The Shocking Truth About Christmas Desserts

1466216_955777582595_1461134808_nI admit it – I have a dangerous sweet tooth at Christmas.

Cap’n Crunch Christmas Crunch. Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. Candy Cane Hershey Kisses. Starbucks Peppermint Mocha.

When Christmas comes around my appetite and my dessert budget get a little out of control.

There’s something about seasonal sweets which makes my mouth water. For some reason a cookie shaped like an ornament seems like it tastes than your standard circular cookie.

Here’s the shocking truth about Christmas desserts: these holiday treats really aren’t that different from their non-Christmas counterparts.

Christmas Crunch is the same as Crunchberries cereal, just with red and green shapes. Christmas Tree Cakes are just repackaged Zebra Cakes. And even though it’s not on the menu you can get a Peppermint Mocha anytime of the year.

These are the same desserts, just in different packaging. If we really like what we’re eating and not just swept up in the season then we can actually enjoy these same great tastes year round.

Maybe the same is true for the spirit of Christmas.

When December rolls around you can’t deny there’s a wonderful spirit in the air. Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons get swept up in the generosity. Random Acts Of Kindness like Secret Santas paying off customer’s layaway abound.

It’s easy to forget we can be generous and selfless throughout the year too – we don’t have to wait for the snow to start falling.

The spirit of giving, the spirit of abundant and selfless love, can be had all year long. It doesn’t have to be seasonal.

Keeping the true spirit of Christmas becomes a little harder when the rest of the world is not on your side. Without Christmas music blaring and Christmas specials airing, we tend to let this spirit go out of season.

The colors may be different but the spirit is always on the menu. It’s always available. We just don’t always recognize it.

Some years, if I’m smart enough, I’ll stockpile on the Christmas sweets. I’ll buy a few extra boxes of Christmas Crunch and Christmas Tree Cakes so I can enjoy the flavor into January and February.

Maybe this year, instead of hoarding sweets, we can store up some of the Christmas spirit. Maybe if we try hard enough we can make it last all the way to next December.

And even when our supply runs out, let’s remember that the Christmas spirit is always in season, available in abundance to anyone willing to keep it in stock throughout the year. 

What’s your favorite Christmas sweet? How can you keep the Christmas spirit in season year-round?

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POP GOD POPcast: Episode 25 – Christmastravaganza With Kate Doriot

 

slide.001Welcome to Episode 25 of the POP GOD POPcast – a podcast interview series exploring the presence of God in pop culture.

To celebrate the 12 Blogs Of Christmas it’s the first ever POP GOD Christmastravaganza – a celebration of all things Christmas music! My wife Kate Doriot joins me to talk about our Christmas music memories, new Christmas songs for 2014 and everything in between. We break down the best and the worst holiday tunes of all time, explore the history of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and discover the surprising origins of a holiday gem. Is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” the creepiest Christmas song? Why do bad songs happen to good people? When is the appropriate time to listen to Christmas music? We answer all those questions and more on this merry music Christmastravaganza!

Listen to the podcast here:

Or Download on iTunes Or Listen on Podbean

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, rate it, leave a comment, listen to all the other episodes, share it on Twitter and Facebook and anywhere else. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

I love sharing stories of people seeking God in the present tense. Let me hear your feedback. Leave me a comment and let me know how to improve things, what you’d like to hear discussed, and give me your ideas as to who you’d like to see on the next episode of the POPcast.

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Songs Discussed In This Episode Include:

‘A Great Big Sled’ – The Killers
‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ – Burl Ives
‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ – Mariah Carey
‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ – Various Artists
‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ – Darlene Love/U2
‘Christmas in Killarney’ – Bing Crosby
‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ – Baid Aid (1984, 1989, 2004, 2014)
‘Feliz Navidad’ – Jose Feliciano
‘Fum Fum Fum’ – Various Artists
‘Go Tell it on The Mountain’ – Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ – Elmo Shropshire & Patsy Trigg
‘Happy XMas (War is Over)’ – John Lennon & Yoko Ono
‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ – Judy Garland or Frank Sinatra
‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ – Andy Williams
‘Jingle Bell Rock’ – Bobby Helms
IMG_4554Joy to the World’ – Three Dog Night
‘Kissin’ By the Mistletoe’ – Aretha Franklin
‘Last Christmas’ – Wham!
‘Love is All Around’ – Wet Wet Wet
‘Mele Kallikimaka’ – Bing Crosby
‘Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays’ – N*Sync
‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ – Brenda Lee
‘Run Run Rudolph’ – Chuck Berry/Bryan Adams
‘Santa Baby’ – Peggy Lee/Madonna/Ariana Grande
‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ – Bruce Springsteen
‘Santa Tell Me’ – Ariana Grande, 2014
‘Text Me Merry Christmas’ – Straight No Chaser & Kristen Bell (We’re sorry for exposing you to this atrocity)
‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ – Various Artists
‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays’ – Perry Como
‘Up on the Housetop’ – Gene Autry
‘Waiting on the World to Change’ – John Mayer
‘White Christmas’ – Bing Crosby
‘Wonderful Christmastime’ – Paul McCartney

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How To Avoid A Home Alone Christmas

MV5BMTUzMzg4MTg2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDM4OTk4._V1_SX640_SY720_“Home Alone” is one of the great under-the-radar Christmas movies.

Much like “Die Hard” or “The Family Stone”, “Home Alone” isn’t overwhelmingly holiday-themed. What we really remember about the movie are Kevin’s hijinks fighting off the Wet Bandits, his adventures roaming about town on his own and quotes like, “Keep the change, ya filthy animals.”

But I think the story of “Home Alone” makes a great metaphor for the Advent season.

Here’s a quick refresher in case you haven’t seen it in a while: The Mom of the McCalister clan plans an epic family trip to France for the holidays. Chaos leads to confusion on the way to the airport messing up the final family headcount. The baby of the family Kevin is left asleep at the house. No one realizes what’s happened until the plan is up in the air.

A pretty funny plot for a film, but totally unrealistic, right?

I mean, how could any caring parent lose sight of one of your own children, especially at Christmas?

The holidays are supposed to be the most joyful time of the year. For most us, though, they’re really the busiest and most stressful time.

Our responsibilities at work increase as the boss wants to close out Q4 strong. The gift list starts adding up. The bank account starts drying up.

What’s supposed to be a season of reflection and anticipation rapidly becomes one of deadlines and doubts.

Before you know it it’s December 24th. Your’e standing in line at Target for Grandpa’s gift and it hits you – you’ve forgotten about The Child at Christmas.

It’s a lot easier than you realize to let Jesus slip your mind at Christmas. The world is not going to help you out at all. The holidays can disrupt even the most faithful of us.

To avoid a “Home Alone” situation this Christmas, you have to be intentional. You can’t just assume a little Bing Crosby on the radio and a wreath on the door will make the season come alive in your heart. You have to do a little work keep Jesus on your mind.

Here’s a few things you can try to avoid a “Home Alone” Advent:

- Read an Advent devotional. It’s really not too late. The Bible app has plenty of Christmas-themed plans. You can jump right into the middle or try to catch up from the beginning.

- Find a partner. Don’t make this a Secret Santa situation, trying to hide your faith struggle from the world. Seek out a friend who will hold you accountable and go through a devotional with you – Someone who will check in on your holiday cheer.

- Schedule a time for charity. Serve a meal at your local homeless shelter. Ring the bells for Salvation Army. Bake cookies for postmen or firefighters. A small act of service at Christmas will put your priorities and your problems in perspective.

- Attend a Christmas service. It doesn’t have to just be the Christmas Eve service. Check in on the Youth or Children’s Christmas program at your church. Seeing Christmas through a youngster’s eyes can reawaken a childlike spirit in your heart.

- Read the story. If nothing else, make the time this year to read the Christmas story. Read it in a different translation – a contemporary one like The Voice or go old school with the King James. Give yourself the gift of a fresh look at the age-old story this year. Remind yourself of what it’s all about.

The Christmas spirit of “Home Alone” shines through in the final act, as Kevin’s family miraculously finds their way back to the child they abandoned. It’s not too late for us to have a reunion with The Christ Child either.

It will take some work on our part. But if we make the effort to turn around, The Child will be waiting for us with open arms.

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Why Buddy The Elf Is My Role Model

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GUEST POST: Today’s contributor to The 12 Blogs Of Christmas is my friend Michaela Pollock. Michaela is a Senior at Georgia College & State University with a real heart for inspiring and encouraging others. I’m excited to introduce you to her today. Enjoy her contribution to POP GOD:

To this day I remember the first time I watched the movie Elf and fell in love with the touch of claymation, the adorable elf outfits, and how simple joy is represented through the entire story.

I received the movie Elf from my Aunt Diane, who my dad often says I am just alike, so there had to have been some kindred spirits working there when she bought it for me. I watched it that day with my extended family and about immediately it became my favorite movie.

You may think, “Why is a Christmas movie your favorite movie?!” I have heard this, and dealt with all the funny faces. But, if you know me, you’re not shocked a Christmas movie is my favorite movie.

I would like to pride myself as being the female version of Buddy the Elf if I could, so I think we could learn a thing or two from Buddy and the movie itself.

First off, Buddy exudes Joy. No matter the situation, whether it’s being thrown out of the Empire State building or walking from the North Pole to New York City, he is consistently happy about it, cherishes the moment, and isn’t embarrassed or concerned about what others may think.

The simplest things make him joyful, such as drawing a picture of a butterfly, or eating cotton balls. Buddy cannot be beaten by losing his “job” or by the fact that his dad is on the naughty list. He continues to fight for joy.

Buddy is also quick to love. Whether it is a friend in the mailroom, his younger brother, or his new found dad (whom he doesn’t know much about) he aspires to have fun and make memories with them. He treats them with kindness and aspires to include them at all times.

He simply believes that Santa is real and spreads children with cheer all around the world. Buddy is absolutely himself no matter the circumstance.

I think the reason I am so easily drawn to in Buddy is that he holds the true spirit of Christmas that first came from Jesus’ birth.

People were so drawn to him because of the promise that He held – to save us. Jesus came to teach us how to live a life that isn’t about ourselves.

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:2-5, ESV)

We must rejoice in his birth because it brought richness to our lives. Without his birth there would be no role model of how to be a child of Christ, and most importantly, there would be no saving of sins.

Buddy simply wants more and more joy to be spread, especially during Christmas time. This is so encouraging because we need to be reminded of the richness that Christ’s birth brought. Buddy is so quick to love and to spread joy to others, just like Jesus.

So, really, I think Buddy may be my role model because he reminds me of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  In the movie, the narrator in fact says, “His spirit saved others as well.” Just as Buddy helped other’s see the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus came to show us life and how to live our lives righteously as his children.

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Instructions Not Included

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Did you ever have one of those perfect Christmas mornings?

You know the one I’m talking about: all the presents laid out, the toys you begged all year for set up and already working like Santa snuck in overnight.

If you ever had a Christmas like this, you can guarantee the hours before you awoke were spent by your parents earning their place on the naughty list as they screamed and cursed trying to put your gifts together.

Those toys never seem to be as easy to put together as the instructions make them out to be.

God forbid the instructions were not included. Can you imagine what a disaster that might have been?

Yet that’s just what happened for one family as they were preparing for Christmas. The first Christmas, that is. 

We read a lot every Christmas about the angel visiting Mary. But I think what happens when an angel visits Zechariah, the father of John The Baptist, is just as important.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth thought they were well beyond the ages of childbirth when a visitor appeared to inform them otherwise:

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.

The angel tells the father of the miraculous birth. Being a man of reason, he asks an important question: How?

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” (Luke 1)

Did you notice what just happened? Instead of laying out an instruction plan, the angel sidesteps Zechariah’s question.

The angel answers Zechariah’s question of “How” not by giving step-by-step details but by laying out his authority. His response of, “I am Gabriel,” hearkens back to the answer we typically receive from God when we ask for directions.

God doesn’t always give instructions when we ask how. Instead, He says, “I Am.”

“I Am,” means He Was and He Is and He Always Will Be. It means He is not going anywhere. It means He is present and making things happen in the present.

With that simple authoritative statement, we are called to stop worrying. We are called to stop screaming. We are called to put one foot in front of the other and start marching forward. 

Don’t despair when you shake the box and the instructions don’t fall out. God doesn’t always give us a diagram when He interrupts our lives.

Instead, He reminds us who He is and asks us to trust in what we are capable of when we trust in Him.

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Monday Morning Music: Joel The Lump Of Coal

Mondays can feel like a big lump of coal in your stocking.

You spend the weekend full of the holiday spirit – picking out a tree, wrapping presents, enjoying a glass of egg nog and the yearly viewing of Emmet Otter.

Then that alarm hits Monday morning, waking you up from that wonderful Christmas dream and bringing you back into the reality of the workweek.

Ugh. For all the joy and merriment of the Christmas season, we still have lumps of coal to deal with in our lives.

Maybe you could use some Monday Morning Music to get you back in the spirit.

What if there was something more to these lumps in our stockings? What if the things we think are meant to upset  us have a deeper meaning buried inside?

These are the questions at the heart of Joel The Lump Of Coal, the new Christmas song from The Killers. Every year the band releases a Christmas tune to benefit Red.

The Killers’ holiday tunes are always original and often explore offbeat and overlooked angles on Christmas like, “If Santa is such jolly, generous soul, why is he so cruel to the naughty kids?”

Joel is a good-natured lump. He lives to keep the North Pole warm and all the workers cozy.

Pool Joel thinks Santa has finally plucked him to be a special gift for an eager girl or boy. But his peers are quick to point out the truth: he’s just a booby prize.

Despite having a task no peaceful lump deserves to endure, Joel never loses hope. When a young boy opens his stocking looking for a present and sees a pile of anthracite, Joel sees a chance to give a beautiful gift to a child who doesn’t deserve it. He’s willing to sacrifice himself for the salvation of someone on the naughty list.

I won’t ruin the beautiful twist at the end of the song. You’ll have to listen to hear how Joel’s story ends. If you’re like me it might just put a tear in your eye.

It also may inspire you to look deeper at the moments you see this holiday season as lumps of coal – the presents we didn’t ask for, the pain we don’t think we deserve, the Monday Mornings we don’t want to deal with.

When hope seems lost at Christmas, remember the message of Joel The Lump Of Coal: God saves some of his most precious gifts for us when we deserve them least. 

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The Least Famous Reindeer Of All

FullSizeRender-9You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.

But do you recall the least famous reindeer of all?

His name is Rodney. You might not recognize him. To me though, it’s not Christmas without Rodney The Reindeer.

Rodney has been my favorite Christmas ornament for I don’t even know how long. He’s always the first one I place on our family tree. It doesn’t matter if it’s the day after Thanksgiving or just a few days before the 25th – it ain’t Christmas for me until Rodney takes his spot on the tree.

Rodney is just a Hallmark creation for Christmas – literally. He wasn’t designed to spread the message of Christmas. He was designed to sell trinkets and toys.

I get that. He’s just an inanimate rubber reindeer ornament.

To me though, Rodney represents all the wonders of the season.

Because he’s always the first ornament I place on the tree, Rodney carries with him all of the special memories and emotions of Christmas.

He is the presence of God popping up in the randomest of places.

For most of us the Christmas Tree represents a piecemeal hodgepodge of abstract art. Every ornament has a unique story attached to it.

Even the mass produced ones, the plain gold balls and red spikes, the generic Walmart ornaments which take up the empty spots – these are all full of memories. The moments they were purchased, the year they broke and got glued back together, the year Grandma passed them down to you.

If we listen closely we can hear God communicating through our Christmas ornaments.

Each one tells us a different part of our own personal Christmas story. Pieced together they communicate a personalized picture of God’s faithfulness to our families through the ages.

Every ornament speaks to a different moment of time. Though our lives are ever-changing, the hope God brings at Christmas stays the same year after year.

And in a way I think the ornaments adorning our trees are a reflection of the way we decorate the tree of life.

Each one of us is like an ornament. We are handcrafted by God at just the right time, hung in just the right space with care. We are each created with a different purpose and different stories to tell.

It doesn’t really matter if we’re the most famous reindeer or the least, if we’re the fanciest ornament or just a craft made from popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. We each play a pivotal role in God’s story.

Rodney The Reindeer might not be the most famous reindeer of all. He might not be the prettiest Christmas ornament. But to me he’s a reminder of everything special about Christmas.

Rodney reminds me every year that no matter what our story is we all have our spot on the tree.

Do you have a favorite Christmas ornament? What makes it so special for you?

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