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Reclaiming Christmas

with Ace Collins | November 30, 2009

The long-awaited Christmas season is here! What can we do to relish all 25 days of it? Today master storyteller Ace Collins shares some surprising facts about Advent, Boxing Day, and the Wise men, and offers some fun suggestions for making this holiday a joyous season to remember.

The long-awaited Christmas season is here! What can we do to relish all 25 days of it? Today master storyteller Ace Collins shares some surprising facts about Advent, Boxing Day, and the Wise men, and offers some fun suggestions for making this holiday a joyous season to remember.

Reclaiming Christmas

With Ace Collins
|
November 30, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Ace:  You have the list of all the people you are going to buy gifts for.  Add a name to that list.  Find somebody in your community who may not have a Christmas this year.  Gifts that mean the most to Christ that you give at Christmas are the ones given to those who need them the most. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 30th.  Our host is President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I am Bob Lepine.  We are going to talk today about things we can do to make the Christmas season more meaningful and to make this your best Christmas ever.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Monday, edition.  I guess it is okay now, it is appropriate to dive in and talk about Christmas, isn’t it?

Dennis:  It is!

Bob:  I mean, we are passed Thanksgiving and we can kind of see that in the rear view mirror. 

Dennis:  It feels a whole lot better than talking about Christmas before Halloween!  Give me a break!

Bob:  Before we get to what we want to talk to today we wanted to let our listeners know about something that is happening here at FamilyLife in the next couple of weeks.  We have had some friends of the ministry who have come forward and offered a year end matching gift that well frankly, we are very encouraged by. 

Any donation we receive between now and the end of December, these friends have agreed to match that donation on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $1,250,000.   And that is the largest matching gift opportunity that we have ever had made available to us.  So, we are hoping between now and the end of the year to hear from as many of our listeners as possible who can make a year-end donation and help support the ministry of FamilyLife.

Dennis:   Bob, as you know this has been a remarkable year.  The most challenging I have ever faced in nearly four decades as a leader in ministry.  And the fact that a listener is hearing us on this station right now is a statement to our leadership team here at FamilyLife and the folks who make this broadcast possible through their donations.  We had to make cuts this year but we did not cut being on this station at this time.  I am just coming to the listeners right now here at Christmas saying, “We need to hear from you!”  If you want this broadcast to continue to come to you everyday providing practical, timely, biblical help and hope for your marriage and family; we need you to come along side us right now while we have this matching gift available. 

Bob:  Yes!  Again, there is some extra incentive because of this matching gift opportunity and we are hoping you will either go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or make as generous a donation as you possibly can; or call us toll free at 1-800-FL-TODAY.  And again, that donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $1,250,000,000 so help us take full advantage of this matching gift and we do hope to hear from you between now and the end of the year. 

Now, let’s talk about Christmas and as you said it is okay to talk about it now.  Although it does feel that every year, at least at the retail stores they start talking about Christmas, and they start promoting Christmas earlier and earlier.

Dennis:  I do not ever recall Christmas being advertised in September.  Now, it used to be Halloween was kind of the threshold for when Christmas would begin to be talked about.

Bob:  Well, it used to be Thanksgiving was the threshold....

Dennis:  That was way back!

Bob:  That was back in the ancient days...

Dennis:  ....before the earth’s crust hardened at that point.  I am not kidding you, this past September, Barbara and I were driving down the road and we heard some Christmas advertising in September for goodness sakes!  I mean, have we completely gone crazy as a materialistic culture?

Bob:   Well shouldn’t we be celebrating Christmas all year long?  That is, I’m sure all the advertisers are trying to say.

Dennis:  If that is what the advertisements were about ...  we both know it is about retail!  And in a slow economic year it is retail.  That is exactly what we are talking here! 

Well we have somebody who is here to help us reclaim Christmas.  He is going to give you some very practical ways to do it.  Ace Collins joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Ace is no stranger to our listening audience.  He had been on the broadcast numerous times and he perhaps is the only bionic-writer we have ever had on FamilyLife Today.  He has written over 60 books.  I think he will be writing a book during this broadcast. 

Bob:  It is possible!

Ace:  I have deadlines I need to be writing right now.

Dennis:  Welcome back, Ace!  Ace is a master storyteller!  And our claim to fame now in Arkansas; he is now living in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Bob:  Nice to have you in ‘The Natural State.’

Ace:  It is good to be back! 

Dennis:   You have written a book here, 25 Days 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever.  You have described this as like an Advent book?

Ace:  it is an Advent Calendar in a way.  We actually start with number 1, Chapter 1 on Advent itself, but if you remember your advent calendars from your youth where you would open a window a day, as a kid and it would give you sometimes a Bible verse sometimes a little gift.  They were fun to open! 

What I wanted to do is take the first 26 days of December and actually take it past Christmas, the day after Christmas, and give people something to focus on that day as kind of a devotional reading, if you will. It is not really a devotional in that respect, but it can focus you in that direction to remind you about what Christmas is about and for you to see the joy and experience the joy of Christmas every day, because Christmas is for some people the most stressful time of the year.   It shouldn’t be that way!  You miss the real meaning of Christmas. 

You opened with something that is interesting and you know, you were complaining, a little bit, about Christmas really opening in September now.  Actually I am excited by them stretching Christmas out.  The reason Christmas was actually stretched to even Thanksgiving was FDR wanted us to mail Christmas presents overseas to troops during World War II in time to get them there.  So, people started to, rather than, a week to shop, they had a month to shop for Christmas presents. 

In the last generation, they opened that back up to Halloween and now earlier, but think of this, Christmas is the only Christian holiday, we talk about this in the book, that is celebrated worldwide.  Even in non-Christian countries.  Therefore, by opening up Christmas up for weeks and weeks and weeks, we have an open door, as Christians, to talk about the real meaning of Christmas that much longer.

Dennis:  You know you talk about Christmas being a time of celebrating Christ’s birth and it is obvious a time of gift giving.  In your book you call it, 25 Days, 26 Ways, and I like the bonus day you give us after Christmas.  The reason I like it, it’s really a reminder of what Christmas should have been all about for the previous 25 days anyway.

Ace:  Well we go into the bonus day really embraces Matthew 25:35-40, “Giving to the least of these....”   ‘Boxing day’ which is celebrated and has been for hundreds of years in England, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, is one of those “traditions” we didn’t import into the United States.  It is a real shame! 

We need to embrace it, because what they do there is they take gifts, and rather than taking them back to the store and exchanging them, they take a gift that they have gotten that they don’t need and find someone who needs it on the 26th and give it to them.  Now, it really started with servants getting gifts on the 26th that were leftover gifts from the people they worked for.  They have expanded it in many ways to being one of the best charitable holidays.   And we in America need to share the extra; that is the 26th of the 25 days.   25 Days takes you to Christmas, 26 Ways takes that Christmas spirit beyond Christmas. 

Dennis:  Bob, I am looking at the list of countries.  Do you know where it is celebrated?

Bob:  Boxing Day?

Dennis:  Yes!

Bob:   No!

Dennis:  I didn’t know this, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even in parts of China.  Why don’t we start a movement for Boxing Day?  It is all about gift giving after Christmas Day to people who could use these gifts, practically speaking, probably more than we can.

Bob:  Well, it does cause us to take our focus and make the adjustment that ought to be made.  I remember as a kid growing up being focused on what was coming my way at Christmas.  Boxing Day helps us recalibrate, what our thinking ought to be.  But, let me take you back to Advent because you described this as an Advent Calendar in book form and if our listeners didn’t grow up in a traditional liturgical mainline church, Advent is kind of a lost part of this season.

Ace:  I would argue that it is even lost to a certain degree in those churches, because they focus on one element of Advent.  If you go back a thousand years and look at Advent, I think the real power of Advent was what they were looking at a thousand years ago.  The first element of Advent is looking toward the birth of a child in a manger.  It is looking toward that initial Christmas birth; what Jesus coming to the earth meant on Christmas Day, that first Christmas Day.  That pretty much where it stops for most people.  But if you take it that step further that the way the church taught it a thousand years ago.

That second step is what did Christ coming into your life, accepting Him as your Savior, mean to you?  I think that may be the most important part of Advent that is lost during the Christmas Season.  It is not looking at the babe in the manger.  It is understanding what the babe in your heart as a grown up man who gave His life for you on a cross meant to you.

That is the second facet of Advent.  If you keep that... well that is our first day.  We look at Advent on the very first day of our calendar, December 1st, when you open up the book and you open up the calendar that is what you are going to see.  The third thing is looking ahead to the second coming of Christ. 

So there is three elements of Advent that we look at and that we focus on:  One – the babe in the manger, two – the babe coming into your heart as a grown man who gave His life for you on a cross and was resurrected and took your sins for you, and tree what it means to be looking forward to Christ coming back. 

Dennis:  You know I like what you have done here with Advent, you have really expanded our view of what it is and my wife Barbara wanted to do that as well.  She wrote a book, where she also did the watercolor work for it as well, it is called, When Christmas Came

It is John 3:16, kind of unpacked, in terms of what it means.  I want to read one of her last chapters in this book.  It is very brief, but it talks about the third purpose of Advent – Christ’s return. 

She writes, “Christmas is about promise; the unchanging nature of His purpose.  For it is impossible for God to lie.  His word is true, sure, sacred, and inspired.  His precious and magnificent promises will never fail.  He is not slow about His promise, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.  He is near!  The time is near!  All will come to pass in a twinkling of an eye.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!  Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, our Emmanuel! 

You know it is all about Christ coming the first time; allowing Him to rule now and then expecting His return and living like He is coming back in the days that are in front of us.  That is really what Christmas is challenging us to do.

Ace:  It is what Christmas is challenging us to do!   At the end of the first chapter one of the things I challenge people to do is create a biblical Advent calendar.   There are 24 chapters in Luke.  Read one a day and you will stay focused on what the true meaning of Christmas really it.

Bob:    And you see one of the requirements of the season which is getting our list put together and going shopping; you see this as a spiritual activity as well, right? 

Ace:  Well, the oldest Christmas tradition is gift giving.  I mean, think about it.  The wise men from the east, however many there were, it is not “We three Kings of Orient Are,” we don’t know that it is never listed biblically.  It was a pastor who wrote that song who basically changed everything for us when thinking about the three wise men, but the wise men brought, not three wise men, but three gifts. 

The gifts that they brought were so well thought out.  They just didn’t go to the bazaar and pick something up and say, ‘Hey, we are going to take it to the king.’  What does the baby need, well let’s give the baby a blanket, let’s throw in some booties, and maybe a little hat.  It’s cold in the manger. No!  They actually thought about the gold, frankincense and myrrh.  

The gold is the gift that you give royalty.  I mean, think about that now, these people already knew, God had given them the knowledge that Jesus was the King.  Secondly, you look at frankincense; this was reserved for what?  Religious services!  They knew that this was not just a king, this was God’s son.  Myrrh, what is myrrh?  It was used in funeral services.  They knew, therefore, that He was going to sacrifice His life for His people.  Now think about that, the gold was to sustain the ministry, the frankincense was used in religious services and Jewish services at the time, and the myrrh was to be used at a funeral. These people thought about this man’s entire life - this baby’s entire life - when they bought the gifts. Yet, most of us do not think about gifts.

We may think about, “Well, what is the hot item?”  No, what is really going sustain this person? What is going to make an impact in their lives?  What can we do, therefore, that will, with our shopping, have a gift that this person will remember not just a month from now, but five and six and seven years from now because it’s something that they will use, and every time they look at that gift, they will realize that we thought enough about them to take the care to give it.

Secondly, shopping off the list; as you have the list of all the people you are going to buy gifts for and as you go through that list, add a name to that list.  Find somebody in your community who may not have a Christmas this year.

Find a child who is not going to get a gift. I remember doing that the very first time and going into a home where they had three children.  I had bought gifts for all of them.  I went into this home twenty years ago in the poorest part of Hillsbourough, Texas, and I visited a Hispanic family - a mother and her three children- in a home without heat (and it was cold that day).  These people were living in their coats, and the little girl took me into her bedroom a four year old girl and showed me her bed which was a bare mattress on the floor. Then she took me into the living room and showed me their Christmas tree with one strand of lights hanging from the tree. 

The impact of buying the gifts for those people and giving them to them and seeing the excitement in the children’s eyes, who otherwise would not have had a Christmas, meant truly that I had the opportunity that day (and I’ve tried to do it every Christmas thereafter) to live out Matthew 25:35-40 “reaching out to the least of these” and the gifts that mean the most of Christ that you give at Christmas are the ones given to those who need them the worst.

Dennis:   I remember as a boy, going with my dad to deliver hams to poor people at Christmas. I remember scratching the frost off of the windshield to be able to look out the side as I rode along with him and his pickup (must not have had a good heater in it – I don’t know.)  But we would go, and my dad would deliver these hams or turkeys.  It wasn’t a lot, but it was a statement that my dad cared about people who didn’t have a lot.  We have so much in America, you know?  We really do need to get outside of ourselves and look to the needs of others.

Ace:  And believe me, I’m not going to tell you to not to drop the buck or two into the Salvation Army pail as you walk out of the store, because I believe in that thoroughly. They do a tremendous job in the community doing things and there are other Christmas charities, who do as well, but there is something special (and you just said it) about taking your family and doing it with the hands on approach, because it really impacts you, because you can see the impact you are making on others.  And that is profound! 

Dennis:  You are really reminding us of Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”   What did God do in the first Christmas?

 

Ace:  He gave us Christ.

Dennis:  He gave us His son. And you know what? We are to imitate Him.  I think what I’d do, Bob, is I’d challenge every listener to do two things: First of all, find something here the month of December, that you can do on a somewhat ‘quasi’ regular basis.  I know because of the pace of life, we have a difficult time even to think about doing something for 25 days in a row. But let’s say you only hit 18.  There is nothing wrong with hitting 18 and talking about something of value.  Using a book like what Ace has done or taking my wife, Barbara’s book, and reading it aloud to your kids, maybe, on Christmas Eve.

The second thing I’d challenge you to do is to look beyond your family and maybe get your family together tonight at the dinner table and just talk about, “Do we know any people in need?” Maybe somebody has lost a job, maybe it is stepping out of a bubble where you live and crossing town into an area that you need to go to and you need to get some guidance to know who to go see and who needs gifts, but perhaps contact a pastor in that area and find a family that could use gifts like this.  You know what? Go shopping purposefully and then together as a family go wrap those gifts and go take those gifts. It may be the most important gift you give this Christmas season.

Ace:  It will impact your children and your grandchildren for the rest of their lives, because they will understand like you understand from your father about the importance of doing it, not just giving to it, but of doing it.

I think if we can describe 25 days; it’s easy to talk about the stories behind the songs books, because they are talking about, “What is the story behind this?  What is the story behind that?”  Each of the chapters is easy to talk about.  25 days, 26 Ways  is a call to action. It is a call to get you involved in Christmas. I think there is a remix of an Elvis Presley song about five or six years ago called “Stop, Look, and Listen.” It became a worldwide hit.  It was the second hit after “The Less Conversation.”

Dennis:  Be careful, Ace, Bob, is liable to start singing this song any moment.

Ace:  This is a key I use in this book.   The key to Christmas, is slowing down, stopping, looking around, and listening.  And if you do those things you will change.  There is a wonderful song that Willie Nelson wrote, that Roy Orbison made a rock- n- roll hit back in the 60’s that everybody thinks is a love song, because they don’t listen to the words.  Stop and listen to “Pretty Paper” it is a song that Willie wrote when he was starving to death in Nashville about a man who was sitting on a street corner who had no one who would stop and listen to him.

Song lyrics:  “Christmas was missing him, 

choirs were singing.  Should I stop? Better not.  Much too busy.  I am in a hurry!  My! How time does fly! “  

What does it say at the end?

 “And in the midst of the moment, a cry.  You missed the cry, because you didn’t stop, look and listen.”

This book is about taking a deep breath.  Stopping!  One of the greatest times you can have is being stuck in a line at Christmas.  You look around and you will see other people you can wich them a Merry Christmas.  You can talk to them about gifts that they bought.  You can ask them about their family.  You may be the only Christian; you may be the only person who is carrying the Christmas light that day. 

What is the thing you see the most at Christmas?  And it is not Santa Claus!  The thing that you see the most at Christmas is lights!  Christmas is about light!  You mentioned the gift that God gave to us 2000 years ago.  It was light Light is everywhere at Christmas if you look for the light.  And you could share that light as well.

Bob:  You know the reality for all of us at this time of year we need something that prompts our thinking in this direction.  What Ace has done in the book, 25 Days, 26 Ways, to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever, give us a way to renew our mind each day and to orient our lives at Christmas time toward and outward and God-ward focus.  I really like the suggestion in here of reading a chapter out of Luke’s gospel each day; twenty four chapters in the 24 days leading up to Christmas.  Read a chapter a day as a family.  There are other great ideas in this book. 

If you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, we would be happy to send you a copy of the book.  There is information about it online.  Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.  Dennis, you read from your wife Barbara’s book, When Christmas Came, this is a devotional book for families based on John 3:16; which we don’t usually think of as a Christmas verse.   Yet, it is a declaration of God’s great gift to us in the incarnation of Christ.

Again, there is information about both of these books available on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.  You can also call for more information; 1-800-FL-Today is the number.  1800-358-6329; that’s 1- 800  F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word ‘TODAY’.  When you get in touch with us we can let you know how you can have either or both of these books sent to you. 

Now, as I think most of you know we are as a ministry, a listener supported ministry.  We depend on donations from folks like you to be able to sustain the work of FamilyLife Today.  And between now and the end of the year there is a special opportunity that has been made available to us as a ministry.  I wanted to let you know about this. 

We have some friends of the ministry who have stepped forward to provide matching funds for us during December.  Any donation we receive between now and the end of the year.  These folks have agreed to match that amount on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $1,250, 000.  This is the largest matching gift opportunity that we have ever had as a ministry. 

If we are going to take full advantage of it, we need to hear from as many of our listeners as we can.  So I am going to ask you to do whatever you can do; go online or call toll free at 1-800 FL-Today.  Make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Again, your donation is going to be doubled, it is going to be matched dollar for dollar, up to a total of one million, two hundred fifty thousands. 

When you support FamilyLife Today you are helping to keep us on the air on this station, on our network of stations all across the nation. You are helping us as we reach into other countries with practical help and spiritual hope for marriages and families.  And we do appreciate your partnership with us. 

Now tomorrow, we are going to continue to talk about what you can do as a family how you can make this Christmas the most meaningful Christmas ever.  Our guest, Ace Collins, is going to be back with us tomorrow; hope you can be back with us as well. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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