So How Long?
So how long do you keep your Christmas decorations up? I know some people have already taken down the decorations. But I honestly hate to see when the lights on the outside get taken down. Christmas, to me, isn’t about a day, but it is all about the day’s leading up to “the day” and also after.
I can’t reconcile with myself to just take all the decorations down now! I know traditionally, in the Christian calendar we take down the decorations in the church sometime right at the Epiphany of the Lord, which is just 12 days after Christmas Day.
How sad! It still feels like we just put up the decorations and now suddenly we have to take them down again?! It almost feels as if we, as Christians, are saying, “OK, Jesus is born, now let's get moving!” I like it when Christmas can last longer. I plan on keeping the lights, and decorations up until the month of January. Now I might take the tree down earlier, since our puppy has a habit in trying to chew on every bottom branch.
But Christmas should be extended, well not like in the case of retail services, or holiday deals, but Christmas attitude and feeling be extended. So, don’t just hastily and quickly take down your decorations, but let the lights shine in your house and in your neighborhood. Here in Central PA, it gets dark around 4:30-5:00pm, which is WAY too early and also quite depressing. Use the Christmas lights that you have in and on your house to be a symbol of “light in the darkness.” Encourage your neighbors to keep those Christmas lights on the house just a little bit longer, because it’s just nice to see some color and brightness during this time of the year when the trees can't provide color because the leaves have been stripped off, and the daytime light is cut short.
What do we think? Sounds like an idea.
More importantly, what do you think my wife will think? She’s asked me when I’ll be taking down Christmas decorations, and I need to find a reason or excuse for keeping all the decorations around, because it’s a ton of work to do. I wonder how long I can stretch out in convincing my wife that we can have the decorations just a little bit longer. I think what I just wrote there above makes sense if I tell it to her like that right?
Well, everything I said above is technically all true feelings, now is that enough to convince my lovely wife to let me be a bit lazy. Well, we will know soon enough.
Anyways, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I hope everyone will have a safe and fun New Year! God bless you all! Stay safe, stay healthy.
Are You Ready?
So, we found out that our little Suzie is not so very little. According to the veterinarian, Suzie is 15 weeks and weighs 40lbs. The vet called Suzie a monster. Makes me wonder if I am ready for when Suzie is going to be full grown. But I guess when we first got Suzie, I had that same question of whether I am ready to have a puppy/dog in my life.
If you think about it, how many times have we thought that we were ready for something or not? How often do we think whether we are truly prepared for what is ahead in our life? You can probably count more situations of feeling unprepared than the number of fingers and toes on your hands and feet.
It doesn’t expose our doubt in life, but more enhances our awareness of how unpredictable and uncontrolled life can be. Only more the reason that our dependance on God becomes ever more vital. Just because you are a Christian does not mean that everything that happens in life will make sense, and that suddenly worry, and fear just goes away. Following God does not mean that you are immune from sin and sinful behaviors, and that you will never make a mistake, or that nothing painful in this world can penetrate your faith in God.
But what being a Christian, following God, recognizing Jesus as your friend, brother, and Savior of eternal death, and acknowledging the Holy Spirit acting around you means is that when you come into situations that you question whether you are ready or not, it is about having the confidence that God will somehow give you the necessary tools and answers to help you be and feel prepared. You may not see what the possible stressful situation can be beneficial, but maybe God has a plan and that only by going through the rough times in life, the stressful circumstances, is the only way that we become smarter, stronger, more confident, more courageous, and more compassionate.
Do not forget as we are approaching Christmas, Jesus Christ is born. That is God coming down as a human, makes Himself known to our world. Christmas is a time to understand that there is a God who truly wants to be with us. Too be with us, in our world, in our life circumstances, to share in our joys and also our hardships. God really wants to be with us! God wants to be with us, even if He is not even recognized.
God quietly entered our world through a young peasant girl, not a woman who has millions of social media followers, and the father to be an insecure, doubting, but loving, and considerate, blue-collar labor worker, not a real estate tycoon, or wall street icon. God was born in a manger, not at a fancy hospital or palace, and the only people to fully recognize God’s birth were wisemen that had to journey for 2 years to find the King. It only took intervention of angels to even get ONLY shepherds to notice. Yes, think about it… a CHOIR OF ANGELS FILLING THE NIGHT SKY and the only people to recognize this phenomenon was shepherds in the field. Heck, not even the innkeeper came to check on the holy family and newborn! The birth of God; Jesus, was largely unnoticed to many people. But regardless, God chooses and gladly wants to be with us… whether we recognize His presence or not. That is an amazing God we worship.
So, Christmas is fast approaching, let’s make this Christmas even better, with more lights, more celebration, more gifts, more family, more friends, more cheer, and more Jesus! Jesus is our Immanuel, that is God with us! And if any time this week you question your preparedness of anything or that you wonder if you are ready for what is to come next, or worried about the future, just remember God is with you! God was with Mary, Joseph, and Wisemen, and the Shepherds. God was with them in all their uncertainty, worry, wonder, stress, and confusion. You are not alone in feeling unprepared, unsure, confused, and stress. With God’s help you will find peace, hope, joy, and love. Just remember, God is with you, really with you.
New Family Member
Meet Suzie Mango (Suzie)! She is a 14week old yellow lab. I have to say, I can’t tell you which is more difficult, puppies or children. To be honest, children and puppies and both exciting and terrifying! Both are totally unpredictable, and both need constant watch. Honestly, puppies and raising kids are about the same. Both need boundaries but also freedom. But right now, everything is so busy, but incredibly joyful.
I never imagined that I’d be raising a puppy. I love dogs, but I also had no idea what to expect with a puppy. What I learned is puppies are every easy to teach. Our puppy on the first day was a bit nippy, and we fixed that issue quickly with her. She has a habit of chewing things, but she has gotten much better (still can’t find one of my slippers). She has quickly learned how to play with the children, which is a huge relief. Also, she is well on her way at understanding to go to the bathroom outside. We have had a couple of accidents, but that is always expected. I remember Ben and Norah’s potty training took time and had some accidents.
Our pup is really good when we leave the home. She feels the initial stress, but seems to handle it ok. She doesn’t have any accidents when we leave her alone or she isn’t destructive, only the occasional missing shoe (which is fine). I think she handles people leaving better than the kids do!
We are doing things differently, just because she is a bit of an older puppy. We are not going to be doing crate training or anything. She doesn’t exhibit destructive behavior when we aren’t looking. So all that is looking good. She is an older pup at 14 weeks, so I think she just grew out of the puppish behavior stuff.
She’s easy going, but still a lot of work. A lot of clean up, a lot of boundary training, a lot of treats for good behavior. A lot of practice here and there. A lot of experimenting. We tried to take her off the leash outside, umm…. She’s not quite ready for that… Maybe in a few more weeks.
My only concern is that she’s always hungry?! I feel bad because I am only supposed to give her 1 cup of dry food 3 times a day. But she keeps looking at me, like the amount is some kind of joke. Totally opposite with my children, who I have to force to sit down to eat. That might be the biggest difference with kids and puppies.
Anyways, nothing theological in this one, just a report on my life.
Last week my son, Ben helped in lighting the Advent Candles this week. Right when we lit the candelabra, he said, “I’m scared!” Which was cute. I guess it’s a good thing to be aware of fire and know it’s potential risk.
But really made me think about the concept of being scared or afraid during this season of Advent and as well Christmas. Normally, we think of Advent and Christmas to be a time of joy and celebration. A time that we get to drive around the neighborhood in the evening and enjoy the Christmas decorations and lights. A time that we sing Christmas carols and prepare the gifting giving tradition.
But have you ever thought about being scared or afraid during this time?
It’s funny because not too long ago (Black Friday) I bought a Ring Video Doorbell for the home. And I couldn’t help to notice how popular this item was! It was flying off the shelves in the online stores. Now, I got mine for purposes that I am tired of my amazon packages being taken off our porch and also as a nice way of letting guests come in and out of the house when I am not around. But I know the main reason most people get them, including myself is security purposes. Makes me wonder how afraid I really am and also how afraid others are. Makes me wonder that with the holidays within are midst, that in the back of our mind, maybe somewhere in our deep unconscious we are somehow afraid of something.
But also, I realize that Advent and Christmas traditionally came into our lives in the present of great fear. Think about the very first Christmas, well at least from a Christian perspective. The first Christmas we recognize is the night of Jesus’ birth. Now just think about the amount of fear that proceeded Christ’s birth, the fear and worry that was present at His birth, and the fear that lasted after he was born.
Before Jesus was born, Mary gets the news that she is have a son. This is obviously shocking news to Mary who has never laid with another man before. A young girl, now pregnant. This not only caught her off guard, but I am sure she was scared. Wondering what the social implications are going to be and also how her husband-to-be will respond as well. She probably would anyone believe her story that she was visited by an angel in the darkest of nights. Joseph on the other hand, find out what is happening when he also is visited by God’s messenger. He must have thought all this is absolutely crazy!
During the birth of Christ, Mary and Joseph find themselves in Bethlehem, with nowhere to go. They couldn’t even get a proper room in the inn! They had no other option but to take room in a stable with the animals. Stay in the stable, being at the mercy of the cold winter weather, and also vulnerable to anything that may be lurking outside. Meanwhile, shepherds are out in some field get the most astonishing of sights. Suddenly, a barrage of strange entities appears before them telling of a Savior being born! These unexpected guests, put these shepherds in fear. Now, just prior to the arrival of Christ being born, wisemen find an anomaly in the skies above them. Something, that just doesn’t seem right. A star magically appears where there were no stars before. But is it a star? It’s not moving like other stars. And also, this is shining in the night and day! Is it a warning? Is it the end of the world?
And after Jesus is born, the holy family find themselves in a middle of a manhunt. They must flee their home, their country and go somewhere else because Herod wants to kill the child, and hence has to order a death sentence for every child being born in the year that the star first appeared.
The Christian Christmas story is full of fear, anxiety, and catastrophes. If you find yourself feeling like anything short of joy, then you aren’t alone. But at the same time, you don’t have to feel like the world is a scary, depressing, hopeless place. Sure, maybe, at the moment, it can feel this way, but that moment will pass.
When Jesus was born it was surely a time of stress, fear, anxiety, worry, and catastrophe. And sometimes our world can feel the same. And sometimes our personal life can reflect this as well. But again, Jesus was born to bring hope and peace. Unfortunately, to get there hope and peace was met with uncertainty and even hostility.
But if we learn anything about the journey of the Holy Family, from the time the visons came to Mary and Joseph, to the curiosity of the wisemen and shepherds, and even the quick thinking of needing to leave their country to safety, that is be resilient and persevere. You may feel that the cards are stacked against you and that the odds are not in your favor but remember with God by your side and you stay resilient, there is nothing that you cannot accomplish.
There is a reason that Jesus is named “Emmanuel,” which means God with us. God never promised us an easy life, but God di promise to be with us. SO I hope you recognize this during Advent and Christmas. God is with you. God bless.
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).