BY CARL A. TRAPANI
The malls are full. Stores are stuffed. Traffic is terrible. Oh, it must be the holiday season once again. Time for people seeking the “holiday spirit” to lose any remnant of joy, peace and love, as they madly pursue finding the perfect gift for people they don’t even like. The shelves are stocked with just about everything except the advertised sale items you came looking for.
Everywhere you look, crying kids with runny noses are screaming for something they want, now! You put your life on the line as you move cautiously through the store. Down every aisle you have to watch out for violent shoppers who are using their carts as battering rams.
These people become increasing violent as they decide they have had enough, and begin bashing their way towards the checkout lines. As you approach these lines, you hear sounds that remind you more of a
battle zone or insane asylum than a pleasant retail outlet.
The noise, mayhem, and log-jam of humanity is awesome. That is why some experienced veterans of the Christmas-crush wisely send a child or two to the checkout line as they enter the store to hold their place in line.
Their foresight is evident when you notice that checkout lines start at the front door and go out the back.
When you finally arrive at the cash register, you notice, it’s being run by a gum-chewing, teenage girl.
This is obviously her first day on the job. She’s one of the extras hired part-time for the Christmas rush. It takes her nearly two minutes to ring up each item. She can’t seem to find barcodes. She giggles, “Why don’t they put those things in the same place?”
You try not to get angry, but while she pokes around with your purchases she keeps a running discussion with the girl at the next register about her date last night with some boy named Waldo.
In between her chomping, and conversation, she calls to get a multitude of price checks. Finally, after what seems like hours, she is down to the last three items.
It’s then that she looks up at you, and says, “Oops, the register tape, like jammed dude. It’s like, I’ve got to void everything and start all over!”
You are not surprised.
Maybe in the midst of all this mayhem, you have found yourself getting into a less than “ho ho ho” kind of attitude.
In fact you may actually find yourself identifying strongly with old Ebeneezer Scrooge of Dicken’s classic tale — A Christmas Carol.
If so, you need to “get a grip on Christmas. It’s time you focused on the essence of this “most wonderful time of the year.”
The real meaning of Christmas is not a lot of things that have become associated with it. Things like gift giving, Santa Claus, or Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer. Nor is it about cookies, wreaths, decorated evergreen trees, or lights. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these things, too often they take preeminence over the real meaning of Christmas.
If you want to get a handle on the holiday, play down the non-essentials and focus on the real essence of Christmas.
The real essence of Christmas is bound up in a person, an event, and mission.
THE PERSON- JESUS CHRIST. He was God incarnate.
THE EVENT- HIS BIRTH AT BETHLEHEM. God became flesh, and dwelt among us.
THE MISSION- HE CAME TO SAVE US. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
Christmas in the time we take to remember that one day, almost 2,000 years ago, our Savior was born.
That is what Christmas is really all about. I hope your Christmas is truly God blessed as you celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
WDN Editor Carl A. Trapani, pastors the Apostolic Faith Church in Eau Claire, WI. He is also a p[ychotherapist at Heinz Psychological Services. For counseling information call (715) 334-3171.
HOW SHOULD A CHRISTIAN FAMILY CELEBRATE?
By Mark Andrew Trapani WDN Correspondent
It’s like a hurricane or a tornado. You know it’s coming before it arrives.
The signs are simply too apparent to miss. They’re as obvious as fog, and nearly as engulfing.
You can smell it, feel it and even hear it in the air.
Christmas is coming. And It’s no longer just another holiday… it’s a season, with it’s own unique characteristics. A season proclaiming peace on earth and good will toward men.
And for some that’s a problem.
There’s simply just too much man and too much earth involved in the holiday equation.
Annual complaints over the commercialization of the event marking Jesus’ birth ring out far and wide.
There are plenty of voices willing to declare the necessity of putting Christ back in Christmas, but too few offer real life ways of accomplishing the goal. It’s easy to throw out a stream of don’t do that’s–but what about the how to’s?
Anyone can tear down a home–there’s not much involved in demolition. But it takes much more insight, knowledge and experience to put one together.
Which brings us to the real question:
How should a Christian Family celebrate Christmas?
Some Wisconsin District ministers have a few suggestions.
“On Christmas Day, stop and thank the Lord for comma to our world and into our lives,” Pastor Manuel Rogers of Elim Tabernacle in Milwaukee said. “Families should take time to remember that, and not
get so carried away with exchanging gifts or whatever, that they forget what really makes it Christmas.”
And how can this be accomplished?
Pastor John Grant of Calvary Gospel Church in Madison says families should find a place to worship.
“I personally believe they should attend a church service, if not on Christmas day, on Christmas Eve,” Grant said. “We do a lot of talking about putting Christ in Christmas, but a lot of Apostolics don’t put it into practice.
“I like to see families establish traditions that are Christ-centered. Make Christmas a spiritual event rather than just a social one.”
Does that mean that Christians should avoid gift giving, family gatherings, decorations, the big meals, traditions and many of the other seasonal accessories all together?
Rogers doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think they should go against Christian principles,” Rogers said. “But I think the responsibility of how a family celebrates is up to the husband and wife or the mother and father depending on the
situation. I think the church helps give guidance in these matters, but I can’t go around to people’s homes and tell them how to act.”
Pastor Carl A. Trapani of Apostolic Faith Church in Eau Claire says the key is to relax.
“Each family should try to take the Trapani stress out of the season. . . it should be enjoyed,” Trapani said. “People become stressed out during the holidays due to high expectations and low results.”
Grant suggests families use the holiday to remember their heritage and establish traditions.
“Pull out some old family photo albums and look at pictures and talk about your roots,” Grant said. “This will help tie younger members to the family unit and help give people a sense of belonging and security.”
Trapani who is also a psychotherapist at Heinz Psychological Services in Eau Claire, says that kind of bonding is important.
“The role of the family is of primary importance,” Trapani said. “It’s our point of personal identification. And in addition, Christmas should be an enhancement of all that Christianity stands for. By sharing with those in need, families can capture the spirit of the original Christmas, where God’s great gift was mirrored in the charity of the innkeeper and the generosity of the wise men.
“Having children buy a present for a less fortunate child can give them a sense of responsibility, teach them the pleasures of giving and reinforce Christian values.”
And help keep Christ in Christmas.
Mark Andrew Trapani is a staff writer for the Leader-Telegram newspaper in Eau Claire. He is also the public relations I communications director of the Apostolic Faith Church.
“I LIKE SANTA CLAUS BETTER THAN I DO JESUS”\
BY G.R. TRAVIS
I like Santa Claus better than I do Jesus, said an innocent little girl who joined the conversation as a family excitedly discussed the coming events of Christmas. Understandably, everyone was shocked. When they asked why she felt that way, she said, “You have to be good only at Christmas for Santa Claus, but you have to be good all year for Jesus.”
Most would never say that they like Santa Claus better than they do Jesus. They would tell you that Jesus is important in their life. However, in actions, they prove otherwise.
Unfortunately, too often the Christmas message conveyed is that we are good at Christmas time so we can receive gifts. The message should be that we are good in order to become what we should be.
Christmas is not about receiving, but about becoming. It is based on an exchange of gifts.
Jesus Christ was God’s love gift to the world. “John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,…” Our gift to God is presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).
Commercialism can dominate Christmas and also the excesses of over eating, drinking and spending. As I walk the busy streets during the Christmas season, I see the glistening decorations. I hear songs
about sleigh rides, reindeer, Santa Claus, and occasionally a song about Jesus. I see shoppers loaded with gifts that they bought on charge cards. Often it will take the next year to pay the cards off. Then I ask myself,
“Is this Christmas?
Where is the one whose birthday we are celebrating?” It’s easy to allow the festivities, and the spirit of the season to completely crowd Jesus out.
While looking at a Nativity scene, a little boy said to his grandmother, “I am worried about Jesus.”
“Why?,” the Grandmother asked.
“Because he’s the same size he was last year.”
My worry is not about Jesus, but about those in whom Jesus is not growing. As Jesus grows in our lives, Christmas can be a demonstration of God’s love, joy, hope, peace on earth and good will to all men.
Jesus deserves and demands that we love Him more than we do Santa Claus.
By G.R. Travis, Mississippi District Superintendent. This article originally appeared in the Dec. ’98 issue of the Mississippi Torch
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE WISCONSIN DISTRICT NEWS, DECEMBER 1998, PAGES 1,2,8,11. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.