans 3:23 NLT
In contrast, the letter God wrote to us (the Bible) tells us that nobody is good enough to meet God's standard. We're all "bad kids". We all deserve lumps of coal from God. Even worse, we all deserve to spend eternity in Hell!
Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. -Romans 3:24 NLT
The good news is that God sent Jesus into the world to satisfy God's justice - to pay the penalty for what we had done. To bail us out of Hell - better yet, to serve our sentence for us! That's the story of Christmas. It's the first part of God's plan to buy our pardon. To eliminate the eternal consequences of all our sins! What a great Christmas story!
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so!
So why do we find it so easy to believe that Santa loves us enough to do something amazing for us, even though every one of us did something bad this past year... but no matter what we do, God can't possibly love us enough to forgive us for our sins? Why is Santa's love so easy to swallow, but God's is too hard to grasp?

I hope Santa left something cool for you this morning - I'm sure he did. And I also know that God gave us the most amazing, incredible, life-altering gift of all. Santa says: "You've done something bad, but you're still pretty good. I'll just ignore those bad things you did. Here's a gift!" God says: "There is no way you can be good enough to be able to receive what I have, but I love you so much that I'm going to wipe that slate clean and make it possible for you to receive from Me what you need!" Sure, Santa will overlook your flaws. God doesn't overlook your flaws. God has eradicated your sins through Jesus! Think about that today!

Merry Christmas!