Tag Archives: Christmas

The Word, Christian

A missionary friend once said he doesn’t use the word, “Christian,” in his field to identify his biblical belief because of how internationally re-defined it has become and how religions have made it all-inclusive. I came across Ravi Zacharius’ Youtube video on the word Christian and Cult. I love Ravi.

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222 Sundays: Not Today

As of today, I am on a blogging sabbatical. With exception of a few book reviews or guest posts that trickle in, I will be focusing my energy on finishing my novel, revamping my website, and getting ready for a fresh perspective in 2014. What you will see three days a week are some of my highly popular blog posts from 2013, even a bit older if the subject is important.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Hahn Annual Challenge: If you see a Salvation Army Bell Ringer, buy them a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (anonymously, if possible). It really encourages them, especially in the cold.

222 Sundays will resume the first Sunday in January, 2014.

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Nikki Hahn

The Value of a Shoebox (A Christmas Story)

The naked bulb that dangled in the center of the square closet shuddered with every hot breath Penelope Williams exhaled. Her hands felt along the edge of the highest shelf. Her fingers felt the feather-softness of the thick dust and snagged in a small and hopefully abandoned web.

“Dad, where is it?” She felt frantic, talking to herself as she always did when stress levels rose.

Penelope didn’t expect an answer. He hadn’t been answering for a while now. A bad decision took care of that, and now she stood in his house—the one he occupied in seclusion since her mother’s death three years ago. Like a typical bachelor, her father let the dust collect on the shelves, his movies, electronics, and some dust hung off fan blades like moss.

Her fingers slid further along the shelf and encountered cardboard—a box! A shoebox! Penelope strained her arms above her head and stood on tiptoes until her hands grasped one end of it and pulled it down. She walked into the bedroom and sat down on the unmade bed. In forty-years, he had never made his bed. In the last three years, he rarely left it preferring Bill O’Reilly and the Packer’s to his neighbors. Penelope set the shoebox on her lap and her stomach flipped. He had spoken about the shoe box during his last days, struggling to breathe as the lung cancer took away his energy. Her father had stored his world in a non-brand name shoe box whose lettering had faded now.

Penelope lifted the lid and set it on the bed. The house smelled musty of old memories both pleasant and unpleasant. The box held only papers and photos. Her brothers would be disappointed, she thought. This box contained no safety deposit key to hidden riches or old silver. No money to pay the funeral expenses or to ready dad’s house to put on the market. Worthless paper he deemed too valuable to throw away. Too bad he didn’t prepare financially for his death. Penelope and her brothers contributed from their meager incomes to pay down the debt her father left in the wake of cancer. Her brothers were married. Penelope had a long line of ex-boyfriends and was sadly still single. She was an aunt this year. Her eldest brother, Fred and his wife had their first just two months ago. The historical novels she consumed would have deemed her a spinster at age 30. While deep in regret, her cell phone buzzed.

“No—Nothing like that. I wish.” Penelope answered Fred’s inquiry about the box, clutching the phone to her ear. “No, I’ll be joining Jared and his wife for Christmas in Colorado this year. I’ve always wanted Christmas with snow.”

Penelope tilted her head and stared at the dirty glass face of her mother’s picture. It hung crooked near daddy’s dresser. “Yeah, I’ll miss her ham. I know. That’s the advantage of being single. I can go anywhere on Christmas. Okay…love you, too.” She pressed ‘end’ and put the phone back into her pocket.

Penelope began to go through the yellowed papers and photos, laying them on the bedspread. One by one the memories came back. There were two tickets to her mother’s favorite ballet still attached to the program. Dad surprised her on her birthday one year. Then, there’s the hand drawn Christmas cards Penelope created and the hand prints in plaster her brothers did in class. Dad had kept even the wrinkled napkin from a Thanksgiving dinner where Penelope slipped a note to him beneath the table cloth to make him laugh. That was the year he lost his job. He kept pictures of her mother being silly, stirring the soil with her gardening gloves, and working her first job after all of Penelope’s brothers had moved out of the house. Dad even kept a photo of himself smoking a cigarette. Mom had written on the back, “Please quit. I don’t like kissing an ash tray.” Penelope took out the wrinkled obituary of her mother and saw how grease-stained fingerprints made it almost see-through. The last thing in the box was a white envelope, tattered and creased. It was addressed to Penelope and her brothers.

As if the envelope contained riches beyond her imagination, Penelope carefully opened the flap and slid out a single index card. It began with John 3:16. In her father’s quirky script, it said, “I discovered Jesus. I just wanted you to know that all your prayers and your mother’s prayers were answered. Tonight I pack to be in hospice and that television preacher talked about Jesus and I felt like that preacher spoke to me, like God was speaking to me. I know that if you are reading this I am gone, but I am someplace more splendid than earth. One day we’ll reunite. I am with your mother as you read this. I love you. I love Jesus.”

Penelope cried. She buried her face in the dirty bedspread and soaked the blanket that still held her father’s scent—old nicotine. Outside, a Harley-Davidson roared past the house. Mr. Adams yelled at the neighbor’s cat who was in his flower bed again. A breeze tickled the old wind chimes in the backyard. Life went forward. The most valuable items in her father’s life was in this shoebox. In a life fraught with hardships, job losses, sorrow and disappointment, her father maintained a joy that was nearly divine only losing some of it after her mother’s passing.

Penelope packed everything back into the shoe box and walked into the living room. A pile of bills sat on the counter—all past due. An old Bible was underneath her father’s favorite magazines. She slipped his Bible on top of the shoebox. The binder had softened and creased as if he had opened the Bible often. Penelope left the bills and stepped outside. The clouds hovered dark gray in the sky and dusk muted the sunlight. All ready Christmas lights shined on the houses. Penelope held her shoebox and dad’s Bible tighter against her waist. She thought of her favorite verse in the Bible as she got into the car and headed home:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)

“Merry Christmas, Dad.” Penelope whispered as she left the neighborhood. “Thank you, Jesus.” If one day she would ever marry and have children, Penelope decided to teach her children the value of a shoebox.

Hope you enjoyed the story! Merry Christmas!

(copyright 2011 Nikole Hahn)

222 Sundays: Not Today

As of today, I am on a blogging sabbatical. With exception of a few book reviews or guest posts that trickle in, I will be focusing my energy on finishing my novel, revamping my website, and getting ready for a fresh perspective in 2014. What you will see three days a week are some of my highly popular blog posts from 2013, even a bit older if the subject is important.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Hahn Annual Challenge: If you see a Salvation Army Bell Ringer, buy them a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (anonymously, if possible). It really encourages them, especially in the cold.

222 Sundays will resume the first Sunday in January, 2014.

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Nikki Hahn

Reinterpretation of a Gingerbread House

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One dark and dreary December eve, the witch, Esmeralda, sat inside her gingerbread house casting spells, hating Christmas, and plotting to get Hansel and Gretal for killing her sister. A knock came at the door. Esmeralda grumbled about door-to-door sales people and walked over to answer it. When she opened the door, she only saw the dark evening sky, the bright stars, and the pure white of snow on the ground.

“Stupid kids.” Esmeralda shook her head, wished upon the kids of the neighborhood all sorts of curses. Esmeralda stepped outside and investigated the shadows around her yard to find the little devils who intruded upon her time. Only the distant hum of…What was that hum?

BAM!

The witch felt a white-hot force propel her into the snow. Her eyes fluttered open a bit in time to see a boy rappelling off of her roof, fire coming out the side of her house, and the shell of a bomb nearly crumpling the whole side of a house she no longer recognized. She looked down to her sides and found her arms missing and blood coming out, turning the white snow red.

The boy on the roof hopped down into the snow and yelled, “You will never hurt any more children. You are the last in the line of witches. Now our neighborhood is safe.”

The distant wail of sirens sent the boy running away. The witch turned her head and saw a drone circling above her home before flying off into the west. Someone stuffed a card in her shirt.

The person whispered, “I am Gretal, and we are part of a secret force sent to save children from cannibal witches.”

Esmeralda tried to curse Gretal with her powers, but the loss of blood into the snow weakened Esmeralda so much that speaking felt impossible. The dark sky faded and everything went black.

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The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression

war-on-christmasBuy book here: War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression

The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression is an education into the culture war and dispels the myths man has created from Christmas.

While some tire of the phrase, war on Christmas, its no less a reality for Christians who seek to celebrate a holiday that is theirs to celebrate in the first place, but find Christmas challenged in the court and school systems. Christmas to Christians is like Hanukkah is to the Jewish in that Christmas is a Christians celebration of the birth of Christ. Some have paganized much of the Christian holiday with Santa Claus, elves, and reindeer. In The War on Christmas, even Black Friday is picked on a little. I echo what Charlie Brown said, “Doesn’t anyone know the meaning of Christmas?”

The War on Christmas explores the truths behind common misunderstandings of Christmas, like the Nativity set. The Three Wise Men didn’t actually come to see Christ until Christ was nearly two years of age. The book also talks about the star and how the book of Genesis plays into the Christmas story. The book talks about how Jesus had brothers, how Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin, and other things. All of the details of the Christmas story are discussed in this book, even to the smallest detail of the “Inn.”

My husband and I chose to keep this book in our library as a reference for re-reading as it is a testament to God in every small detail of the Christmas story even before the beginning of time. I am ever amazed at God’s attention to detail. Why should I be surprised though when God also created the human body, DNA, and even the atom? The archeological and spiritual truths in this book is what I would expect from Ken Ham and the people at Answers in Genesis.

For anyone who wonders how to keep the Christmas Story in focus over the other distractions and commercialization of the holiday, this book is a great book, laid out in full color and nice, thick pages. It’s a teaching tool for parents, and towards the end shows how we can still play the Santa Claus game without lying to our kids about whether Santa Claus is real, and instead, focusing on the historical figure behind the mythical man. I gave this book five stars. It’s on my re-read list.

*Book given by publisher to review.

222 Sundays: Not Today

As of today, I am on a blogging sabbatical. With exception of a few book reviews or guest posts that trickle in, I will be focusing my energy on finishing my novel, revamping my website, and getting ready for a fresh perspective in 2014. What you will see three days a week are some of my highly popular blog posts from 2013, even a bit older if the subject is important.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Hahn Annual Challenge: If you see a Salvation Army Bell Ringer, buy them a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (anonymously, if possible). It really encourages them, especially in the cold.

222 Sundays will resume the first Sunday in January, 2014.

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Nikki Hahn

What Have You Done With My December Challenge?

December challenge: Buy a hot or cold drink or treat for a Salvation Army Bell Ringer and put a buck into the bucket, too.

A blogger responded with not just a comment, but a blog post, too. She gave me permission to reprint the blog here.

English:
English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Small Things That Get Us Through

by Kami Tilby

The last four months of last year I was working two part-time jobs.  Added up to about fifty or sixty hours a week.  They were physically demanding, on my feet for much of it.  A lot of lifting and carrying involved.  The exhaustion was formidable.  After all, I’m not a spring chicken, as my dad used to say.  There were days when simply getting out of bed seemed like a major accomplishment.

One of the jobs, in particular, was the sort of position that  can make a person feel invisible and maybe even small.  There are a few jobs out there like that.  I’ve had a few of them over the years.

There are advantages to that invisibility.  Being disappeared allowed me to observe with unabashed curiosity and clarity.  I watched all sorts of interactions between people that I filed away for future inclusion in a short story or a scene in a novel.

Most of the time I didn’t mind not being noticed.  I was doing my job, which, if I didn’t would be noticed and create some big problems.  Maybe that’s the way most jobs are.

Occasionally, a tough day would rear its ugly head and getting through the first job of the day was discouraging and weightier than normal.  Moods can do that to me.  On just such a day, nearing the holidays, I was the recipient of a gift.

I’m sure that the gift giver didn’t realize how significant her gift was.  I’m sure she didn’t even consider it a gift.  She’d be shocked if she knew I thought of that gift a year later, that I still have the package the gift came in.

Here’s what it looked like:

hot-chocolate-starbucks-cup

Yes, she offered me a cup of hot chocolate in this very cup, which I’ve kept.

Suddenly I wasn’t a disappeared person.  I was me, a fellow human being, like her, just trying to get through the day.  The invisibility cloak slipped off my head and fell to the floor around me.  I felt cared about.

Somewhere in the universe, some cog clicked into place that settled some ache in my heart that day.  I felt lighter.  I felt lifted.  I felt love.

Her gift to me was more than hot chocolate.  It was acknowledgment, personhood, a hand of kindness, recognition, friendliness, caring.

Reminds me of this quote:

I can do no great things, only small things with great love. Mother Teresa

Here’s wishing  you a month filled with small things, received and given.

Dear Reader, as you read Kami’s blog post, think of the Salvation Army Bell Ringer in your area. Think of what small things can do to cheer your neighbor and please feel free to report your activities here! I want to hear from all of you even if you wish to remain anonymous. You can also email me at nikolehahn@thehahnhuntinglodge.com to keep it confidential. I’d like to post through December how it’s affected people. Love, Nikki

Bethlehem Star by @sherryrossman

While I am on a blogging sabbatical, Sherry Rossman has written on my behalf. Enjoy her story! More of her stories can be found here.

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My mom liked to gather us together at night to watch the stars. We could either grab the blue-tattered quilt and spread it over the grass or lay on top of the upturned fishing boat. The grass was infested with goat-heads and creepy desert crawlies, so we preferred the boat.

In the country you can see them all — the twinkles, the comets, and those distant lights that barely glow. I learned how to spot the Big Dipper, the Milky Way and a few others before we outgrew the boat.

How many times I remember searching for Santa and his sleigh.

Sometimes I imagined the comets landing nearby, and worried. The same night that brought wonder brought fear as well. If one landed too close, we’d become the coal that sits in the naughty kid’s stocking. Does God control the comets?

In the winter, we watched the stars through the window with the fireplace lighting up the dark desert nights. That’s one thing when the homes are sparse and streetlights are the stuff of movies…the nights are endless black. The moon creeps out once a month to paint its silver magic, highlighting the curves of unfurled branches and pointed roofs and then fades into the deep once again.

The darkness, the hills, the small canyon that resided around us echoed with haunted sounds. Coyotes pierced the night with wild howls, javelina hooves broke through my dreams in magnifying volumes. What were wild pigs became a herd of wild night beasts, horse-sized, carving a hooved trail outside my bedroom.

I still haven’t figured out the mournful cry, deep and long that woke me up occasionally. A peek out the window only showed me night.

But the stars shined on us, the same stars that twinkled above the safety of the fishing boat and Mom’s quilt.

I wished they could tell me their secrets. What do they see that is hidden from the rest of us? What are the creepies that howl themselves into my nightmares?

How does Santa’s reindeer manage the predators?

How can the good and the bad occupy the same dark night?

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. Psalm 19: 1-2

My little girl sleeps with a stuffed bear that illuminates a night sky onto her ceiling. The stars shift from green to blue to yellow. They lull her to sleep, keeping the goodness of night on her mind as she enters the darkness.

She wonders at the beautiful stars when traveling in the car at night. “Is that a shooting star, Mommy? Can we see any planets tonight? Can we see Rudolf from here?”

The press release she brings home from school is that comet that could have crashed into us. I thank God over and over as I scan black ink that says something like: “Former student had over 100 rounds of ammunition. With cooperation from the local police and others we have apprehended the person who planned on opening fire on the school.”

And I thank God again that my daughter hasn’t read it. She only sees the stars that shine through the darkness while hundreds of parents try to keep the darkness from becoming nightmares.

I start to wonder about God’s plans and the stars from that Psalm verse that pour forth speech.

We all need some God speech, especially when hearts drop and the deep threatens to burn us to coal.

So I study.

It’s a lawyer on a DVD telling me about his own curiosity. The star of Bethlehem and all the possibilities invade his days and nights – the idea won’t leave him alone, so he starts to research. “I’m no astronomer”, he says, but he was compelled. So he became a student once again. He dug into astronomy, the Bible, and he found it.

The stars don’t just twinkle. They don’t just accompany the howls and comets of the night. And this one tells an amazing story. THE story.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. Matthew 2: 9

The lawyer goes on to explain how he purchased a hi-tech astronomy program called Starry Night. It’s highly advanced, using Keppler’s laws of planetary motion. He found out that the star was actually two, and they didn’t just display glory for the wise men. They speak to us, today. Using the program, he was able to pinpoint the day that the star stopped. December 25th 2BC. That date would mean nothing at that time…but it would to a society with advanced technology and a December 25th holiday.

He started talking about The Hubble and all the cool sights we get to see now because of it. My ears pricked up because my Dad got to work on The Hubble and the fact that a gunsmith with limited education worked hard enough to literally reach the stars is my constant encouragement to reach for a few of my own. So he talks about the stars again, the sun, the blood moon, and how the sky danced as poetry – showing the star gazers knowledge of Christ’s coming.

But the most amazing to me was the Ram.

The stars formed into the Ram (Aries) on April 3rd, 33 AD, the day of the cross. And at the heart of the Ram? The earth.

God’s heart is full of love for us.

This could only be seen from the direction of the moon. Thanks to the Hubble, we know that God uses the stars to speak to us now.

So there are times when we fall into the deep, finding ourselves in the sights of danger.

And sometimes the comets get too close.

But God has not left us and He is sovereign over the sky, the comets are not.

It’s not possible to drown in the fray of night when God is filling it with his beautiful story.

http://www.bethlehemstar.net/

222 Sundays: Not Today

As of today, I am on a blogging sabbatical. With exception of a few book reviews or guest posts that trickle in, I will be focusing my energy on finishing my novel, revamping my website, and getting ready for a fresh perspective in 2014. What you will see three days a week are some of my highly popular blog posts from 2013, even a bit older if the subject is important.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Hahn Annual Challenge: If you see a Salvation Army Bell Ringer, buy them a cup of coffee or hot chocolate (anonymously, if possible). It really encourages them, especially in the cold.

222 Sundays will resume the first Sunday in January, 2014.

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Nikki Hahn