Family Christmas

Just like Jesus, when I was born I was the youngest in my family. Okay, Jesus was the oldest too, but that’s because he was the first. A mere technicality. Me? I was actually fourth, and last in line. Then, since my parents were convinced they couldn’t do any better, they quit. That’s one version. The truth is a little more pedestrian, but seriously, can you imagine that early sixties Christmas card without me holding little Santa? That’s right, I didn’t think you could. We still get a few family-photo Christmas cards from friends and family in the mail, and they’re wonderful. My sister especially is good about sending one every year. As we all have grandchildren now it’s cool to see hers as they grow. The pictures are a reminder that the clock seems to move faster as the years go by. Fewer and fewer people send any Christmas cards, let alone the family photo variety. I suppose that’s a side effect of the internet. Social media and all the other various means of electronic communication we enjoy allow us to drop in on each other instantly, so waiting for the mail carrier has largely fallen out of fashion.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35 NIV


No matter how we go about doing it, Christmas is traditionally a time when families try to get together and celebrate. However, although we hope it’s a joyous time, circumstances and idealistic expectations can conspire to make the holidays tremendously difficult for many. Some are estranged from their families or simply don’t have adequate connections in their lives to make celebrating easy. For that matter, there are those who either don’t believe in Jesus or are jaded by the abundant commercialization. So, since not everyone has the desire or is in a position to celebrate Christmas, and since it’s often a time that seems to highlight not what they have, but what they lack, how can Christians be part of the solution? How do we please God in this?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 NIV


First, although Christmas is a time of great celebration for followers of Jesus, if it’s a day by orders of magnitude so different from our everyday life that we become someone else, something is wrong. Yes, cheer for Jesus’ birth! Yes, take the time to enjoy the unique traditions we all know and get excited about! But so infuse your everyday life with Jesus’ love to the degree that Christmas is the exclamation point to the person you already are. Second, recognize that not everyone relates to your experience. It’s your responsibility to communicate why we are so excited about Jesus coming to earth in the first place. Don’t assume people know. One may have heard the Christmas story seventy times and yet it was the seventy-first that touched their heart. Third, find practical ways to express the love and hope within you. There’s a reason so many hospitals were founded by Christians. We should allow God to use us to be the light shining in the darkness and the glue that binds our communities together in times of difficulty.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV


Let this Christmas,
no matter how many I’ve seen,
be the Christmas
others see Jesus in me.
Let the joy and hope
of Jesus’ birth
infuse my walk
while I’m here on earth.


©Joel Tipple 12/21/2019



Tidings of Retail Therapy

(To the tune of, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”)

Entering this season,
this Christmas time of year,
at times we struggle to maintain
enough of Christmas cheer.
Our thoughts drift from the reason
we hold this time so dear.

Ohh, tidings of retail therapy,
therapy.
Ohh, tidings of retail therapy.

Turkey’s barely cold before
we put on suits of black.
And God help you, fellow shopper,
you better put that back!
I saw it first, my mood’s the worst,
and I’ve been up since three.

Ohh, tidings of retail therapy,
therapy.
Ohh, tidings of retail therapy.

If you’ve got a home
and clothes to wear,
and food enough to eat,
you’re better off
than most of the world,
so don’t give in to greed.
Get your heart right,
the better fight’s
to fight for others’ needs.

Don’t focus on retail therapy,
therapy.
Share Jesus’ love,
not retail therapy.

© Joel Tipple 11/25/2018

Joseph’s Heart

 

Joseph, how’s your heart?
How do you perceive
the son of God
your Mary’s conceived?
What kind of man are you
who refused to send her away?

Joseph, we don’t know much about you,
do we?
We know when you discovered
Mary was with child
you refused to publicly shame,
but rather decided to divorce her in private.

Then came the dream…
and the angel.

Perhaps an ordinary man would consider
the angelic visitation
a fanciful imagining,
or indigestion…
but you didn’t.

You took Mary and the miracle
and made them your family.
God couldn’t have chosen you lightly.
What was it about your heart?

What was it about your heart,
simple carpenter from Nazareth?
Stepfather to Jesus,
chosen to protect and care for our Lord.

God picked you, Joseph
to be
the most important dad
in history,
a man who played a vital part…
God knew your heart.

Joseph, with the rising of the sun
See this baby who is and isn’t your son.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid…”
Did you think, “that’s easy for an angel to say”?
So here you are, with your unique family
and no decent place to stay.
How is your heart?

Did you wonder, “How could God choose me?”
Could you feel the weight of history?
Or, like any father, in an unexpected place,
did you wall off your fears,
put on a brave face
and slow your pounding heart?

Did you wonder, why wasn’t he born in a castle,
with servants for every need?
Why would the Holy Spirit
pick out a simple man like me
for this special baby and Mary?

Questions upon questions made you dizzy,
Why are these shepherds visiting?
What am I to do?
God, answer my heart.
Help me see.

Then later, when it was time for the circumcision,
you and Mary marvelled at the words of Simeon.
We suppose you must have been both frightened and proud.

Then, your heart’s strength is tested
while on the run to Egypt.

If your hair wasn’t already gray by this time,
it must have turned so when Jesus disappeared
at the age of twelve, for three days, following the festival.
In the blink of an eye, you see your child becoming a man
when you and Mary discover him
in the midst of the temple teachers.

There is a long period of your son’s life
We know almost nothing about, Joseph.
Though he was not of you, certainly much of you
was invested in our Lord
Joseph, you were a special man.
You raised Jesus,
but didn’t live to see the moment
he fulfilled God’s rescue plan.

We relate to you Joseph
because we often don’t see
the conclusion of stories
which begin as dreams.
God chose you for a special part,
but first, he made your heart.

©Joel Tipple
#10/16

 

 

 

Christmas Sails

Christmas sails on,
another season blows through,
at breakneck speed
we rush
into and out of it.
We gather ourselves,
brush off bits of wrapping paper
and fir needles,
then begin the focus
on rest and recovery
until the next one.
Always an opportunity for growth,
and trying to focus on Jesus the most.
It seems with humans nothing is worth doing
unless it’s overdone.
But still, amid the fun,
God, we remembered Your Son…
was the reason.

© Joel Tipple
379

I Believe

I believe in Christmas hearts,
in the passion of Christmas dreams.
I believe in the full measure of
what Christmas really means.

I believe the best giving
comes from sacrifice,
like that of a soldier posted in a desolate land
or the burden that is carried by a soldier’s husband or wife.

I believe in remembering those who have gone before,
the ones who determined to do without
in order that we have more.

I believe in feeding the hungry
and spreading Christmas hope.
I believe peppermint
should be the official Christmas soap.

I believe Christmas breakfast
should include little egg cups
wrapped with slices of ham.
I believe in Christmas muffins
with a spread of Christmas jam.

I believe in Christmas cats
who, too early, take down the Christmas tree,
just because an ornament was calling,
with its light so sparkling.

I believe in Christmas Eve,
and morning,
and night too,
when the Christmas house, exhausted,
gets ready for a New Year’s view.

I believe in Jesus,
the One who started it all,
Who loves us when we live big,
but calls us to be more
when we choose to live small.

I believe better tomorrows
are made out of better todays
and spreading love and compassion
because it’s the Christmas way.

© Joel Tipple
378

Afraid of Christmas?

Should we be afraid of Christmas?
Or should Christmas be afraid of us?
So many are afraid of lawsuits and such,
yet it’s hard to reconcile the fuss.
Don’t say Merry Christmas when you talk to customers in your store.
Don’t put the Nativity here.
Is that a bible verse on government stationary?
I don’t think you can pray there.

But the most diabolical attack Christmas ever suffered
began when we made it about gifts.
When we created a decadent cocktail of love and money and celebration,
that’s when the whole thing went over a cliff.
But the commercialization of Christmas is a sad story we know all too well.
The broader scope of the attack on Christians is another story to tell.
Christ and Christ followers will survive Madison Avenue,
and government prohibitions too.
Relegating reverence of Jesus Christ to a particular place or season
isn’t enough anyway, I think. What about you?

© Joel Tipple
368

Don’t Make it Silent

All the earth stood still
that night he arrived
for the Savior of the world
with His family in flight.
But I imagine he cried,
so not for long
was it a silent night.

Children all around the world tonight
are also with their families in flight.
Running from war and famine and fright.
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth,
the light
we’ve received
is responsible sight.
Speak up for the children.
Don’t let them be denied.
With your prayer and hands and feet
and voice
please fight.
Please don’t be
silent tonight.

© Joel Tipple
358