First of all, I would like to greet my readers a Merry Christmas! I hope that Christmas is a joyful and meaningful season for you as you celebrate Christ.
I have two more posts for 2018, which has been a year of low writing output. I’ve just been really really really busy with my current startup life, which includes being a startup husband (2 years), a startup dad (1 year), and a startup CEO (3 years). Much of my last post, the 2018 Finale post, will be a synthesis of these experiences. The title of that post is The Light from a Soul Burning and the Brightness of a Thousand Different Sparks.
The other post is this one, at least the one that follows this introduction. It’s is my Christmas post for the year.
I wrote it in on our trip to Taiwan last week, after listening to my father speak on the following verse:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 ESV
As I listened to my dad’s preaching about The Promise of Christmas; as he read the verse in Isaiah 9 describing Jesus as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; I remembered a recent article I wrote about what makes someone spiritual. I realized that the descriptions of Jesus in the verse, words describing the coming baby Jesus, speak of not just any baby, but a spiritual one. A Wonderful Counselor who would have transcendent wisdom, an Everlasting Father for an enteral horizon, and a Prince of Peace that values shalom, an amazing concept of spiritual harmony that comes from our restoration with God (sacred values).
But I missed one, like I miss a thousand things. I missed Mighty God, and that’s an important thing to add. A truly spiritual person, has evidence of Supernatural Power, a power that comes from being deeply connected to God. It’s not enough to have wisdom, to have eternal love, nor to pursue Shalom. We also need the power to put that wisdom into practice, to turn the love we get from God into love for others, and to achieve harmony in life. That’s why I wanted to update my list of spiritual traits and add Supernatural Power.
Let me summarize it here:
Wonderful Counselor – Transcendent Wisdom
Mighty God – Supernatural Power
Everlasting Father – Eternal Love
Prince of Peace – Bringer of Shalom
It’s no accident that Christmas has a spiritual feel to it. While the busy-ness of the season many times distract us, there’s enough power in the tradition to bring families together, to cause some gratefulness and reflection that we sometimes simply think of as nostalgia. But it’s more than just warm feelings for a time past. It’s a yearly call to embrace the spiritual, to go beyond just the material here and now, to seek transcendent wisdom, to live for an eternal horizon, to pursue the sacred value of Shalom, and to be animated by the supernatural power of a Mighty God.
Here are some reflection questions to ask during this season:
Am I thinking and acting with eternity in mind? Or am I simply reacting to the here and now, and chasing temporary things?
Am I making decisions based on Transcendent Wisdom? Or am I simply relying on common sense, human knowledge, and my own feelings?
What is my source of strength? Is it a good night’s sleep? A good meal? The compliments of others? My money? My body? My mind? Or am I finding strength by worshipping a Mighty God?
I asked myself these questions, and my honest assessment is that I haven’t done a great job living a truly spiritual life, as defined by the criteria I listed. The most damning point being that I am many times more preoccupied with temporal things instead of sacred and eternal matters. Many times the day to day responsibilities suck up the spirituality from my life.
This is why personal reflections are important. It’s beneficial to take yourself out of the busyness and recalibrate spiritually.
Christmas is a perfect time to do this.
Christmas is also a perfect time to worship. When my reflections reveal a man lacking in every way, I turn to God. I may not be the best model of spirituality, but I trust in someone who is more than a model. I follow the one the verses were talking about, my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Under the Mistletoe
Standing under the mistletoe, I look into her eyes. She had to be the most beautiful female in the world, more beautiful than all the past females combined, and without their collective weight. I ask her, “You do know what they say about two people under a mistletoe?” She smiles sweetly, leans in, and then suddenly, knees me in the groin.
The pain wakes me from my daydream. Time to get back to writing. In the spirit of the holidays, here is the Bonifacio Brothers Holiday Edition.
The Rolling Thunder
When we were younger, Christmas was the highlight of the year. I remember one early Christmas, when I was five or 6 years old, I received a GI Joe truck for Christmas. And it wasn’t just “a” truck, this was “THE” truck – it was the Rolling Thunder. The Rolling Thunder was more than three feet long when extended and came with its driver, codename: Armadillo, two huge missiles that had six mini-missiles inside it, a tank turret with two red missiles on each side, an opening ramp that allowed a scout vehicle to rollout, and a movable missile platform to kill those that managed to escape all the other weapons of destruction. Let me put it this way: If Chuck Norris was a truck; he’d be the Rolling Thunder. And if the Rolling Thunder was human it would be Chuck Norris, but not as hairy. We would sing the song How Great Thou Art in church and when the line “I feel the rolling thunder” would come up I would proudly whisper to my dad, “That’s my truck.”
Why Joshua Can’t Be Santa
From my best gift ever to the worst. A few Chrismases ago, my crazy younger brother, Joshua, thought it would be a good idea to give Joe and I something different, something exotic, something unusual for Christmas.
So he decides to give us nipple whiteners.
I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a nipple whitener. And why would anyone want white nipples anyway? That’s actually a scary thought: me and my dark complexion with albino tips.
It’s the sort of thing you expect from someone whose first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enough of nipples. I better nip this in the bud.
No pun intended.
My Dad’s Favorite Gifts
My mom has given me the best gifts my whole life. Of course my dad pays for them but my mom “knows”. This year I asked her if she could just pay for my insurance premium instead of a gift. Piece of advice: don’t ruin Christmas with stupid questions like this.
For some reason when it comes to my dad, or maybe because it’s my dad, my mom’s gift radar goes haywire. This has led to some very interesting presents, two of which were:
1.The telescope. I know movies, such as A Walk to Remember (which works better than Sleepasil), like to romanticize telescopes. We’ve had more than one telescope and I’m telling you they’re incredibly difficult to operate. Leave them to the observatories. So my mom gives my dad this huge telescope for Christmas, and my dad is practicing his best poker face – which has never been really good. A few days later we tried the telescope. I don’t think we ever took it out again. I think my dad gave it to the first science prodigy he bumped into.
2.The Magic Sing. The only thing magical about ours is that my mom actually thought my dad would be happy. My dad calls this my mom’s gift to herself disguised as a gift to him. I think he only used it once – on Christmas day – just so my mom wouldn’t be upset that he didn’t like her gift.
My dad is a lot simpler than most people think. One of his favorite gifts being a Man from Snowy River refrigerator magnet my mom found. And of course the best gift he’s ever gotten ever is my mom.
…then my mom.
A Christmas Lesson
You never really learn something, you never really understand, until you experience something first hand. The word experience comes from the experientia or the word “test”. And that’s what a lesson is, an experience, a test, that teaches you something through either proving or disproving something.
There was a time when my father had lost his business, we had to move into a much smaller house, had to get rid of our cars and really most of our stuff. Christmas, like for everyone else, was usually a big event for our family but this year we really didn’t have any money so the nicely wrapped giant boxes were missing from under a smaller tree, and the turkey was a big chicken with misplaced gravy (that’s another story). But even as we downscaled what Christmas was to me, God was setting up a backdrop for one the greatest lessons I would ever learn. He had to remove the trappings, the traps we fall into, that distract us from Him.
Having very little resources, my mom decided that our Advent would consist of a walk around our tiny village – which was one small circle. My brothers and I were complaining of the flies and having to walk, actually, I think I was the only one complaining. I was such a grumbler looking back. When we got back to the house we realized we had left the keys inside. We were locked out.
So there we were sitting on the curb, my dad, my brothers, me, and my mom, who was still trying to turn everything into a lesson.
I think Joe’s, mine, and Joshua’s minds were thinking “Be quiet”, “Shut up”, ‘Candy” respectively.
Then my mom said:
“Maybe this is how Joseph and Mary felt being locked out of every inn. Imagine what they were going through. And Mary was pregnant. This is what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him into our lives.”
Years later to today, I still remember her lesson, but I think I’ve realized something deeper. More tragic than what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him reside in our heart, is what we do to our lives – we leave it a dark empty shell with no light and no life.
This the great lesson I’ve learned, the Christmas message experienced first hand as a kid, that even as my mind grumbles at the state of my balance sheet, and worries at my evaporating cashflow, my heart rejoices in peace that the light of the world has brought me life.