Friday, December 26, 2014

Deleting Worship

No Worship this Sunday? 
Should worship be deleted the last Sunday of the year? Should worship be cancelled because of busy Christmas schedules? For several years many churches have deleted worship on the last weekend of the year. (They’ve held just a token worship service in a chapel in place of three large services.) There are arguments in support of this. 

Christmas is such a busy season. Shopping, planning, cooking, parties and special music events and Christmas Eve services lead up to Christmas. The staff works hard and long through out the holidays. Church members, especially those who volunteer, are tired and need time off. Everyone needs a rest, so why not cancel church?

Christians in countries where the church is persecuted would wonder about this. Christians in China, India, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia risk their lives to worship. They would not understand our churches canceling worship. Why would a church free to worship, delete worship? Why would they do this during this significant Holy season? Does this keep Christ in Christmas? 

Yet in recent years churches in the USA have cancelled church in order to rest from busy holiday events and preparations and to enjoy lavish family gatherings. In its place they encourage family worship at home, a poor substitute. They cater to the C. and E. Christians by offering five or six Christmas Eve services and neglect the devout believers who want to worship every Sunday. It promotes a shallow faith.

Should the secular, economy boosting aspects of Christmas take precedence over the true and holy meaning of the day?  

Sunday is a day of rest set aside to gather as a church. The Sabbath is to be kept Holy. We must spend time in worship as a church every Sunday. To cancel this is unthinkable.

What about "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy?" (Ex. 20:8) What about "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing?" (Heb. 10:25a)

What about the New Year? From 2006 on some churches virtually did away with worship on the last Sunday of the year. The end of the year and the beginning of a new year is a special time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future. It's a time to worship our Holy God with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Let's find a church that is open and worship Christ the Lord this Sunday.

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Changes at Christmas
Eight or nine years ago our church worship morphed from blended traditional to out right contemporary music and worship. We adapted as best we could most of the time. We sang the choruses, listened to the praise team, focused on the repetitive words, praising God. And an occasional hymn or hymn phrase fed our souls. "Amazing Grace..."

At Christmas we were further challenged. Contemporary worship at Christmas left even more to be desired. We experienced two Christmas seasons with no traditional Christmas carols and no classical Christmas music. Instead we were "entertained" by contemporary music.  

Adapting to seekers is a common strategy in today's churches. This seems misguided at Christmas. Many seekers grew up in church. Most everyone holds these Christmas songs, music and Scripture secreted in the inner recesses of their heart, mind and soul. These songs, music and Scripture tell the amazing story of the birth of Christ. They tell the Reason for the Season. God came to earth as a babe in a manger. He came down to us to show us who He is and to redeem us. God intersected history in person. Why are churches deleting Christmas carols that tell about this marvelous event?     
"O Come, All Ye Faithful . . ." O Little Town of Bethlehem. . ." "Silent Night, Holy Night. . ." Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. . ." "Joy to the World. . ." All missing!

We were unbelievers for years, but we enjoyed Christmas carols playing in stores as we shopped or on the radio as we traveled. We also watched Christmas TV programs, especially Charlie Brown's Christmas. In this well known story Charlie Brown is depressed. He visits Lucy's psychiatric booth and she recommends he get involved in a nativity play. Twists and turns in the plot include Snoopy's elaborate decoration of his dog house (commercialization of Christmas by a dog) and the other children attempting to modernize the play (messing with tradition). 

Charlie Brown searches for a Christmas tree determined to focus on the traditional side of the story. The children laugh at the scrawny tree he finds, throwing Charlie Brown back into despair about discovering the real meaning of Christmas. Linus then takes center stage and quotes the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, verses 8 through 14 from the King James Version.

"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"

Pastors and Churches: Take a lesson from Charlie Brown. Keep the Christmas worship traditional. Sing the carols. Read the Christmas scripture. As Linus said,

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Christmas Blessings, Dottie

Monday, December 15, 2014

Family Visits at Christmas

Q.  Every year during the Christmas holidays we visit my family and my husband’s family. Every year we are distressed by these visits. His family treats him like a child and ignores me. My parents are almost as difficult. No matter how long we stay they complain about the shortness of our visit. What can we do to make these family visits at Christmas less difficult and more enjoyable?

Visiting Parents and In-Laws
Family visits at Christmas can be fraught with problems. When we visit our parents as adults we may revert to our childhood role in the family. Whether we act like children again or are treated as though we are still a child, old issues between us and our parents often rear their heads. This can be confusing to our partner. All of a sudden a strong, capable husband or wife is acting like a mama’s boy or girl. They did not experience your history of slights or hurts so can’t understand the current issue.

Your spouse may also feel excluded during family visits at Christmas. We are back in the family nest, all cozy and comfortable, having intense, meaningful or even hilarious times with our parents and siblings and they feel left out. They don’t know the inside jokes. They don’t share the history of our past.

You may be dismayed at your own reactions to your family or to minor changes your parents have made. Your former room may now be in use as a study, for example. Childhood hurts and patterns can haunt us for a long time.
Your parents may feel sad because they’re no longer as important to you as they once were. Depending on the needs and maturity of your parents they may demand more time or attention, find fault with you or your spouse, or accept things as they are. Letting go of children isn’t easy. Family visits at Christmas may be difficult for them also.    

Preparing for Holiday Visits with Family
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for visiting your families this Christmas.
1. Talk over in detail with your spouse the problems you expect. Listen carefully and get a clear understanding of the problem issues for each of you. Then brainstorm about how to handle these problems. Be united and it will help you relax and enjoy both families.
2. Set up signals to use while visiting to let each other know when something is upsetting either one of you. Make a plan to talk alone each day about how things are going. Couples need some privacy even during visits.

3. Remind yourself that your first loyalty is to your spouse now, not to your parents or siblings. This is what marriage is all about. When family conflict occurs side with your spouse, no matter what.
4. Talk with your own parents ahead of time if there are specific problems that need to be addressed. Make clear to them the time you will arrive and when you will leave. Let them know also about any other plans. You may want to take a day to visit friends nearby. This will give them time to adjust to your expectations.
5. Show love and appreciation to your parents and your in-laws. In spite of their flaws they love you and they will put time, effort and money into entertaining you when you visit. Be respectful and understanding toward them.

6. Remember “the Reason for the Season,” Christ gave up his home to come to us as a babe, to live with us, teach us and redeem up, giving his life for us. Problems melt in the knowledge of the eternal God. Enjoy the Christmas celebrations and “Honor your father and mother. “ Deut. 5:16

I hope these ideas help you have blessed family visits at Christmas.

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Q.  Each year I put all my energy into making Christmas magical and special for everyone. But my husband couldn't care less. He gripes about the money I'm spending and puts a wet blanket on the holidays. In addition, the kids get so excited that they're hyper for weeks beforehand. Then to top it off my mother spends Christmas with us and is always sad because Dad isn't with us. (He died 4 years ago.) I thought Christmas was supposed to be a perfect time of family harmony. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to create a perfect Christmas for us all?

Wanting A Perfect Christmas
You cannot single handedly make Christmas perfect for your family. They need to be involved. Are you so busy with Christmas preparations that you’re giving your family less attention than usual? If so, they may resort to irritable or impatient behavior to get your attention. In other words, you may need to change your own attitude and behavior during the preparations for Christmas so that you aren't neglecting anyone and so they feel included. Relax and focus on the joy and promise of Christmas. Lighten your mood and this will help everyone lighten up.

Have a talk with your husband. Ask him how he would like the family to celebrate Christmas. What does he enjoy the most? What does he enjoy the least? How did his family celebrate Christmas when he was a child? How much money does he think the family should spend? What would a perfect Christmas look like to him? Listen carefully to his answers and don't jump in and disagree.
Enlist his ideas and help in shopping and carrying out plans. If he's an active participant he will do less complaining. Can you give up some control of the holiday planning in exchange for a happier husband? If the two of you are really at odds, talk with a pastor or counselor. A family cannot have a perfect Christmas if major differences are unsettled.
Once you and your husband are in agreement, a family meeting can also be helpful.  Listen to your children's ideas about how they picture a perfect Christmas. Work their ideas into your plans if possible. Let them know what is planned and that their help is needed. Just before your mother arrives you might have a cleaning hour with everyone in the family working for an hour. The children can help dust, vacuum, put toys away, and so forth. An advent calendar in which the children mark off the days until Christmas can help them understand how long they have to wait. Teach them also that much of the fun of Christmas is the planning and anticipation of the day. Be excited with them.
When your mother mentions her sadness at losing your Dad, spend an hour or more encouraging her to talk about him. Look through old photo albums and reminisce with her. Perhaps she would like to tell the children some story about him they've never heard. Rather than detracting from the Holiday spirit talking about your Dad can help you become closer to your mother as well as helping all of you grieve his loss. After your Mom has talked at length you might ask her if she thinks your Dad would mind if she enjoyed Christmas without him here. She may feel she's being disloyal if she’s not sad. You won’t have a perfect Christmas but it can come closer to being so.

To have perfect Christmas focus on the reason for the season. Worship together, sing Christmas Carols, attend special Christmas church events together. Focus as a family on the meaning of Christmas. The most magical and special Christmas was the first one. It was a perfect Christmas.

“For unto us a child is born.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Q.  I’m upset about our son and daughter-in-law changing Christmas plans. They’re spending several days, including Christmas, with her family because her brother is coming home from out of state. In prior years they have split Christmas day between their two families since we live only a few hours apart. I’m having a hard time accepting their plans. How can I handle my hurt without letting it interfere with my husband and I having a good time when they do celebrate with us on the 28th?

AWhen adult children marry and begin lives apart from parents, changing Christmas plans is the norm. Many families struggle with these changes. We want the original family unit to be together for the special Christmas excitement and celebration. But young married couples have two families. Often they feel torn and confused about how to balance their desire to be with both families. They may spend part of each Christmas day with each family and part on the road between families. This can be a burden for them. Do they eat two Christmas dinners - one at each home so no one will be upset? Do they rush through one celebration so they won’t be late for the next one?
Also, as young adults have children, they may want to celebrate at home with their own children. There are many reasons for this but the main one is the difficulty of traveling with young children, the car crammed with gifts. Young families also need to start their own family traditions at home such as hanging up stockings and going to Christmas Eve services in their own church. The holiday scheduling is further complicated when adult brothers and sisters are involved and wanting to celebrate together yet also wanting to visit their in-law’s families. 
I hope this helps you understand that you are not the only one suffering from adult children changing Christmas plans. Though it may appear that you have been given the short end of the celebration plans there may be some benefits to this. For example, your son and daughter-in-law may be more relaxed when they visit you because of the more leisurely pace this arrangement affords. 

The following will also help you accept this plan:       
1. Write out your feelings about the changing Christmas plans. Express your disappointment, hurt and anger. This will help you get over your disappointment and be ready to enjoy the celebration. Write for twenty minutes without censoring. If you are still troubled the next day, repeat this again for another day or two.
2. Mend fences with your son and daughter-in-law if they know of your unhappiness.  This can be done in a short phone call, a brief note or an email. Do this now.
3. Find a way to enjoy Christmas day without them. Invite friends or neighbors who are alone to have Christmas dinner with you. Or volunteer to help at a hospital or nursing home on Christmas Day, allowing employees to be with their families. Or relax and have a special meal and open a few gifts with your husband.

4. Focus on the blessings and meaning of Christmas. Participate in Sunday church services and a Christmas Eve worship celebration. Many joyful celebrations of Christmas are also shown on TV on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day. Think about the true meaning of Christmas - God came down to earth as a baby. He came to show us he is personal and he is love. Read accounts in Matthew 1:18-24, Luke 2:1-10, Matthew 2:1-12 in this order.                                                                                                                          
I hope these ideas will help you have a joyful, loving and meaningful Christmas.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:1-4

Christmas blessings, Dottie