Tag Archives: star of wonder

Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and Missing the Point

3 Dec

Because this overindulgent Elf on a Shelf picture says it all…and it’s funny.

When I was a kid, there was no Elf on a Shelf and the threat of “you’d better behave or Santa won’t bring you anything” was rarely used in my house.  But there was a little game my father and I used to play called “put the crazy 70’s elves in silly places and laugh our heads off.”  Yes, we owned several of those freaky little elves with the vacant smiles (like these).  The elves would appear in various places during the holiday season–on the toilet, hanging on door frames, ripped apart by our Yorkshire terrier (I don’t think that one was planned), and so on.  Certainly we didn’t have the creativity that parents are now using these days with Elf on a Shelf and yet it was enough.  A few years ago, I even though of purchasing a couple of those wacky old elves on eBay for nostalgic purposes, but alas, nostalgia isn’t cheap. (And neither is Elf on a Shelf, almost $30 for a plastic elf and a book?!  Seriously?!)

Maybe it’s because I’m not a parent, but Elf on a Shelf bothers me and not just because you can buy a skirt to accessorize the elf and turn “him” into a “her.”  (I’ve been informed there are now female elves.  Whew!) I’m not even sure how to feel about Santa Claus anymore.   It may sound unholy, but as a kid I was much more excited about getting presents from Santa Claus than the birth of baby Jesus.  I mean, I was glad to hear about His birth and liked wearing a pretty dress at Christmas.  I was taught about the importance of Jesus year after year; it’s just that the presents (like Barbies and My Little Ponies and video games) given in honor of His birthday were more exciting.  Christmas meant a lot of things, but mostly, I’d get stuff.  A lot of stuff.  And have a week off from school.

As an adult, I still get excited about Christmas.  I mean, I’ve got holiday shopping sprees, big church productions, light displays, cookie exchanges, and heartfelt movies about the true meaning of Christmas (which is usually involve meeting Mr. Right or being with family).  I pause to ask myself, is this what the holiday season is *really* about?  I mean, we all remember the Christ child.  Some of us even make a semi-annual pilgrimage to church on Christmas Eve or put up a little nativity scene among all the other inflateables and what not in the front yard’s December light extravaganza.

But what does any of this have to do with the Savior of the world being born?

Scholars don’t even think He was born in December!  It is far more likely Jesus entered the world in the spring time.  The stable was most likely glorified hole in the wall (no, seriously, like a cave) and the wise men didn’t show up until at least a year or two after Jesus’ birth by which time the holy family was living in a house.  Recently, I heard on the radio that Jewish custom always made room for visitors, so it’s more than likely the inn keeper could have made room for Mary and Joseph at the inn.  I mean, who puts a teenager in labor in the barn?  The commentator said perhaps news of the out of wedlock pregnancy went ahead of the young couple and while there may have been room for others at the inn, Mary and Joseph were simply not welcome. (Incidentally,  the song “Just a Girl” by Brandon Heath puts an interesting spin on what may have been the innkeeper’s inner monologue and seems to support this theory.)  Like I’ve said before (read The Awestruck Apathy of Christmas), the real event was sweaty, painful, and dirty…yet miraculous, even scandalous.  Perhaps it was easier for Mary and Joseph to stay in Bethlehem with baby Jesus because their families simply didn’t understand God’s plan (I mean, they traveled to Bethlehem to the census, but we don’t know why they stayed there.)  The Bible doesn’t tell us how either family reacted, only that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist believed Mary’s story.

It’s not that I’m against “Happy Birthday, Jesus” merchandise or photos with Santa or even Elf on a Shelf.  I like my church’s Christmas musical and appreciate a good cookie exchange.  I just wonder, like I do every year, if we’re shoving Jesus out of the our inns as well.  Sure, we  give Him a place out back in the stable.  We’ll say we’re keep the “Christ” in “Christ-mas” and refuse to say “Happy Holidays,” just “Merry Christmas,” but are we really seeking Him?  Are we setting out on journeys like the wise men who followed that star for a year or more, even when the sandstorms whirl around us in the desert, even when we feel like we can’t go on, even when it seems like we’ll never get there (wherever “there” is)?

(This version of “Star of Wonder” by JJ Heller is one of my favorites.  One day I’ll work up the courage to sing it in church!)

I don’t want to miss the point anymore.  I can do all the things I’m “supposed” to do–go to church, buy a present for a needy kid, drop money in the Salvation Army kettle, and say it’s all about Jesus.  I can also live my life on autopilot–say all the right church things, do all the right Christian things, and go through all the motions.  None of that gets me back to a dirty, stinky manger in the small town of Bethlehem.  On the night God came down, all of Heaven watched the sight, but people barely noticed.  Only the lowliest of shepherds paid honor to the King of the Universe.

And I don’t want to get excited about Jesus’ birth because it’s Christmas; I want to be excited about the reality of what He did every single day of my life!  God wrapped himself in human flesh to save you, me, and everyone else!  Can you think of a greater story?  I can’t even imagine it!  Then we, humankind, actually kill God-in-human-flesh and it’s all part of His plan to save humanity from the curse we brought upon ourselves.  Admittedly, I’d go for a happier tale with rainbows and glitter (lots of glitter).  Not being kept hostage to death, Jesus miraculously rises from the dead and then ascends to His Father promising to return.  So, we wait.  Again.  It seems that life is an eternal advent, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, we play hide-and-seek with elf dolls and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”   We sing songs about an elderly gent who is always watching us and has a sleigh of flying reindeer.  I could say that we should get rid of everything that isn’t about Jesus and His birth, but I’m not even sure Jesus would say that.  It’s interesting we have so much fanfare around an event that went unnoticed by so many.

I wouldn’t trade those elf hiding days with my father for anything or dressing up as a shepherd for the children’s Christmas play (even though I wanted to be an angel) or even my belief in Santa Claus because it led me here.  It came with candlelight services, “O Holy Nights,” live nativities, and the reading of the Bible, yet it was so much more.  It gave way to Easter celebrations in which Christmas paled in comparison.   Even then, I was pretty excited to get candy and wear a pretty dress, but I understood there was something far greater going on.

In the backdrop of holiday madness, there is something far greater going on.  As so many bumper stickers used to say, “Wise men (and women) still seek Him.”  Every day, wholeheartedly, they chase after Him and seek to know Him more.  Isn’t that the true meaning of Emmanuel–God With Us–to be with Him?  While you’re looking for that silly little elf, don’t forget to dust off your grandmother’s nativity and seek what or rather Who truly matters.

Let’s talk about it…how have you missed the point?  What traditions do you like to keep alive in your family?  What are you doing to remember Jesus’s birth as a holy event?  How are you seeking after Him today?


Amy’s Christmas Playlist

21 Dec

Every year I make an iTunes playlist of my favorite Christmas songs–some have been on the album every year since its inception, while others are happy new editions.  There are several versions of my playlist before choosing the 20 or so songs that will fit on a CD for the enjoyment of my friends and family.  (And I make like 6 copies of the epic mix album for people.  Don’t get the piracy police after me!)

So, here it is…my 2011 mix, which I call “Joy Is Born.”

Joy Is Born Christmas Mix 2011

1. “Star Of Wonder” – JJ Heller, Wake Up The World [My good friend, Shari, told me that about JJ’s Christmas album and we both love it!  JJ’s version of “Star of Wonder” is the perfect lead-in to any album.  She imagines to capture the wonder of seeking Christ–“Messiah was worth every mile.]

2. “Heaven’s Got A Baby”-The O.C. Supertones, Happy Christmas Vol. 3 [This song is a cheery proclamation and it’s on the mix every year.  Sometimes it’s first, but I’m going for awe and wonder this year, so I needed something a little more subdued.]             

3. “Born to Die” -Bebo Norman, Christmas: From the Realms of Glory [As if I would ever make a playlist without a Bebo song.  That would just be ridiculous! I assume you already own this album, so I’m not even going to tell you to buy it because you already know how awesome it is!]

4.  “Adorn” -Alli Rogers, The Silent Stars [If you don’t own The Silent Stars or anything by Alli Rogers, you need to rectify that RIGHT NOW!  Go, buy, download, and prosper!]

5. “Ring The Bells” -Travis Cottrell, Ring The Bells [Did you know that Travis Cottrell is the worship leader at Beth Moore’s church?  Or at least he was.]

6. “I Celebrate The Day”- Relient K, Let It Snow Baby…Let It Reindeer [Relient K’s Christmas album is one of my favorites, so this song is ALWAYS on my playlist.  Let It Snow Baby is available as a $5 download on Amazon right now!]

A bunch of fans made this music video for “His Favorite Christmas Story.” Love it so much I had to share it here!

7. “His Favorite Christmas Story”- Captial Lights, X Christmas- Various Artists [I haven’t heard anything from Capital Lights since their debut album.  This song tells a cute story that make me tear up.  Every. Single. Time.]

8. “You Gotta Get Up (Christmas Song)”- Rich Mullins, A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band [I play this song as soon as I get up every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember.]

9. “Feliz Navidad”- David Crowder Band, X Christmas- Various Artists [David Crowder Band + silly Spanish = mucho bueno.]

10. “A Christmas Song For All Year Round” Aaron Sprinkle, Happy Christmas Vol. 3 [I wanted to marry Aaron Sprinkle so I could be “Amy Sprinkle,” as it turns out Aaron is already married.  I suppose I could legally change my name to “Amy Sprinkle” anyway.  Santa, bring a name change for Christmas!]

11. “How Many Kings”-Downhere, How Many Kings: Songs For Christmas [I’ll be talking more about this song on Friday Faves.  I. Love. It.  So much that each word was its own sentence.  I played this at my small group’s Christmas party “reflection time” and they loved it, too.]

12.  “Welcome To Our World”-Chris Rice, Deep Enough to Dream  [What is Chris Rice doing these days?  Has anyone heard from the guy since he got married?  He needs to make more theologically relevant music for the masses.]    

13. “The First Noel (Instrumental Version)”-Josh Wilson, Sing: A Christmas – EP [Josh Wilson + instruments of any kind = magic.]

14. “Hallelujah (Light Has Come)”- BarlowGirl, Home For Christmas [The Barlow sisters are always wonderful, and this song is exceptional. Their vocal arrangements make my heart happy.]

15. “What Child Is This”- PLUMB, (Free Download) [Sometimes the best things in life really are free!  Plumb’s version of “What Child Is This” is an older version than the one we usually sing.  Personally, I prefer this version.  It was prettied up to celebrate the birth only, and completely revised of the implication of the cross Jesus was to bear.]

16. “Bring A Tourch, Jeanette, Isabella”-Downhere, How Many Kings: Songs For Christmas [It’s Downhere again!  Their version of this classic makes me want to grab a torch and look for the Christ child myself.  I mean, there is a plastic Baby Jesus in the nativity down the street.  But I just don’t that elicits the joy of the actual event.]         

This is the version from his self-titled album, not the Christmas EP.  I put the Christmas version on the mix. Josh makes the best facial expressions when he sings.  Love, love, love his guy and his beat-up gee-tar!

17. “Sing”- Josh Wilson  Sing: A Christmas – EP [What a shock!  Another song by my friend, Josh Wilson.  I played this at small group two weeks ago when we talked about the LONG-AWAITED joy and expectation of God’s timing.  “We could never get back home with broken hearts, so Home has come to us.” Lyrical genius!]

18. “Snow Globe”- Matt Wertz, Snow Globe [We had a whole Friday Faves dedicated to the hilarity that is this song.  See “Friday Faves: Snow Globe Living Edition.“]

19. “Mary Did You Know” – Spoken, Happy Christmas Vol. 4  [All punked up like it should be.]      

20. “Drummer Boy”-Jars Of Clay, Christmas Songs [I never truly appreciated this song until Jars of Clay recorded their version.  Then I researched how the drummer boy is the lowliest of all shepherds, and still he came, and offered what he had–the gift of his playing.  I mean, I’m not sure how drumming helps a newborn baby.  I would think that would elicit much screaming and sobbing. But I still like the song.  It’s not like Baby Jesus didn’t cry either, so “Silent Night” is a farce, too.  And  yet I enjoy both songs.]

21. “Jesus, King Of Angels”- Fernando Ortega, Christmas Songs [Oh, Fernando, I love your music.]

This is the video that launched Straight No Chaser into a music career years after graduating from college.

22. “The Christmas Can-Can”-Straight No Chaser, Christmas Cheers [Because I like to end things on a hilarious note, I included this song from acapella group, Straight No Chaser, who became “famous” after their “12 Days of Christmas” video from college re-emerged on YouTube years later.  So they recorded a second album, Christmas Cheers.]

I was going to tell you why I chose each and every song, what the song means to me,but that’s entirely too much work, so I added a few notes, a bunch of links, and a handful YouTube videos for your viewing enjoyment. 

Have a question about why I chose a song, leave a comment!  Tell me what songs are on your “list.”

%d bloggers like this: