The War on Christmas. My take.

Santa JesusMaybe it’s because I’m better connected to social media than ever before.  Or maybe it’s because I’m deeper and more discerning of what is going on in the world.  Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older and crankier.  Whatever the cause, my toleration of certain things is growing thin.

Much has already been said and written about this Starbucks-red cup-war on Christmas thing.  Some reflect pure lunacy. Others hold to a more balanced position.  Some from a theological point of view, others from history, or profit and loss, or freedom of expression, or culture shift, or persecution of treasured Christian values.

Me?  I really feel like telling you how much I hate coffee.  The smell of it.  The taste of it.  The ridiculousness of paying three or four dollars for a cup of it.  The hypocrisy and momentary loss of judgment I had when I purchased some fancy, one-cup contraption for Wanda.  Love will make you do stupid things.

The truth is, I really don’t care what kind of cup Starbucks puts their overpriced, liquidey, pukey, beverage in.  Solid red…red with snowflakes, red with sleigh bells, red with trees, red with dollar signs.  Whatever.  It won’t change the taste and therefore, I really don’t care.

But I do care about the War on Christmas.  It’s real and it’s been increasing in impact throughout my lifetime.  And make no mistake.  Christmas is losing.

I love Christmas.  The stories and sights and sounds and smells (except for coffee) and memories and traditions all still take me to a place where my childhood whimsy is resurrected each year around mid-November.  In spite of how much I complain about having to get up in the attic and get down all the boxes…and pull out the ladder to put lights on the house (now important again because of grandkids, ugh)…24-hour a day Christmas songs…shopping for a live evergreen tree the day after Thanksgiving (a long-held Farra tradition)…wrapping presents and the never-ending, ever-expanding holiday mess in our house…life just wouldn’t be the same for me without it.

Growing up in San Diego, the “White Christmas” I grew up dreaming about was just that.  A dream.  I’ve never had chestnuts by an open fire.  Frosty the Snowman was all about styrofoam.  I even worked the toy department at Sears during the Christmas season as my first paid gig in high school.  But I still grew up loving Christmas.

And somehow, I never had a problem understanding there were actually two Christmases.  The one about Santa.  And the one about Jesus.

The Christmas for Santa was all about (fake) snow and tinsel and carolling and my mom’s Christmas sweets.  It was about holiday traditions and warm feelings and the innocence of giving and receiving gifts.

Christmas for Jesus, though, was all about remembering the birth of the subversive Jewish revolutionary who turned the world upside down…and aligning myself with the values of His Kingdom every day of my life.  That Christmas was to be about worship and serving and remembering those who are broken and forgotten and lost.  Christmas was about sacrificial love and the advent of hope through a Person.

The real war on Christmas?  It’s not cultural.  It’s not commercial.  It does not come from externals.  It’s not being waged in our schools or in the malls or in city council rooms.  And it’s certainly not being waged on a Starbucks cup.  No, the war on Christmas only happens in the hearts of Christ’s followers, when the commitment to Santa begins to infringe on the commitment to Jesus.

Don’t get suckered into believing the “war” is going on anyplace else but inside you.

How is the War on Christmas going in your heart?  Who’s winning your loyalty?

*mind completely blown*

mind blown

Posted on December 7, 2013 by John


A twisted thought that unraveled itself:

 What if you come again as a baby, again?

Everyone then just knew your coming would be

circumstanced with pomp, but it wasn’t.

Everyone now thinks similar thoughts, that

you’ll ride in with shoulders broad on justice

and an older man’s eyes refined as if by fire

scattering your enemies from hell to breakfast.


But what if it happens as it happened then,

amid let-it-be’s and shame and the haunted

dreams of just men and the horrible lonely?

You must know, Lord, we’d all be disappointed,

some sorely upset, because a baby’s simply

not what any of us, ever, really had in mind.


John is a free-verse poet at  the beautiful due  , a blog that I follow.  I don’t know anything about him…who he is…where he’s from… what his background is.  Nothing.

Except he totally blows me away most days.

Don’t shoot the messanger

ac_treeif you’ve followed my writing much over the past seven years, you know there is seldom much of a flow to what i write.  it’s almost always what i’m thinking (or feeling) at the moment.  kind of a what-you-read-is-what-you-get deal.

more often than not, writing is therapy for me…especially when i find myself in a dark place.  writing becomes prayer for me.  writing (and the inner dialogue that comes with it) becomes the light to see my way out.  most of the time, it’s where i reconnect with the leading of the good shepherd.

hey…it works for me.  and i need to go there right now.

over the past decade, my struggles with melancholy and even depression seem to surface more during december than they do during the rest of the year.  some of this makes sense to me…

preaching every sunday, every year during the christmas season has made me super aware of the extreme sadness that many people feel at this time of year.  frankly, the christmas season is an emotional killer for many, many folks.  the loss of loved ones…painful memories of broken family units at their worst…the crushing disappointment of not having enough money to make christmas merry for little ones… and so much more.

i preach about the savior of the world born to bring peace on earth and goodness to all.  we sing of wonderful promises and wholesome traditions.  christmas television shows and movies conjure up “joy to the world” and festive cheer.  and all the while, i live with the deep awareness that all is not well for so many.

the dichotomy wrecks me inside.

the sadness i feel for those who live in fear and hopelessness and grief is something that i have just had to learn to deal with during the holidays.  it wasn’t that way when i was young.  it wasn’t that way when our kids were growing up.  but it surely is now.

i think i’ve changed some over the years.  i’m more aware of the needs of people around me.  i feel deeper.  i act more, but it is never enough.  i try my best to balance the guilt i often feel for having so so much, while so many people i rub elbows with every day have but a fraction of my bounty…or for having such an amazing life, while others seem to live under layers of problems that beat against their foundations relentlessly.

depression is such an enemy.  it’s confusing.  it’s deceptive.  i feel like most everyday is a full-on collision of joy and sadness…hope and despair… fear and optimism…faith and doubt.  these december days i am  always duking it out…my emotions sparring with my intellect or my fears clashing with revealed truth.

it leaves me weary.

but it will not beat me.  faith, hope and love will win out.  seasons of depression are just that…moments that pass.  i am grateful for the awareness that there are real problems in the world…in my community…in the lives of my friends and acquaintances.  it keeps me from ever blowing the pettiness of my self-imposed crises out of proportion.

the pain of the temporary world around me cannot rob me of those things that are eternal.  it can mess with my emotions, for sure.  but it cannot steal what i love.

or hinder the One who was born to die for me.

Ramblings of a grateful rebel

rebel 2what are you like when things are not going the way you want…or the way you expect them to go?

our lives are full of annoyances.  and unplanned difficulties that push us outside our comfort zones and require us to make adjustments on the fly.  at those times when we least expect it, we are thrown curve balls that give us fits.

i can confidently tell you I have never been persecuted.  i have never suffered for my faith.  nobody has ever hit me or spit on me or threatened to throw me in jail for my beliefs.  i’ve never had a gun put to my head and been asked to renounce my faith.

on the other hand, i have been rejected.  i have lost dear friends who no longer felt our friendship was worth the investment.  i have been judged…wrongly.  i have been slandered (ouch!).  i have been made fun of.  i have lived below the poverty line and felt the hopelessness of crushing debt.  i have been jobless and experienced the fear of financial unknown.

i have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.  i’ve been dealt bad cards.  i’ve dreamed of greener grass.  i’ve been crushed with disappointed by ones i love.

i have wrestled with the difference between suffering for righteousness and suffering because i made ignorant choices.

i have blamed god for my mess.  i have questioned god’s provision.  i have argued with him.  i have dared to tell him that i thought i knew what was best for my life…and then doubted his wisdom when he won the debate.

i’ve sinned.  i’ve gone back on my word.  i’ve broken promises.  i’ve told lies.

i have regrets.

i’ve convinced myself that i have given my best…only to be awakened to my own self delusion.  i’ve confused rest with laziness.  i’ve been satisfied with good intentions, where nothing short of absolute follow-through was needed.  i’ve taken advantage of my reputation and good friendships to float my failures in relationships.

i’m not eliciting sympathy.  nor am i fishing for compliments.  i’m not tossing out some cryptic cry for help.  trust me…if i want it, i’ll ask for it.

no.  tonight, this is simply me reflecting on the christmas story.  the real one in the bible.  for whatever his reasons, god chose to connect with humanity in the womb of a teenage girl of no earthly significance.  god chose to let the savior of the world grow up with a dad who had a pretty messy family tree.

the king of kings was not born into royalty and entitlement and political clout.  rather, he was born in a peasant cave with no fanfare, under far-from-perfect conditions.  he was born in a place where nobodies and somebodies could be equalized.

tonight, i am deeply aware that i am a nobody…who has become a somebody…not because of what i have done, but because my rebellious spirit and careless self-centeredness have been rescued by the one who was born to die.

i was reminded of a rich mullins song tonight…and the lyrics that made such an impression on me during one of the most difficult seasons of my life in 1989:

Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I’m tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

if you have three or four minutes, have a listen.  your day will be better.  the first is the studio produced version.  the second is a live cut of the song at wheaton college shortly before he died.  it’s an absolutely perfect vision of how i remember him…

Letters to Holden and Nolan

hey little elves…

as you grow older,  you’re gonna hear a lotta stuff about christmas.   i thought i’d try to help you out a little.

around our house,  we love the christmas season.   mimi goes completely wacky over the whole thing.   she’s getting a little better,  but we’ve still got boxes  and boxes of lights and garland and stuff to hang on the walls and little ceramic santas and angels and tons of other stuff.

for me,  the coolest thing we get to do is have a christmas tree in our house.   we have lots of special ornaments that hang on the tree.   we even have two picture ornaments that shows what your daddy looked like when he was little.   we have them for uncle corey,  too.

i love the smell of the tree.   we always have a real one.   it’s just one of our traditions.   we have a lot of others that you’ll get to know as you grow older.

mimi loves to collect nativity scenes.   i think she has about forty of them she has gathered through the years.   nativities are little picture stories that show us about the birth of the baby jesus.   those nativities  mean a lot to us.

you see,  at mimi and papi’s house,  there are two main christmas characters:  santa claus and the baby jesus.   and they both play an important role in our lives,  not just during the christmas season,  but all year long.

there are a bunch of stories about santa claus.   most of them are wonderful and heartwarming and tell the tale of a legendary,  rotund,  joyous, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with a white collar and cuffs…who lives at the north pole with magical elves and flying reindeer…and brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of christmas eve.

the story of santa claus is one of the ways we taught your daddy and uncle corey to use their imaginations.   the gift of imagination is one of the greatest and most special presents that god gives to his little children…because it’s with your imagination that you will begin to see and understand the greatness of jesus…and that he is so much more than a nativity story we bring out of a box once a year.

people make a big deal about whether christmas is more about santa or more about the birth of jesus.   it might even get a little confusing for you guys someday.

but i’ve always chosen to see the one really big similarity the stories of jesus and santa have with each other:  someday,  you’ll have to decide whether either of them is true or not.

and nobody can make that decision for you.

merry christmas and grow wise,  grasshoppers.


A gift to me

tonight,  there was a small group of us who went out and sang some christmas carols with/to a couple of our fellow north pointers.   susan is in the midst of her most recent hospital confinement…this one is going on three months and when she can go home is still a mystery.   joan is enduring a long recuperation at home after open-heart surgery.

both are improving.   both are women of deep faith and confidence in the god of bigger pictures.

we all left them inspired and encouraged.   it was short,  but it was real koinonia…the sharing of common life.

here’s what i came away with,  tho.   both susan and joan sang the songs.   i mean they sang the songs.

neither of them have shared life with our church family on sunday mornings in months.   they have missed the joy of seeing familiar faces and joining their voices with family friends to sing of the greatness of god.   they have missed the mutual encouragement that can only found when the body of christ is together.

as they sang,  i could see that their hearts were full.   and when they sang the words,  they believed them.

christmas carols in our culture have been sucked of their meaning.   joy to the world as background music to beer commercials.   o holy night as part of the movie sound tracks for brainless,  sophomoric films.   o come,  o come emmanuel playing over the loudspeakers in malls,  the great temples of holiday opulence.

don’t shoot me,  but i even saw a victoria’s secret commercial,  with models seductively mugging the camera to silent night. unbelievable.

to say that these grand hymns of faith have become nothing more than cliché,  would be an understatement the size of the story of santa claus…

what a confirmation of faith and joy of fellowship i found in simply watching two ladies sing christmas carols from deep within their souls…not because the songs were part of an annual holiday tradition…but because the words of those songs spoke truth to their spirits and confirmed the anchor they are each holding on to:   that the god of power still breathes redeeming grace into impossible situations.

Silent night, holy night

Song of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth