Daily Devotions

Pretend This Christmas

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And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46) 

When I was young, having fun was easy. A stick became a gun, and I was running through the woods playing army. If I went swimming, I became Aqua Man. Stuck in my room, you just pull out the football cards and create a game. The Minnesota Vikings won every game they played in my room. I had to have a huge creative streak, to have the Vikings win every game!

Sadly, most of us were told we had to grow up and become more serious. Being serious included putting aside the childish ways of playing pretend. These “helpful” adults stripped us of our fun and the magical world of pretend – just when we needed it most. I regularly pray for our High Schoolers. They are told they are too old to pretend; but pretending helps decide what they want to do and be in their life. Playing pretend as a child and young adult helped me recognize my call to ministry.

Playing pretend can also help us face life’s difficult challenges. I asked a friend who lost his wife, how he overcame the grief and faced his new reality. He said that while she was sick with cancer, he thought about what life would be without her. It felt morbid, but he needed to do it in order to prepare his mind for the worst reality he could imagine. If he could imagine this new reality, he could face it, because he already experienced it in his mind.

What can make the Christmas story even more meaningful is pretending you are in the story. Perhaps you are one of the shepherds. Maybe you are just the fly on the wall. The more you are able to envision the faces of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the angel, shepherds and others you add, the more the story comes alive. At that point, the Christmas story becomes your story, and God speaks to you in an even more creative way. Pretend, and let the Spirit speak.

The Blessings of a Blue Christmas

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“He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)

Throughout the years I have occasionally performed a “Blue Christmas” service. Traditionally, Blue Christmas services focus on longest night of the year. The service focuses on honoring lost loved ones and the grief often experienced during the difficult holiday season. While Christmas is the best time for many people, it is often painful for those who have lost a spouse, a child, or for those who are alone during the holiday. A “Blue Christmas” acknowledges the challenges the holiday brings and a time to what was in the past, and what can be in the present and future.

In our contemporary society, we are often averse to any kind of suffering. We pretend we are not getting older and use entertainment to deflect feelings that are less than affirming. For this reason, when life changes, and inevitable pain invades our world, we are left unprepared. Our hearts can be torn apart and we can feel like we have nowhere to turn.

As joyous as our Christmas memories might be, they often make the present feel sad and lonely. This is the first, and hopefully only, Christmas we will spend alone. We plan to make the most of our time and focus on God and each other. We will spend time looking at pictures and remembering Christmases past. We will look forward to seeing our Grandchildren and we are going to celebrate with a meal, holiday china, and at the dining room table, as if there were ten people around it. And we will say a prayer of gratitude for God coming into the world for each of us.

Today, recognize that for most of us, Christmas will not be the same as previous years. More of us will be experiencing a “Blue Christmas.” But that doesn’t mean it must be a bad Christmas. There can be joy in reflecting on previous excitement and love. You can make this one Christmas uniquely special, even if you are alone. The most important thing you can do is make it sacred, and not just another day. Invite God to your Christmas dinner. Sing the carols of Christmas. Light the Christ candle. When you perform the sacred, you are not alone, the Holy Spirit joins your Christmas celebration.

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