Tag Archives: redemption

traditions: goodie bags and the gingerbread gospel

2749c40ef0109887d41f0ee9930f7839Did you know that today is National Gingerbread House Day? It’s true. Look it up.

Decorated gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s. According to my research, the first gingerbread houses were the result of the well-known Grimm’s fairytale Hansel and Gretel, in which two children, abandoned in the forest, find an edible witch’s house made of bread and sugar decorations…you know how it goes. After the book was published in 1812, German bakers began creating these ornamental fairytale houses of “lebkuchen,” which is German for “gingerbread.”

Before long, these little houses became popular during the Christmas season and a new tradition had begun.

All things gingerbread sure haven’t changed much in the years since its deluctible beginnings in Germany. Immigrants brought the cookie delights to American when they came here and markets all around the world still sell decorated gingerbreads houses and villages.

Few have even taken it further:

  • In Bergen, Norway, people and children get to create a gingerbread city each year. The tradition began in 1991 and is today, the largest gingerbread city in the world…small scale, of course.

    gingerbread city

  • Just this year, a group in Bryan, TX broke the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread house by creating an edible – you read that right: edible! – 2,520-square-foot gingerbread house to aid a local hospital. Believe it or not, this record was previously owned by the Mall of America.
  • There are Gingerbread House Competitions held all over the world each year.
  • The list goes on.

In years past, my church group has held our own miniature version of a gingerbread house competition – see photos:

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Granted, we used graham crackers instead, but fun, right?

I personally am not a huge fan of gingerbread, but I do enjoy baking and creating treats each year. Over Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday), I opt to kick-off my annual holiday bake-off, which I started three years ago. During that time, I make anywhere from 12-32 dozen cookies and 4-5 lbs. of fudge. All of them are made with butter and sugar substitutes, making them less in fat and lighter in sugar content (not to mention calories).

I rarely keep any of those treats for myself. I used to, three years ago, before I decided to start leading a healthier life. I may not eat as many sweets as used to, but I do allow myself the smaller-portioned amount at each holiday festivity I attend. Note small.

Instead, I share what I make with the people in my life – my friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family. In a way, sharing these treats connects to sharing the love of Christ with those around me. I don’t expect anything in return – I share and give because I want to. And with that, I’ll leave you with this fun read: The Gingerbread Gospel.

*I’ve tweaked it some as the original was written in a way that children could understand it. Please let your mindset be that of a child while reading through this.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a life-sized gingerbread house? What would your favorite candy house be made out of? What would you use for beds, chairs, pillows, toys? (Best shared with children…hear them out…or better yet, let your own imagination flow).

That would almost seem like the perfect place to live, wouldn’t it? Well, the Bible tells us about a real  live ‘perfect place to live.’ It’s called Heaven. Long ago, that’s where Jesus lived. But God decided to send Jesus from His perfect house in Heaven to Earth (John 6.39).

What was the first house Jesus liked in on Earth – a stable.

What is a stable? A barn.

What would it have looked liked? What would have been in that stable? What would it have smelled like? And Jesus’ first bed was a manger. What is a manger? (Luke 2.1-7)

Was it anything like the perfect place Jesus came from?

[I’m actually remembering the barn I grew up working in…back home….dairy air…or derriere, depending on how you look at it, and I can’t help but wonder, why there?]

Now, why do you think that God would send His own Son from a perfect house in heaven, to a dirty, smelly, cold place like a stable?

Because He loves us very much!

[God wants us] to know Him so He sent [Jesus] to tell you and show you all about God. Jesus did just that. He taught us about God, and the things that He taught are all written down for us in the Bible (John 3.16).

On day, when Jesus was still a young man, He left his home on Earth. He died for all [our sins]. And now He has a new home.

Do you know where that is?

[Within us.]

[He has forgiven us our sins and we’ve been made free! (John 14.15-17)]

Why?

He [has done so] that we can all live with Him forever in that perfect , wonderful place (heaven) (Luke 1.31-33; John 6.38-40; John 14.1-3).

Review the types of houses we’ve talked about: heaven, stable/earth, our hearts, heaven.

[Now, look to the gingerbread house] and remember how much Jesus loves you every time you look at it…remember that Jesus wants to be a part of your life and that He has invited you to live with Him in heaven one day.

© Kelly Hancock, http://faithfulprovisions.com/2009/12/07/the-gingerbread-gospel-2/

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

traditions: trimming the tree

I’ve said it before and have no shame in mentioning it again.

I love Christmas.

Prior to Thanksgiving, I decided to decorate my apartment since I would be away during the holiday 14aa4b07b7c8e786dcf8d175e25282a0weekend and wanted to come home to Christmas. The balcony had been decorated during one of the last 50 degree days of October (early, I know, but that’s what we do in Minnesota).

I hauled out my new tree, last years’ ornaments, the matching, deep-red tree skirt, and other odds and ends. As I was wrapping glittered, net-style ribbon around my little tree, I pondered how they got their start and the connection to Jesus.

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him… John 19.17-18

Let’s start with the Christmas tree’s history: It’s been said that the Christmas tree has its roots buried in Germany. Ever hear of the term tannenbaum? It’s the German word for Christmas tree. In 1570, a small tree was decorated with what we now consider holiday foods and was set up in the 16th century equivalent of today’s gentleman’s club: a guild-house. Children were allowed to collect those treats (apples, nuts, dates and pretzels) on Christmas Day.

Wax candles were added to the mix in the 18th century and eventually, the tradition spread to other countries.

By the end of the 19th century, the Christmas tree was termed a Christmas tradition. Artificial trees were introduced and they, too originated in Germany.

The connection to Jesus: I think of God’s story…our history.

When you start in the book of Genesis and follow His story to Revelation, there are two trees: The first trees in the garden and the tree where Jesus gave his life.

Trees are a symbol of strength, growth, prosperity, intimacy, life and death. They provide context for both the sorrow and hope of mankind. A tree is at the center of our fall into sin and is also at the center of our salvation.

God created us in his image; to commune with him through an eternal life of worship. This life was embodied in the Tree of Life in the midst of Eden. And it was through the abuse of another, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that Adam and Eve were separated from the Tree of Life; from God himself. Hope seemed lost forever.

But God, in his great mercy and grace, offered another way through his Son at Calvary.

At Christmas, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We celebrate our hope.

His story climaxes on the tree at Golgotha; on the cross.

That last tree, the cross, was a far cry from the one gracing my living room. That first tree wasn’t a beautiful evergreen found among many on a tree farm or in the woods. It was a piece of rough-hewn wood with no natural beauty and its sole purpose was to bring misery and pain and eventually death. Its only beauty was in the purpose for which God intended in using it: to restore our relationship with him.

Instead of being decorated with white lights and ornaments from my childhood, the Light of the World hung upon its limbs, his body beaten and bruised by those responsible for his punishment.

There was no tree skirt or fake snow beneath this tree. Instead, the ground was stained crimson red by the blood shed for the sins of the world.

We share stories of Christmases past, sing Christmas carols and joyful laughter around our trees today. Those who did so then were hurling insults and mocked the Son of God – Emanuel – God with us. He was shown no mercy and yet, chose to show us mercy.

Remember those gifts tied to the branches of the first originating “Christmas trees”? This may very well be the only similarity between our tree and the tree on which my Savior died. The greatest gift of all was “tied” to the branches of the tree on Golgotha. There he died and paid the penalty for not my sin, but the sins of the entire world. There, he gave a gift, a free gift, so unlike those we give to one another and this gift is still active, alive and available today.

My tree is placed in a prominent position in my living room: right in front of the giant glass patio doors for the world (well, my little world anyway) to see. Just as my tree has that vantage point, I have to make that same choice to have the cross placed in a prominent position in my life and in my heart. Does the world see him through the way I live? Through my actions? Through my words? Do they?

I challenge you to look beyond the tree gracing your home, if you have one, and see the tree on which Jesus gave his life – for you and for me.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9.15