Tag Archives: Christmas

O Christmas Tree

What is the origin of the Christmas tree? 

No one is quite sure when the evergreen tree became associated with Christmas. 

Many believe that for thousands of years the evergreen tree was seen as a symbol of eternal life since it was the only tree that kept its hue throughout the winter. In the Middle Ages there arose a tale that when Christ was born in the middle of winter (not likely), all the trees throughout the forest shook off the snow. During this time as well, the Christmas holiday was celebrated along with the feast of Adam and Eve. During this celebration, evergreen trees would be trimmed with fresh fruit representing the garden of Eden. 

By the 1500s, the areas now known as Germany and the Netherlands and a few other places began to celebrate Christmas with these trees as symbols of life. Churches would have an evergreen inside them with pyramids of candles next to them to present each family in the church. Eventually the candles migrated to the tree itself beginning the tradition of lighting the tree. 

The placing of presents under the trees came later as the tree became a central symbol of the Christmas season. One tradition early in the gift exchange tradition was that of wrapping the gift several times. Each time the gift was wrapped, a person’s name was placed on the wrapping. The gift was given to the outermost named person who unwrapped the outer layer and then handed it to the next name. No one would know exactly who the gift belonged to until the last layer. 

To me, Christmas trees represent so many wonderful things about Jesus. 

I see the evergreen tree itself as a symbol of life eternal and a precursor to the tree upon which Christ hung. I see the lights that twinkle as the light of Jesus shining in all of his followers. Each Christian is a light in the kingdom of eternal life. They also symbolize those who have gone before us much like Hebrews 12:1-2. 

The decorations on the tree are a celebration of the goodness of God. We don’t have one of those designer trees in our house. Our tree is filled with ornaments that represent different times in our lives. We have ornaments from when we were children and when our children were born. We have ornaments from each of the places we’ve lived. We have ornaments representing the things we love to do and those things that define us.  Every ornament is a celebration of God’s guidance and provision in our lives. 

The star on top reminds us to seek Jesus the way the wise men did when they followed the star. 

The first ornament that goes on our tree is a single square nail. This nail resents the savior whose birth we celebrate, but who would later give his life as a ransom for all people.  This nail reminds us that the gospel, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is the greatest gift God has given His creation. 

The Christmas tree is just a symbol used to be a reminder. It is not the center of the Christmas story. It is not the meaning of Christmas. However, it can remind us of what Christmas is all about and how gracious our God has been to come to this planet and be born, humbly, as a baby in a manger. 

I pray that each of you has a Merry Christmas this year, and that you remember and celebrate Christ every day of the rest of your life. 


Christmas Fatigue

I’m tired.  Aren’t you? 

Week after week there is so much to do between work and schooling activities and extra-curricular children’s functions and shopping for needed goods and visiting people. Even the fun times when we plan something extra for the family is usually involving some activity outside the home. 

Then Christmas comes along, and the schedule goes from fast to super-sonic. Now there are Christmas parties and recitals and Christmas gift shopping and trips to the post office and lines…oh, the lines! 

I feel like I’m aging more quickly every day. 

When I consider my exhaustion, there are two things I consider, and I recommend you do too:

1. What is the primary motivation behind my busy-ness?

Am I consumed with self? Am I trying to meet the status quo? Am I trying to live up to others’ expectations? Am I busy serving or receiving? Where is God in this busy life? Is He a motivator or simply a spectator?

If I am busy for reasons that don’t really have anything to do with my relationship with a God, then that reflects on my priorities. If I am busy to the extent that I am distracted from my relationship with a God, then that is a tragedy. If I am busy because there is much to do for the Lord and for others in His name, then that is good, but only in moderation. 

There is also a biblical precedent for rest. 

When we get tired, it is biblical for us to take time off for rest. This is the reason most people get at least one day per week off. It isn’t just physically important, but spiritually as well. 

If I pour out a pitcher, there will come a time when it is empty, and I can no longer pour anything out. Without times of rest and refreshing, we get burned out, exhausted, and become useless. We need to be refilled.

This is one of the many reasons meeting with your church family on Sundays and Wednesdays is important. 

2.  I’m looking more and more forward to the rest that is eternal, spoken of in the scriptures. 

In Hebrews, we are encouraged to seek after that rest – living our lives in such a way as to achieve that rest – as long as it is still available for us to achieve. The rest referred to is heaven.  The presence of God is the most peaceful place to reside. This is the promised culmination of a live lived in devotion to God. 

I don’t achieve this rest if I have taken all the rest I need here on earth. Why would I need rest in the presence of God if I have never done anything for Him here that would exhaust me? Why should I get to rest in Him if I’ve never needed Him before? 

I pray that this holiday season you may find time to rest, and during that time you may find refreshing that is from the Lord whether through His Word, through prayer, or through the encouragement of your forever family. 


By This Gospel…


“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

Image there was a supreme, other-dimensional being that decided to create some humanoids. He would have a plan for them to love each other and even love him. If they got out of line, there would be strict consequences, for they were the created beings without the right to dictate their own way. 

Imagine that the beings that were created were considered awesome by this supreme being, and he began to love them as if they were his own offspring. However, the created ones began to rebel and do their own thing. They began to treat one another with disdain and hatred rather than love. They began to destroy the habitat in which they were placed. They began to destroy one another. 

The supreme being had set the rules in place from the beginning of this creation, and now he had to justly punish these beings, but he loved them. 

He tried to encourage them to turn back to his ways by showering them with blessings even allowing them to reap the consequences of their behavior. Try as they might, however, the created ones just couldn’t break this selfish habit that had become ingrained into their culture to the very roots. 

The supreme being could destroy them. He created them, after all. But he loved them. He wanted to see them succeed and find the blessing of life with him. He wanted them to have the opportunity to graduate from this lesser world of imperfection and be able to become perfect in his realm. 

But he couldn’t understand why they turned away. They didn’t understand how much he loved them. 

So one day he created himself into their world as a humble baby. Maybe if he grew up as one of them he could understand them more and see how to show them the way to himself. Maybe if he was tempted as they are he would be able to have compassion for them, and they would be able to see his compassion and love. 

There still lingered the need for consequence for their decision to turn their backs on him and overthrow his reign over their lives. 

He loved them so much that he decided to take their punishment for them. He inflicted on himself the death that they deserved. He granted them freedom from the consequences of their selfishness so that they would turn to him and live once again in a love-relationship with their creator. He proved his majesty and promise-keeping ability by raising himself from the dead with witnesses. 

This freedom from consequences would be granted to all people for all time with one catch. They would need to want it. They would need to want a relationship with the creator defined by love and freedom. 

Some wanted it and some didn’t. Even today, some respond to the call, and some don’t. But for those who realize the goodness of this creator, the salvation offered isn’t just good news. It’s great news!

When the angel announced the birth of the messiah, this is the story to which he referred when he proclaimed the “good news of great joy…for all people”. Good news. Gospel. 

“By this gospel you are saved…” (I Corinthians 15:2)


If You Love Jesus You’ll Buy This

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The other day I was listening to a local Christian radio station and I heard a commercial for a “gift this Christmas”. I’m not going to tell you what it was, but the people gave all these reasons why someone should buy this item and give it to someone. Then, at the end of the commercial they said “honor The Lord by giving this gift”.

Really? Honor The Lord by buying some Christian merchandise? Shouldn’t we better honor The Lord by living our lives in service to Him and being content with what we have? Do we really need more stuff?

I see this all the time. “Christian” companies using their religious preference to get you to buy their goods. Is there such thing as a Christian company anyway? Sure, there are Christians who own companies. There are companies who deal with merchandise that promote Christian symbols and ideas. There are Christians who work for companies, but the companies themselves cannot be Christian or non-Christian.

I hear commercials by companies who have no direct tie in their business to anything specifically Christian. They aren’t selling Christian goods or teaching Christian ideals, and yet they are advertising themselves as a Christian company.

1 Timothy 6:5 gives warning that there are some who think that their godliness is a means to financial gain. He warns to watch out for these people. He says rather to find godliness with contentment.

As you live your life, don’t use your status as a Christian to manipulate or coerce people. You should gain people’s trust and friendship by the way you live. Christianity is not a badge we wear but a life we live. And if the fruit of our lives don’t match up with the faith we profess then that makes us a hypocrite, and Jesus had a lot of negative things to say about hypocrites.

We are called to be consistent in how we live. When we make a commitment to something, we follow through because we have made our “yes” as good as a promise. When we talk to people they are able to hear Jesus reflected in our speech. When we do things, whether working or playing, people are able to see that we are doing everything to the glory of God. When we run a company or work for a company we should be the most highly sought after people because of our reflection of the attitude and lifestyle of Jesus in our lives.

May you be people who reflect Jesus in everything you do. And may you be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5-6). God bless you!


If If’s and But’s Were Candy and Nuts…

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When I was growing up my mother had this saying that really annoyed me: If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas.

Back then I kind of understood it, but now I have a great appreciation for this saying.

Are you the kind of person who says, from time to time, “if only…”? What good does that do? When I was younger this was a popular habit of mine. I would beat myself up with the what if’s and tear myself down with the if only’s. These did me no good. They only made me feel worse.

So what about you? Do you have a past relationship that you’ve often wondered about? If only… Have you lost a job you loved, and you wonder “what if…”?

I find that when I have the mindset that regrets things not done that could have been then I am a miserable soul indeed. I even begin to go into conversations worried about having the right words or doing the right things to make everything go smoothly. I want the best from each moment of life, but the more I struggle to try to make each moment the best myself the more frustrated I am with the minute details of the moment that didn’t go right.

I am a big fan of the movie “The Matrix”, and I have seen all three of them multiple times. I’m not as big a fan of the second and third installments, but in the second movie there is a scene in which the trio that is out to save the world has a conversation that doesn’t go as they expected. One of them begins to complain about the situation when the character that is more prophet-like stops her and reminds her that it couldn’t have happened any other way, but there must be a reason for it to be that way.

When I saw this it reminded me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6. “Do not worry.” If I remember that God is always in control, then I can have much more peace in each situation. God has promised us to turn every situation out for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). If I trust in that promise then I know that as long as I have surrendered my life to Him then whatever I put my hand to will turn out the way it was intended.

If I have prayed over a situation or conversation before I meet, then I can have peace that God will direct my words and actions. Even when I feel like things didn’t go as well as expected, I can trust that God used whatever was said or done to enhance the situation of all involved.

What this does is grant much more freedom. I no longer have to worry about how things are going to go. I don’t have to have regrets from the past. The things that happened happened and the things that will happen will happen. I am not in control. God is!

This also has great implications on whether or not I share the message of Jesus with others. When I am worried what they will think or whether or not I will have the right words, then I hesitate and often do not do the things which are necessary for their salvation. But when I surrender myself to God and His will, then it doesn’t matter whether or not I have the right worlds. All that matters is that I love the other person and try. God will give the blessing.

It is my prayer that you can be freed from a life of regret. May you stop saying the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. May your life be fuller because of a lack of worry, and may you trust that God will certainly turn every situation out for your good.

If there is anything I can do for you or pray with you about, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you as you live in His freedom!


Shopping in Houston: A Gift-Buying Fiasco

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The other day I drove into Houston to pick up my daughter for Christmas. While I was there I decided to look for a few Christmas presents to finish off my list. One of those gifts happened to be a new pair of shoes for me. But these weren’t just any shoes, so I had to find the few stores that carried them, and then I had to find the one with the best price.

Fortunately all of this was initiated fairly quickly over the phone before ever traveling up to Houston, so I set off on my journey – the Tuesday before Christmas. This trip started with two kids in tow (one not feeling so hot), so I had a heightened awareness of the busy-ness of the region as I carted my two little ones through crowded stores.

I went to the first store, near the Galleria, and they searched all over but lo and behold they were out of my size (unless I wanted pink). They checked their computer and the store at the Memorial Park mall had two of the exact size and color in stock, so off I went.

On the way over there traffic was super busy. It was five o’clock AND the Tuesday before Christmas, so this was no ordinary driving day. As I travelled, I called the store to make sure that they really did have two in stock, and I waited on hold as they checked. It turned out that they didn’t have my preferred color, but they had the next best one. They only had one, however, and they put it at the register for me with my name on it.

When I arrived at the mall, we saw Target, and one of the gifts on my list was at that store, so we quickly went inside and found the gift rather easily. Standing in line to check out was less than easy with crowded electronics department check out lines in a small area and me with a child seat cart (one of those with the two extra seats for your toddlers). At one point as I stood waiting, I looked over and my children were gone. My heart dropped. It turned out that they were just a foot to the left of where I could see in order to watch a particular monitor. I got them back in place and was able to stay in my spot in line.

After Target, we picked up my daughter at the mall and proceeded on to the store that was holding my shoes. They did have my shoes behind the counter waiting for me, so I though this was going to be great. When I opened the box, however, one shoe wasn’t the same as the other. One was the one I wanted, but the other was a different style and size. The clerk searched and searched to no avail. So this turned out poorly.

I decided to try one last store. I knew they had one at the Katy Mills mall, so I called them and verified that they had the shoe I wanted. They said they did, but I had them put their hands on it and check the box this time to make sure there were no more mismatches. Everything looked to be right this time. With my three kids in tow I took them to eat dinner then off we set to find the store in Katy.

When we got to the mall, we found the store immediately, and everything was looking up. At the counter they had my shoes, so I decided I better try them one one last time before handing over the cash for them. While putting on the shoes, my youngest daughter (3) decided she wanted to play hide and seek, although she told no one of her plans. Now my daughter had disappeared in an unknown store crammed with people. My heart sank again.

We finally found her. I got to try on the shoes, and we finally got to actually purchase (at 8pm) what I’d been trying to buy since 4:30. To celebrate, I took the kids to the play area to get their wiggles out before the car ride back home. This time I noticed that my son no longer had on his jacket. I asked him where he left it, and he said he took it off in the bathroom (on the other end of the mall). I frantically rushed back to the bathroom to look for the jacket, but it wasn’t there.

When I returned to the play area, my son wasn’t nearly as upset that someone had taken his jacket as I was. After sufficient play time we headed back to the car. I got the kids seated and asked my some one more time if he was sure he hadn’t just left his jacket in the car. He looked at his feet and said, “oh! There it is!” it was in the floorboard of the car the entire time.

I was exhausted.

I had worked so hard to find one gift for me. I had not been required to work so hard to find gifts for those others in my life that I love. This gift was something I had wanted for a few years now, and I finally had the opportunity to get it. So I was determined to make this wish come true in my life.

What do you wish for? This season we celebrate the birth of Christ – the greatest gift to mankind that God has ever given. Do you desire him? What had you been willing to do or sacrifice to find him and have relationship with him? He requires that we sacrifice our life for him, but it’s not a worthless sacrifice. I’ve never met anyone who sacrificed everything for Christ and was disappointed in their decision.

As you celebrate Christmas this year remember that it is because of Jesus you have been offered the gift of salvation. You have the opportunity to have eternal life. You can have intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe. These are gifts we should be willing to brave more than just the holiday rush in Houston in order to receive.

This gift is readily accessible. You don’t have to go to multiple stores to find it. But it is expensive. It will cost you your sin. You will be asked to exchange all the junk in your life for the peace that comes through Christ. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a pretty good exchange to me.

What do you say? Are you ready to receive the ultimate gift this Christmas? If you are then call me or email me. I’d love to visit with you about this and help you find your way. If I can help you in any way, call me at 245-1611 or email me at jddobbs@verizon.net.

Merry Christmas, and may you allow God to bless you this Christmas season.


The Greatest Show on Earth

The Community Actors of South Texas (CAST) have their next production coming up this weekend: “A Country Christmas Carol”. This show will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Rhema Fellowship building in downtown Bay City. I’m in the show, and you can find out more about it at http://www.communityactors.org.

I am not writing this article to simply plug the show, though I would love for you to come support CAST. It’s just that as I prepare to perform this weekend, I can’t help but reflect on all the work that must be done to make this show a success. Each person has to do his or her own job to make this work. Actors and actresses have to rehearse lines and movements (in this play, songs too!) or else the play just won’t work. The director has to be preparing for the play before the first rehearsal and has to lead the performers and crew. There are many different roles that have to be undertaken to make this work: stage managers, sound technicians, light crew, prop builders, promotional managers, costumes, etc… Without each person working to prepare then performing their task as needed then this would be a disaster.

As the show grows in its ability to perform, something else grows. The relationships between those working on the play grow. People come together from all walks of like with a common purpose. The result is not only a performed play, but a shared experience that will be a lasting thread to connect each of us no matter where life takes us from this point forward. When this is done right, the performance is great, and others like what they see and want to join in.

As Christians, Jesus is supposed to be our thread. We are his church. The church isn’t a place or a building or even a couple of services on Sundays and Wednesdays. The church is the people who have committed their life to the Messiah.

Through the years the church has morphed quite a bit from the way it was in the first century shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven. Churches today are frequently where people come to be spiritually fed. Usually this is the only spiritual feeding they get each week. Churches have encouraged its members to “bring a friend” in order for the preacher or some other minister to evangelize them taking that burden of responsibility off the lay-Christian. We often speak of “going to church”. Then, when we get there, they are highly ritualized ceremonies where a few people participate and the rest are spectators.

If we could bring some Christians here from the first century they wouldn’t recognize the church.

The church of the first century was quite different. First of all, they had no church buildings, so they WERE the church. In fact, they were so excited about it that they often met daily so they could encourage one another and share in that common thread of Jesus. The church had a common experience (coming to Jesus), and it had a common purpose. The purpose of the church was to take care of each other first, then evangelize the world all with a view of heaven.

The church at one time “had everything in common” and made sure that no other Jesus-followers had anything lacking. Their first priority was to take care of each other in love. They were fulfilling Jesus’ words when he said “by this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

They daily shared in that common experience. They also daily told others about the message of Jesus. This was made quite easier by their lifestyle. You see, they didn’t live anything like the world. The world saw their collective living. It saw their newfound love for others, and it wanted to be a part of that. The disciples lived their lives in such a way that led others to ask “what makes you different?” Then they had a great opportunity to start right there with the saving message of Jesus.

You are not called to allow the church to be your spiritual dinner table. You should be fed and feeding others each day as you commune with the body of Christ. How can we be a witness to the world if our lives show that we haven’t witnessed anything?

If we didn’t practice and work together for the play, then even if you did show up, the performance would be disastrous. Not only would you not come back, but you would talk to others about that as well. We are called to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)

So may you re-dedicate your service to God, His church and the world. May you be an agent of change to bring the church back to where it needs to be. And may God use you to show the world what love really is.

Come see me in the show, and if there’s anything I can do for you or pray with you about, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. God bless you!


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