Tag Archives: christmas

Anticipating Emmanuel

Advent is all about the Hope coming with the arrival of Emmanuel—“God with us.” But many of us have a less-than-full embracing of Emmanuel.

How come we only talk about God entering into his own creation (which, of course, God did through the birth of Jesus) at Christmas? I mean: I love, love, love the word Emmanuel (am I allowed to have a ‘favorite Bible word?’). It’s pregnant with the entire gospel. That single word summarizes every aspect of Christianity that keeps me tethered when I’m feeling hopeless for the church or annoyed by my brothers and sisters or disgusted with my own inability.

But, treating Emmanuel as a Christmas-only word, well, that’s a rip off. In a sense, it’s as if we pack up Emmanuel with the ornaments and lights, and shelve it for 11 months.

God with us. 12 months a year (not just one). At Christmas we hold expectation of Jesus’ coming. What if we had that same expectation that God could powerfully show up at even the most mundane and ordinary moments of our day-to-day lives? If we truly believe that; if we really lean into that; if we really remember that the power and intimacy of God is with us at every moment; our experience of God will be revolutionized.

Maybe that’s the bottom line of Advent: what’s it look like for you and me–as children of God–to live with an Advent expectancy that God can move powerfully all the year around? Let’s dream big ‘Christmas-sized’ dreams about what God can do with us today and in the coming year. How about a little infusion of hope and anticipation in your faith today? I’m telling you, it’s like an extra serving of Christmas dessert.

all i want for christmas

marko and santa

  1. peace on earth
  2. peace on earth
  3. peace on earth
  4. peace on earth
  5. peace on earth
  6. peace on earth
  7. peace on earth
  8. peace on earth
  9. peace on earth
  10. peace on earth
  11. peace on earth
  12. peace on earth
  13. peace on earth
  14. peace on earth
  15. peace on earth
  16. peace on earth
  17. anything with salted caramel
  18. peace on earth
  19. peace on earth
  20. peace on earth
  21. peace on earth
  22. peace on earth
  23. peace on earth
  24. peace on earth
  25. peace on earth

owning up to the oestreicher family nativities

i have to admit, even though i mocked all those nativities on my blog, i’ve slowly grown fond of many of them. i still get a scratchy feeling in my throat when i look at the cat nativity. and the hummel-like little kids freak me out a bit. but some of the latter additions just make me smile. yes, some of it is laughter. but it’s more than that.

anyhow, the other day i was thinking about this, and realized that for all my snarkiness, we have a fairly high number of wide-ranging nativities in our own home every christmas. time to come out of the closet and show them all to you:

this quilted nativity advent calendar has been a favorite of my kids (now 14 and 17) for years. every morning, they take turns moving the character of the day up to the scene.

technically not a nativity, this is the only one of the bunch that stays out year ’round. i’m qualifying it as a nativity, since, while it’s a group of saints, it includes mary with jesus, and joseph. it’s also the most expensive of our nativities. i bought these hand-painted stacking dolls in prague.

this one requires a little explanation. for years, my sisters’ kids and my kids put on a nativity story play as a part of our family christmas at my parents house. the roles changed from year to year, as did the dialogue (sometimes straight out of scripture; other times scripted in other ways). as a christmas gift to my parents one year, we took photos of the kids in their costumes, and took them to one of those places that makes die-cut stands out of photos. we bought an empty creche, and gave my parents the set. as you can imagine, it’s a fairly treasured family thing. we loved it so much, my sisters and i each got one for our own homes also.

little liesl was the sheep that year…

and max, who was only one month old, expertly played the part of baby jesus…

this one qualifies as our oddest (well, until the gift from adam, below). it was a gift from my parents years ago. i call it the siamese holy family. if you look close, you’ll see that joe and mary have one body from the waist down, but split into two above the waist. i bet that made childbirth extremely awkward.

anyone who has been to bethlehem has seen version of this nativity at every roadside tourist stand. but i love this one, mostly because i bought it there.

my kids each have this set, given by my parents years ago. this one sits on the back of the toilet in their bathroom (christmas invades every room in our house)!

adorning a wall in our living room each year are copies of two christmas cards we made years ago, each with a nativity drawn by one of my kids. the first was liesl’s creation, and the second was drawn by max.

and, finally, our newest addition… my partner in the youth cartel, adam mclane, gave me this zombie nativity set as an early christmas gift a few days ago, in honor of the blitzkrieg we both experienced trying to keep my blog alive during the onslaught of almost 400,000 visitors. he bought it from the etsy craftswoman whose zombie nativity i’d highlighted in that memorable blog post.

yup. emmanuel. god with us. maybe the single most amazing and creative reality in all of history.

colbert calls out our hypocrisy

saw this on mike king‘s blog, and clicked over to watch it on colbert nation. so good! sure, it’s funny and all; but truth of it is inescapable.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive

top 20 worst nativity sets

NOTE: this post is the 2010 list. for the 2017 list (now with 77!), click here.

a few years back i posted a long series of bad nativity sets. last year i grouped them all into one post, but it was really just a list of links to those older posts — which was unfair to you all. so… this year, i’m grouping all 20 of them into one long post! merry christmas all, and enjoy or be horrified by this weird collection of nativity oddness.

the kitty cat nativity. makes me want to cough up a hairball.

the nativity kitchen timer:

the cowboy nativity. yee-ha!

yeah, the cat nativity is probably worse. but these dogs ain’t much better…

technically, not a nativity. but it’s a christmas lawn ornament, showing (can you believe it?) the flogging of jesus on the way to the cross. there’s some christmas cheer for your neighborhood!

also not technically a nativity; just a horribly cheesy christian kitschmas decoration: the jesus tree topper. dude, that robe is not working for you. and stop using that flat-iron on your hair.

back to actual nativity sets. this one is a craft kit, using marshmallows to make a nativity. yum.

not to be outdone by the marshmallow nativity craft kit i posted last, this s’mores nativity just might be the single worst nativity i’ve come across…

this isn’t a whole nativity set, but i think the other pieces are available. i didn’t have the strength to look. this mouse drummer boy is just about as confusing as a bit of kitchmas junk can get.

when searching for tasteless nativity sets online, it doesn’t take long for one to stumble onto multiple versions of bears…

this rubber duckie nativity has to be right up there in the “worst” section of cheesy nativity sets…

lotsa santa nativity sets and pieces out there, but this one is a bit disorienting. is the holy family IN santa’s bag? or does santa have an nice applique of the holy family on his bag of gifts? and, what can the letters in santa be re-arranged to spell?

if cats, dogs, and teddy bears weren’t enough, how ’bout penguins!?

sure. snowmen. shouldn’t be a surprise.

ah, the veggie nativity. i debated on this one, because i’ve always been a veggie fan. but the baby carrot pushed me over the edge into including it.

this nativity — well, i just don’t even know how to describe it. clowns? modern art? the baby jesus seriously looks like something out of a circus or a john waters movie.

oh, the animals. i suppose, while i think the dog nativity and cat nativity are somehow explainable as something people WAY too “into” those particular animals might display, this chicken nativity is just a bit beyond my comprehension as a purchasable — nay, displayable — holiday trinket.

you know those people who have those geese on their porch? yeah, them. and they put a cute little goosey costume on their porch-goose to mark every season? yeah, those people. this costume set is made for those people. or, to clarify, for those who actually have TWO of those geese already. sigh. i’m guessing the rubber ducky baby is “not supplied”.

what better expresses the spirit of the incarnation than owls? i found these at this cavalcade of nativities, where the comment was: whoooo is the son of god? whooooo?

ok, this has to stop. so, one last nativity. yes, i give you, the naked troll doll nativity. eesh. feh.

JUST POSTED: three more!

THIS JUST IN: yet another 3 worst nativities!

goodbye 2009

wow — i haven’t blogged in 11 days. and, while i’ve thought of it a few times, and would have posted had i had internet access, i was wonderfully at peace about letting this baby just sit here. and i had pretty good reason for not posting:

– my family flew to detroit to be with our extended families (everyone’s here, on my side and jeannie’s), which we always do. a couple days after getting here, i started having some back pain, which eventually grew pretty significant, and radiated around into some very specific pain up and the left of my stomach. all of this was vaguely reminding me of the pain i had when i spent 4 days in the hospital with pancreatitus about 3 or 4 years ago. so while my family and my parents were standing in the middle of the detroit institute of arts (bad timing, really), i decided i needed to go to emergency. sure enough, it was pancreatitus again, and i was admitted to the hospital for four days — including christmas day. it was a very odd christmas, to say the least, sitting in a hospital bed, doped up on pain meds, fevers coming and going (leaving me constantly soaked in sweat). to treat pancreatitus, they basically have to starve you — no food or water can enter your mouth (including water). so i was on an IV, and was granted the occasional ice-chip; but that was it for four days. i was released on the afternoon of the 26th, in time to join in the 2nd half of my extended family’s christmas celebration.

– the next morning, jeannie and i took off for a 4 day get-away on our own. when we realized how long we were going to be in michigan over the holidays (which had to do with what flights were available), we decided to take a little get-away for our 24th anniversary. so we searched on vrbo (the best place to find vacation rentals in any price range, btw), and found this wonderful little cabin in SW michigan. big stone fireplace, cozy river views, big snow-covered pine trees. we read books and watched movies and relaxed (and i recovered). it was perfect.

now i’m back in the land of the living and active. tonite (new year’s eve), we’re having another family gathering, including a big texas hold ’em poker tournament, which should be a kick. sunday i fly home (jeannie and the kids stay a few more days), and head into a fairly busy january, which i’ll blog about later.

so many of you saw my hospital updates on facebook and were praying for me — thanks so much for that. i don’t think i’m going to take the time to create my usual series of “best of the past year” posts. i might make a summary one in the next few days, like i’ve seen on some other blogs. but we’ll see! i’ll have a couple announcements to make in january also (nothing huge — don’t hold your breath).

random and scattered christmas stuff

DSCN1675– flying to detroit today, for our annual christmas trek. my family and jeannie’s are all in detroit. in my 46 years of life, i’ve never spent a christmas day anywhere but detroit. we mostly split our time between jeannie’s family and mine. but this year jeannie and i are getting away to a little cabin for 4 days between christmas and new year’s to celebrate our 24th anniversary (which is january 4).

– i’m leaving town while 2 good friends (who don’t even know each other) are in deep pain, and i wish i could hang out with each of them and have a beer two or three times in the next week.

– made a fun little christmas mix cd for some of my extended fam who we don’t buy gifts for, called “a merry marko christmas.” here’s the playlist:

1. o come, o come emmanuel (the crossing)
2. oh little town of bethlehem (bright eyes)
3. the christmas song (vince guaraldi trio)
4. winter wonderland (rosie thomas)
5. hark the herald angels sing (kendall payne)
6. oh holy night (kendall payne)
7. feliz navidad (david crowder band)
8. have yourself a merry little christmas (frank sinatra)
9. christmastime is here (rosie thomas)
10. i believe in father christmas (u2)
11. silent night (rosie thomas)
12. what child is this (kendall payne)
13. let it snow! let it snow! let it snow! (harry connick, jr.)

– we celebrated christmas with our family yesterday, and had a blast. jeannie and i created a little adventure game for the kids. there were a dozen clues and challenges, and they got their presents throughout the morning as they completed those items. then, in the evening, we all cooked a big dinner together. i also got a few lovely items:

– a handmade wooden egg that max took a very long time making
– some “poker dice” from max (weird little 8 sided die with card faces on them for playing poker by rolling dice)
– a cd and dvd: “the killers: live from royal albert hall”, from liesl
– a tub of toffee coated cashews from jeannie
– a new game, “pictionary man”, which max gave to the whole family
– a photo mouse pad from jeannie to replace the manilla folder i had taped down on my desk for that function
– a pedicure gift certificate from jeannie (yes, pedicures are seriously manly; deal with it)
– an itunes gift cert from jeannie
– a starbucks gift cert from jeannie

DSCN1694– jeannie is always grabbing a blanket to cuddle in while watching tv or reading a book. so one of the gifts i got for her was a snuggie. i wrote “for my snuggler” on the outside of the wrapping paper. when she saw it, the night before opening it, she said, “ha! that makes me think it’s one of those stupid snuggie things!” i seriously had to suppress laughter, knowing how completely awesome it was going to be when she opened it!

– my favorite gift we gave our kids was $50 kiva gift cards. as part of our adventure game, i brought my laptop to a local coffee house where we were having breakfast; then we gave them the gift certs, and they had to go online and figure out what they were and how to use them. liesl invested in a beauty salon in jinja, uganda; and max invested in a store in ecuador.

re-posted: the worst nativity sets


a year or two ago i spent way too much time finding the worst collection of nativities i could find on the internet. seemed like they should see the light of day again, though not as a 20 post series, but, rather, all in one shot! so, click away and have fun (or be horrified, or both)…

the naked troll nativity
owl nativity
porch goose nativity
chicken nativity
clowns? ikea? who knows what these are nativity
veggie nativity
snowpeople nativity
penguin nativity
holy family in a santa bag nativity
rubber ducky nativity
teddy bear nativity
little drummer mouse nativity piece
marshmallow nativity
another marshmallow nativity
freaky jesus tree topper
whipping jesus lawn lights
dog nativity
cowboy nativity
kitchen timer nativity
cat nativity