It’s Christ’s Time!

Today, as the season of Christmas arrives and Advent ends, my head is full of expectations. My thoughts reach as far as I can to describe God’s greatest gift. The biblical stories tell the tribulations of every person who reiterated the Good News. They took God’s word to every corner of the earth. I can narrow it down to just one word – God teaches us patience.

Faithfully we pray for unknown answers, as we remain alone with the Lord on this special holiday. If patience prevails, the wisdom of His word paints pictures for us. Times are hard at Christmas… money is tight, chores become a necessity, and patience wears thin. But let us remember, on this day, a Savior was born to save us from our sins.

Jesus was a gentle man, son of the Almighty, who walked the earth, teaching love and forgiveness. He instills everything in His good timing, such as patience, so we should each examine our hearts. Christmas images share love and forgiveness in storefronts, social media, and television screens. How can anyone be a humbug this time of year when the resounding message is “Peace to all and goodwill toward men?” Let forbearance and forgiveness ring in the holiday season and New Year!

I pray for everyone to learn the meaning of blessings from above. Kindness, consideration, and respect is the resonation of God’s love. We can’t hate yet sit in church and share the Lord’s messages. Shovel a path to a neighbor’s home, help a child zip up their coat or tie their shoes, or feed a hungry person. We are made in His likeness… a people of community.

God grants us life through His patience. He is a constant reminder we need forgiveness and understanding. If we can learn to be patient with ourselves, we can learn to be patient with others. The greatest service we can do for others is to show them His love, mercy, and grace.

It’s Christ’s time! May God exonerate you who conform to His heavenly wishes. Gather and sing… let the tune you hum this Christmas be an everlasting message. Allow Him to stay in your heart and blessed with His patience, for it’s a gift from God. Practice forgiveness on this holiday. I pray for the world’s redemption.



Receive the blogs and latest Christian news in your email! Click HERE to sign up today!

Advertisements

I’ll Light a Candle

What a beautiful winter morning! A gentle breeze is just enough to keep the fire I started lit this morning. I gathered sticks from the woods – the memories of life which once lived on the trees. Now they lie dead beneath the autumn foliage. It’s a somber reminder life is so precious and short for God’s creations.

I feel so incredibly blessed this holiday season. It’s just around the corner, and God’s fulfillment of promises fill the air. But a thought haunts my mind… all the children who are less fortunate than I at Christmastime. My childhood was full of unexpected events, too, such as divorce and death. So, when I was asked to write this blog, I gladly accepted the challenge.

Many children have no say of their ill-fated direction in life. They become victims of yet another divorce and single parenting. Even worse is the loss of a parent during the holiday season. Once upon a time, I had a classmate who faced this exact scenario.

Christmas trimmings lined the streets, and window displays were in full swing with animated characters warming the hearts of little children. An older brother told this young girl the cause of her parent’s separation “was all her fault.” At five years old, such a cruel statement was a bit much to bear for her little shoulders.

On Christmas, her mother suddenly passed away. Many questions went unanswered… this precious child only knew her mommy went to heaven.  Instead of anticipating the thrill of a Christmas morning, the little girl faced the world with a broken heart and fear of her future. Dare I say, as an adult, Christmas is a difficult time for her; fifty years later, the callous statement still lingers in the back of her mind.

There are seventy-four million children in the United States, and the divorce rate is 40-50 percent amongst marriages. So, the bigger question is, how do we help the afflicted youngsters during the holidays, carrying the burden of their parents’ selfishness? A family life of morals used to be respected, a flourishing way of life. What happened to these generations? Children, who never witness the truth about a love between parents, suffer voids in their little hearts.

Regardless of the circumstances, kids should have a Christmas. This joyful day is a celebration of our Savior’s arrival to earth. But, amidst the hustle and bustle, we should encourage the children to grieve – it’s ok! Support their thoughts and questions to ease their anxiety. Encourage simple ceremonies, such as lighting a Christmas candle near the parent’s photo, or placing a picture inside a bulb to hang on the tree. Wrap up a special gift for the child with a photograph of their parent. Create a special “memory” tree with ornaments that reflect the loved one’s life, or make a donation in their memory to a favorite charity.

Many organizations and charities assist children during the Christmas holidays. Some top names include Toys for Tots, Operation Christmas Child, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Angel Tree, the Salvation Army, and the Christmas Spirit Foundation. The Lord gives us instructions to help those in need.

Years pass like dust left upon a shelf, and grief leaves an imprint on the heart.  Begotten memories, entombed in the body of a child, are reminders of Christmases tainted by disaster and hurt. Let us teach the suffering children that God is our only hope in life. His strength will help us endure the pain and strife of a world destroyed by sinners.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court. — Psalm 127:3-5

As for the little girl whom I wrote about today, she joined her siblings and grew up in a blended family. But, just as her life settled into normalcy, her father quietly slipped away, too. Behold, an angel came to the rescue – her “stepmother.” Retrieving all the broken branches which laid in pieces on the ground, this special woman raised my friend to the beautiful lady and fellow author she is today. She was one of the lucky survivors! This is proof our Father’s power can conquer the hearts of the unknowing and replenish the trees.

Today, with Christmas just three days away, will you consider supporting a child’s organization or adopting a child for Christmas? Spend time with a mourning child and make the holiday one they will always remember, away from pain.

I’ll light a candle this Christmas in memory of all the innocent little children who are missing a parent. God bless you all, but especially… God bless my sweet friend!

Have a very Merry Christmas!


Would you like to receive the blogs in your email? Please click HERE to subscribe today!

Are Christians wrong about Christmas?

Many Christians today refuse to celebrate Christmas. I’ve heard all their rationales and why it is wrong to observe this holiday. Here is my selection of the top five reasons:

(1) “It’s not biblical, for Christ never sanctioned it.” “It is a pagan holiday”. (Based on Jeremiah 10:2-4 and Isaiah 44:14-15; 44:14-17, and Colossians 2:16-17)

(2) “It promotes lying to children.”

(3) “Historically, Jesus was not born on December 25.”

(4) “Jesus never taught us to acknowledge His birth day.”

(5) “The Christmas tree represents idolatry.” (Based on Jeremiah 10:2-5, Isaiah 40:19-20, and Isaiah 44:14-17)

Are Christians wrong about Christmas based on these statements? Let’s visit each of the comments and discuss them a little more in depth.

#1: Christmas Is A Pagan Holiday; Never Sanctioned by Christ

Many call Christmas a pagan holiday based on Colossians 2:16-17, which warns us not to observe any special months, seasons, days, or religious festivals.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

This Old Testament passage was written before the birth of Christ, and by Paul the Apostle, who was referring to the Old Testament festivals. It did not pertain to today’s holidays. The issue which Paul describes is not the observance, but the reason, attitude, and spirit in which a celebration occurs, even the Christmas holiday.

Paganism, spoken in the Old Testament, was lost centuries ago when most of Rome became Christians before the year 391. December 25 was the date Romans celebrated the sun god. The Roman emperor, Constantine, converted to Christianity in 312 A.D., and he wanted to alleviate the worship of false gods to acknowledge Christ. Christian leaders accepted his conversion as a means to convert the pagan world. Pagan temples changed over to churches, and persecuted Christian martyrs replaced the idols of pagans. Christianity remained with the promise of a Savior through a virgin birth. Rome became the hub for Christianity.

There are no biblical passages that point the way to not celebrating the birth of our Lord out of love, devotion, and joy of the season. Furthermore, the Bible speaks of the angel who came to announce Jesus’ birth and the men who came bearing gifts. Such an announcement was a celebration.

If we honor Christmas with a lack of Christian connotations, this would be sinful. Scriptures give Christians guidelines to follow so as not to distort this joyful season:

Do not attend wild parties with large alcohol consumption. Little regard for the birth of the Lord is present in these gatherings.

Do not overspend money on gifts.

Teach children about the reason for the season – not how many gifts they will receive.

#2: It Promotes Lying to Children

Santa Claus originated with St. Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra. (See my blog, Before There Was Santa). I believe Santa should be approached as a fairy tale and spoken with caution. However, salvation in Christianity is based on good deeds, and the Bible promises eternal life for obedience to the Lord.

#3: Jesus Was Not Born on December 25

Discrepancy of this date is not on the year of Christ’s birth, but the month. The earliest mention of December 25 came from a fourth-century Roman almanac, which lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.” Eastern churches use January 6, and it is known as the Feast of the Epiphany – a celebration of the magi’s arrival.

In either case, both dates occur in the winter. People who dispute the month of Jesus’ birth base it on the sheep who were being herded in the fields. They claim sheep are taken into enclosures November through March. It may be true, except there is no fact to confirm pens were built for sheep in that century, and too, it could have been a mild winter. Luke’s version of the nativity night tells us the shepherds were near Bethlehem and not in the fields, which also indicates it was the winter months. Bethlehem’s winters encouraged heavy rain and thick crops of new grass, best suitable for sheep. Therefore, December or January would be the most likely months for Jesus’ birth.

#4: We Were Never Taught to Acknowledge Jesus’ Date of Birth

I want to say there are two ways of observing Christmas. We can look at it as a commercialized party and gift-giving spree, or we can view it as a recognition of Jesus’ birth. In the Book of Luke, appearances of angels announced the birth of a Savior. First one, and then a multitude of angels told the shepherds of Jesus’ birth, and they asked the sheep herders to announce it to the world.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” Luke 2:20

Should we not do this too? Praising God is glorifying His name, so why not use Christmas for this specific reason? It is the perfect opportunity to tell a non-believer of the reason God came to earth – to guide us to salvation. The promise of the angel — “for He will save His people from their sins” — are the greatest words of the entire Christmas story. Use this holiday to spread the Good News!

#5: The Christmas Tree Represents Idolatry

Christianity adopted many pagan components to Christmas such as the lighting of candles, exchanging of gifts, the Christmas tree, holly, and mistletoe. Some link the paganism of the Christmas tree to Jeremiah 3:6, 13, but in fact, it denounces the use of a grove of trees as a place for idol worship. If you read beyond these two brief Bible verses, Israel was using the woods to hide and commit adultery. These passages are taken out of the original context of their meaning and applied negatively to Christmas trees in homes.

Second, Jeremiah wrote this passage hundreds of years before Christmas trees became adopted into our holiday. Yes, the Christmas tree began with pagan roots. However, through the developing years of Christianity, the tree obtained many connotations and symbols of the Lord. It can now show the Star of Bethlehem, nativity scenes, red and green colors representing the blood of Christ and green for the life given to us through the birth of Jesus.

Christmas trees, like the holiday itself, is a matter of personal conviction. Where is your heart on this tradition? Is it with pagan thoughts of adoration for the tree and parties, or will it represent Christian values? It is your choice and personal conviction.


Would you like to receive my blogs delivered to your email? Please click HERE to sign up today!

The Three Ghosts of Christmas

Behold, the joy of the holidays – giving and receiving, is upon us! It was just a week before Christmas that Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in the year 1843. The many books this author wrote reveals his deep Christian faith and the principles of a moral life. His most infamous character, Scrooge, is the story of a heart transformed, or should we say re-born? It’s no wonder Dickens called this work-of-art his “ghostly little book,” for Christ reflects all over the pages.

If we analyze the character of Scrooge, like ours, we see the light and darkness of life, salvation, and a second chance of God’s blessings. Three spirits visited him: The Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Let’s begin with the first spirit…

Our Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past reflects on Scrooge’s younger years. Similar to us, there is happiness, sorrows, and perhaps even regrets. We struggle to find the true meaning of life. Where do we fit in, and what is our purpose? We work so hard to achieve comfort, security, and the American dream. However, we avoid suffering and challenges to preserve our dignity and self-worth. Soon, it becomes clear those ghosts will eventually reappear to haunt us later in life. Just as Scrooge learned, bad decisions leave us fearful, confused, shaken, and empty, and we carry them into the rest of our years.

Our Ghost of Christmas Present

Scrooge is now absorbed by the worries and burdens of wealth. Consumed in running his business and providing for his own needs, he cared little about others. His happiness equated to money and possessions, but ironically, he is the most unhappy character. Our Ghost of Christmas Present opens the door to glimpse how quickly we alienate friends and family with self-centered actions of greed. The lack of helping others in need placed Scrooge in the category of being a miserly, old man. How would others see us too?

Many characters in The Christmas Carol opened their hearts to Scrooge. His nephew, Fred, encouraged him to be a part of his life and home, even at Christmas. Scrooge grumbled, “Bah humbug.” His employee, Bob Cratchit, wanted him to participate in fundraising for charity. Still Scrooge quickly snubbed such a crazy idea. Cratchit tried to make him see that joy should come from our treasures – family, friends, life, and love – not material goods.

The characteristic of imprisoning ourselves with possessions, if we don’t share with our neighbors, is synonymous with a lack of love and compassion for others. Jesus warns us in the Bible we can’t take earthly things with us when we pass from this world. So what’s the point of it all?

I have a revelation to ponder… what if God only gave us our blessings to give to others who really need them? What if they were not meant for your exclusive pleasure?

The joy of Christmas should reflect a smile of happiness when someone receives a gift of love, yes? I know many say that presents are not what the reason for the season is about, am I right? Jesus was our gift from God. He walked the earth to teach us how to live graciously, godly, and always to serve others. What better time than the season of giving, to follow in His footsteps?

Scrooge realizes his selfishness and sins, and a change soon comes.

Our Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Scrooge’s “conversion” points to finding his salvation based on redemption and charity. He walked the streets with a smile, greeted everyone, helped beggars, and glowed the love of God. Though many were apprehensive of his attitude change, they discovered some significant event, indeed, altered his life. Isn’t this how everyone, one day, falls into God’s grace? We realize this life is more comfortable in a relationship with our Savior. When we break our own mortality, our hearts soften for others.

Christ gave Scrooge a second chance to make it right, and He does this for us too! Our life should be a journey of service to the Lord.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

www.danabicksauthor.com

May everyone be blessed with a beautiful Christmas! Give and receive with a gracious heart to your family, workplace, and community. It is the three ghosts commandment – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!


Need a special Christmas Gift? Purchase your book today at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Walmart, and all online establishments!

The Light of Saint Lucia

I love learning about holiday traditions, especially when they’re linked to our ancestry. Last year, I did a Christmas blog on the German ritual and southwest U.S. practice of placing a pickle on the tree. This year, on December 13, the light of Saint Lucy shines on Scandinavia and Italy. It is Saint Lucy’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Lucy, signaling the arrival of Christmas. Though her personal story is quite sordid, Saint Lucia shines the light of Christ for all Christians. So, let’s bundle up and get ready to visit the countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Italy!

Who was Saint Lucy?

Image courtesy of catholicsistas.com

Once coinciding with the Winter Solstice (shortest day of the year), the Feast of Saint Lucy has become a Christian festival of light since the 4th century. Lucy was born in the year 283 to very wealthy and noble parents. She was a devout Christian who promised her virginity to the Lord. Her father passed away when she was five years-old, but as she reached her teenage years, her mother arranged an engagement with a man who was a pagan and paid him a handsome dowry. Against her religious beliefs, Lucy was not interested in a relationship not condoned by God. She prayed He would spare her the marriage.

This young lady worked to help Christians hiding in the catacombs during their persecutions conducted by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She brought them as many supplies as she could handle, wearing a wreath on her head. It had candles attached so she could see in the darkness of the caves.

Image owned and courtesy of The Tour Expert

It devastated Lucy when her mother came down with a long-term illness, shortly before her wedding. She went to the shrine of Saint Agatha to pray for her mother’s health and was told by the saint her mother’s illness would be cured through faith. Lucy returned home and convinced her mother to cancel the wedding and donate the dowry to the poor.

Furious at the snub, Lucy’s fiancé reported her to the governor for being a Christian. She was arrested, tortured, and threatened to be taken to a brothel if she didn’t renounce Christianity. But, something divine occurred…

When the prison guards tried to remove her, she was a dead weight. No one could budge her away! So, they built a woodpile around her, instead, and lit it afire. In the name of God, she kept denouncing their horrific acts. One guard stuck a spear through her throat, but she didn’t stop speaking, and another gouged out her eyes. Miraculously, her eyes were restored. It is said Lucy could die only when she was given the Christian Last Rites. Saint Lucy’s death, on December 13, 304, is celebrated with a feast and different rituals by each country.

Croatia and Hungary

A popular tradition on this day is planting wheat grains, which will be full grown on Christmas. It symbolizes a new life born in Bethlehem. They also place a candle next to the plant for the Light of Christ.

Sweden

Though not an official holiday in Sweden, St. Lucy’s Day has been a special occasion since 1764. Formal dinner parties are the protocol. In the school system, students choose someone to be Lucy, and she dresses in a long white robe, red sash, and a wreath with candles are put on her head. Then maids are chosen who dress in white robes. They even hold regional contests for the best Lucy.

Saint Lucia Island in the Caribbean

Boys also dress up in several attires. Some wear a long white robe with a cone-shaped hat, or a Santa elf costume with a lantern, and some don gingerbread men outfits.

Everyone snacks on Lussekatt, a special  baked bun made with saffron. Early on Lucia morning, Swedish television airs a procession and concert, which features a different choir in a different church each year.

Finland

St. Lucy was first celebrated in Finland in 1898, and Helsinki Cathedral crowned her St. Lucy of Finland in 1949.

Denmark

In Denmark, the Day of Lucy was first celebrated on December 13, 1944. It is a yearly event in most churches at Christmas. Candles stay lit all night, representing the light of Saint Lucy.

Norway

The modern-day celebration of Lucia in Norway was adopted after World War II but it only remains popular in kindergarten and middle schools. They, too, dress in the white robes with wreaths and candles on their heads.

Saint Lucia (Caribbean)

This Caribbean island was named after Saint Lucy and is celebrated as National Day. They hold the National Festival of Lights and Renewal the night before the holiday, and the capital is covered in lights and decorated lanterns

Italy

The roots of this holiday are originally traced to Sicily, Italy. Lucy was born, lived, and died a martyr in this city, and today, it points to the arrival of Christ, the light of the world. Italians gather on December 13 to light candles and torches, and to eat, drink, and be merry. Many religious parades and feasts permeate the cities.

As the darkness falls upon Northern Europe on December 13, let us help our ancestors to celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day. Though not observed in the United States, we can pray for a message of light and the hope of Christ in our hearts.


Want to receive the blogs in your email? Click HERE to begin today!

How Wise Were They?

The most beautiful story in history is the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Christmas. Joseph and Mary, along with a string of other characters, remind us of how holy His birth was to all Christians. But through centuries of translations, this special event has become inundated with a lack of facts and/or misinterpretations. Let’s revisit a section of the nativity’s chain of events – that which involves the three wise men. I think it will surprise you to learn a few details never explicitly revealed in the Bible. For this blog, I will refer to the nativity story as written in the Book of Matthew 2:1-12.


Who Were the Three Wise Men?

Matthew tells us they came from “east of Jerusalem.” If we examine the historical facts, east of Jerusalem was the Parthian Empire (also known as Persia), which is today’s ancient Iran. They rivaled Rome during the time of King Herod’s reign and occupied much of Palestine.

Image of Persian Empire courtesy of Wikipedia

When the Medes (ancient Iranians) and Persians conquered Babylon, the Persians formed a priesthood of wise men known as magicians or magi. This appears to be the point of origin for the wise men, who held dual priestly and governmental authority. They were called the magi of the Parthian Empire but were NOT considered kings. (So, how did we invent the Christmas song, We Three Kings??) They were perhaps advisers to the kings.

Most residents of the empire practiced the Zoroastrianism religion, now considered being the oldest practice in the world. They believe in one universal, supreme deity, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord.” Despite their religion, they understood a new Savior would be born through the prophet Daniel’s prophecy. (Daniel 9:24-27)


Names of the Three Wise Men

Following the format of most stories in the Bible, the three wise men were never named, and only legend and many interpretations assigned the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The Catholics kept the names and honored them as kings and saints, but their real names were never revealed in scriptures.

The three wise men, today, are called “Magi,” “the Three Wise Men,” and “three kings.” We’ve already confirmed they were not kings. “Wise men” translated is “magos,” which means an Oriental scientist, magician, sorcerer, or wise men. They interpreted dreams, were fortunetellers and royal astronomers. The gospel writer, Matthew, referred to them as ma’goi, or magi.


How Did the Wise Men Become Involved in the Birth of Jesus?

Many territories around Bethlehem had close links with King Herod, including the Parthian Kingdom. They knew Herod as a treacherous king who committed many murders, including his wife, her brother, and father, many friends, and military leaders. He didn’t trust anyone.

Image of King Herod courtesy of Wikipedia

The day arrived when the wise men appeared in Jerusalem, and they began asking questions around town. They wanted to know where they could find the new King of the Jews. A major stir developed because people believed their earthly king was Herod.

When Herod learned of the chatter, he became furious because he was the only king of the land. He approached Jewish religious leaders who told Herod what was written in God’s word. They told him the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2

Furious at the news, Herod secretly called a meeting with the wise men. They told King Herod they witnessed a star which they believed to be the prophecy of the Jewish King. (Many Christians conclude the wise men followed the star, but the Book of Matthew only says they SAW a star).

King Herod, the conniving leader he was, acted thrilled about the magi’s news, but he was seething inside. He sent them to Bethlehem to find the Messiah.

“Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Matthew 2:8


The Magi’s Journey

The Gospel of Matthew does not place the wise men at the birth of Jesus. It is written they arrived at a house with a young Jesus, by His mother’s side. It’s estimated He was about forty days old to two years of age, but not in a manger. They dropped to their knees and gave praise to the new Savior.

Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

The evening of the magi’s visit, David, the archangel, paid a visit to the wise men. He warned them not to return to Herod, and he also told Joseph that night to pack up his family and move to Egypt for safety.

The wise men “departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12) Realizing he was snubbed by the magi, King Herod madly ordered the death of every boy between the ages of birth and two years old. He thought he would find the Messiah, but not before his death.


How Wise Were They?

I believe they were quite wise men! The word wise means having good judgment. They studied the word of God and obeyed His commands, even though they were of another religion.

Are the three wise men fact or legend? We can decipher the answer by reviewing the written facts above, but there is one profound message in their story… wise people acknowledge their need for a Savior.


Click HERE to subscribe today!

Before There Was Santa

The excitement of Christmas is right around the corner. Shoppers fill the malls while jolly men dressed in red suits with a white beard chuckle, “Ho Ho Ho,” to the smiling children. Oh, there’s nothing better than good cheer this time of the year!

Santa Claus, a commercialized entity in the United States, was a mere Coca-Cola sketch in 1931, which grew into a life of its own. But, before there was Santa, the true patron saint of children, St. Nicholas, filled the shoes (quite literally). Yes, this is the true story that links the roots of Santa Claus and a man named Nicholas.

Nicholas was born about 280 A.D. in the village of Patara on the southwest coast of Turkey. A devout Christian, he was left with a large inheritance when his wealthy parents died in an epidemic. He gave all of his money to the needy, sick, and those in distress. A servant of God, they blessed him with the title of Bishop Nicholas at a young age. His heart, though, remained with children.

One would not think such an honorable man (and the first Santa) could be a victim of Christian persecution, but this event tells us otherwise. In 325 A.D., Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea meeting, and the fundamentals of Christian faith was the topic of discussion. He challenged a lecturer, named Arius, on the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. An argument ensued, and Nicholas slapped Arius in front of the Roman Emperor Constantine. The Council put Nicholas in chains, stripped him of his leadership position, and jailed him for assault.

Nicholas prayed for forgiveness and humility. He hoped God would forgive him. A recall of the story claims the Lord visited him in prison one night, removed his chains, and returned his garments. The next morning, prison guards discovered him praying and dressed in his bishop attire. The Emperor received word of the mysterious event and ordered Nicholas to be released – it was divine intervention. Nicholas rejoined the Council of Nicea and helped to create the Orthodox Christian religion as we know it today.

Many stories are told of Nicholas’ good deeds through the centuries, and they portray him as a gift-giver. But how did he receive this name? The following incident forever links him to Christmas stockings…

A poor man had three daughters whom he wanted to marry off to prospective husbands. In those days, however, a woman’s father offered a dowry for marriage. The larger the payment, the better the chance of finding a husband. Having no money, he knew his daughters would soon be sold into slavery.

Nicholas learned of the family’s harrowing story. On three different occasions, bags of gold balls were tossed through an open window of the poor man’s house, and they landed inside the stockings and shoes, drying near a fire. Today, three gold balls are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. Do you recognize the connection to Christmas stockings?

You may also ask how St. Nicholas was linked to Christmas, so I will tell you. After his death in 343 A.D., many miracles involving children occurred, and they were all contributed to St. Nicholas. Small gifts and candy silently appeared for poor children on the holiday celebration, Feast of St. Nicholas, which is celebrated on December 5 and/or 6. Are the stories true? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Most European countries still celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas today. It is a day about giving and recognizing those who contribute to society. Good children receive treats or small gifts in their shoes. The Europeans teach us that to celebrate Christmas, large amounts of gifts unnecessary – keep it simple to retain the real reason for the season.

Over the centuries, St. Nicholas transformed into another similar figure called Santa Claus. Known as Sinterklaas in Holland, their customs entered the United States and the fat man in a red suit, was soon born. But, let us not forget the roots of St. Nicholas, who came before there was Santa. Compassion, charity, and giving the greatest gift of all – himself – took center stage. This should be the image of Christmas!


Want to receive Christmas blogs in your email? Click HERE to subscribe today!

Creating Creches

Last Christmas, my wife and I attended the largest private showing of manger scenes in the world. Made of every substance possible, I was in awe of their delicate beauty. I immediately knew we would have to collect nativity sets – I was hooked! The inspiring creches represented almost every country in the world, and every cost range too.

Nativities from all over the world – images owned by Bicks Books LLC

So, this year, as we began gathering topics for the Christmas blogs, I remembered the local church’s display of nativities. Detoured from my train of thought, I began searching the internet for sets made in Bethlehem. I couldn’t believe the splendor of these handmade creches of biblical olive trees. With my mind really ambling now, I wondered how long ago people made the sets, which signifies Jesus’ birth, thus today’s Christmas blog.

It surprised me to learn Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1223, created the first nativity scene in the town of Greccio, Italy.  He wanted to make an extraordinary experience for people who attended Mass at Christmas, and others who visited the area. But, his scene differed from those we purchase on the internet because he brought it to life!

Saint Francis of Assisi

Inspired by a recent trip to the Holy Land, he set up the Christmas scene in a cave just outside of town. It featured a wax figure of the baby Jesus, costumed people playing Mary and Joseph, a live donkey and ox, which a friend loaned St. Francis.

During the Mass, Francis told the Christmas story, then delivered a sermon. Afterward, many people strolled to the cave to watch a live enactment of the sacred event. He told the story of Mary and Joseph with tears and piety, and people responded with joy. His first manger scene became so popular that others soon followed his lead.

With time nativity sets evolved into an artisan craft. Today, the oldest set remains in Italy. Constructed in 1289, out of marble, it is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. He was an Italian architect and sculptor whose most famous work was the bronze statue of St. Peter now placed at St. Peters Basilica.

Creche sets of the 1300s were made of marble, wood, or terracotta. They placed most of them in chapels and churches for year-round displays. The most famous of these was a set carved in wood, in 1330, for the Poor Clare Sisters at the Convent of Saint Clare in Naples, Italy.

As Christianity progressed, Martin Luther used these holy scenes to counteract the pagan beliefs of Christmas trees. The creches became front and center of holiday celebrations for Christians.

Today, the tiny town of Bethlehem, in Connecticut, boasts a restored 300-year-old handcrafted nativity scene displayed in a barn on the grounds of a monastery. Thousands of people stream through the doors to view one of the country’s most exquisite artworks, dubbed the Rembrandt of creches. A coronation gift to the King of Sardinia in 1720, this masterpiece sits in a 15 by 10-foot area. The sixty-eight terracotta figures adorn colorful silks with gold embroidery. The creche is a lasting impression, for all walks of life are represented throughout the artwork. This must go on my bucket list!

Image owned by Robert Fenton Houser

Creating creches, whether in a live show or by the loving hands of true workmanship, will always remain the resounding reason for the season. They are a simple reminder of the humble King who would grow up to sacrifice His life on a cross for sinners. Let us never forget the gift of Jesus coming to earth to offer salvation to all people.

Be blessed!

www.danabicksauthor.com

A Nativity for One

A little tree twinkles on the coffee table. The instrumental music of Elvis Presley’s song, “Blue Christmas” softly plays while you rub your stocking feet together. Staring into the flickering light of the fireplace, you glimpse the Three Wise Men moving on the mantel. It was an inherited nativity scene, now meant for one person only to enjoy this Christmas.

It’s a ‘single’ holiday. Perhaps the children are grown and gone, you’re a widow or widower, or just alone with no one to snuggle with under the covers and to wish a “Merry Christmas” to on this day. But, did you know singleness is a gift from God? In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul speaks candidly of this aloneness as being a higher calling–a time to dedicate our lives to serving the Lord. Single people can devote themselves entirely to His work without marriage troubles or the anxieties of children interrupting the flow of your Christian duties. So, make the most of being unattached while it lasts!

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34 ESV)

Depression knocks quickly on the door during the holidays when you are alone, but turn this negativity into positive energy. This world is full of others who want a visitor at Christmastime. Visit a homeless shelter, senior homes, other single members of your church, a food bank, or help deliver gifts to the needy. A smile of gratefulness will brighten your season.

Not into the above suggested community activities? Try turning on an inspirational Christmas movie, or one which will cause you to laugh (“Elf” perhaps??); deliver cookies to your neighbors, or read the Christmas story in the Bible; call someone you haven’t connected with in a while for a light conversation. Did God bless you with creative talents? Get crafty and build something or create new tree ornaments; accept a dinner invitation. You have the gift this year to do what your little heart desires, and you never know who God will place in your way along the path of fun.

You’re not alone this season. The Holy Spirit is trying to anoint you so feel your blessings and rejoice! The ultimate gift is to live better with compassion and faithfulness. Don’t let the Star of Bethlehem shine on a nativity for one – let it glow God’s love for others too!

God bless you and have the merriest of Christmases!


Christmas Gifts

Christmas – another year of rushing to find the perfect gift. You know, the latest state-of-the-art, hottest item on the market? What a time to share your love by giving gifts to others! It might be cold outside, but come inside and feel the warmth of Christmas. The tree ornaments, decorations, and the smell of baking cookies stimulate excitement for the holiday. It’s a season full of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Once upon a long time ago, my favorite toy was all I ever needed from Santa – a remote-control XK Jaguar convertible which ran on Eveready batteries. Fascination ruled the eyes of this little lad because it had a steering wheel right on top of the battery box. Boy, it was sure better than a plain old car for it was dove gray with a red leather interior. Wow, my very own Jaguar! So what if it was sixteen inches long; it was the best gift ever.

At the flip of a switch, the headlights shone, and I steered my very first Jag around the living room. Oh, I was in seventh heaven driving it down the right side of the dark hallway. But, suddenly, my older brother opened his bedroom door. He walked out and stepped on my brand new Jaguar! In a second, the tie rods broke, and he demolished the plastic wire-spoked rims. So much for my favorite toy that Christmas!

It’s funny how material things mean everything to a young child. But, as we mature their significance fades, especially when God enters your soul. He refills our dreams with blessings galore even if they get crushed. What greater joy than to have God illuminate your heart at Christmas, for His gifts will last a lifetime! He will give you peace, forgiveness, and a chance at a relationship with Him. Jesus paid the cost of God’s present so let us be thankful for our gift of eternal life!

From my family to yours, I pray God blesses you this season! May His light always shine love in your life! Merry Christmas!

Be sure to join us on Christmas Day for the final episode of “Everything Christmas Blogs”!