How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

An Old Fixer Upper!

Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. It is also a day to remember those who have gone on before us, our loved ones and friends, whose lives were ended by age,  disease or accidents. I am thankful for the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom and security. 

My husband and I were able to get away for two nights after our "kidney stone vacation cancellation" occurrence this past week. We went somewhere just a couple of hours away and had a fun, relaxing time. On part of the trip, rather than take the usual interstate highways, we traveled a few country roads which meandered through smaller communities and old farming towns. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Each town and community are unique. Some are still bustling, with streets lined with pretty houses, lawns freshly manicured and flowers blooming. They have downtowns that are full of cars, with people milling about in cute little shops, pizza joints and coffee houses. Driving through these villages you get a life vibe, like the whole town cares about and contributes to the upkeep and betterment of the community.  Others, however, feel dead. As you drive through these places you might see a few houses where the lawns are mowed and flowers grace the porch, but many are untended. The downtowns of these communities, while boasting businesses of the past, are now mostly empty except for an occasional gas station or quickie mart. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we drive through this sort of community I always feel sad. My mind begins to wonder, who were the people that made up this community in the past? What were the businesses that used to call this town home? What happened to cause the eventual end of those businesses and why didn't new businesses move in? Who used to occupy those big old houses that now stand empty? Or if they are still lived in, what occurred in their lives that made them lose hope? Are they too old to properly care for their homes? Do they have some sort of debilitating disease that keeps them from getting out to mow their lawn? Did their lawn mower die and they don't have any money to replace it? Maybe life has thrown them too many curve balls and they have just giving up!

Suddenly, I realized, I am on the cusp of becoming one of those people. I'm tired! I'm getting older! I am, in some ways, becoming, not only like the people who live in those houses, but like the very structure itself; used up, in disrepair and feeling rather empty. I keep asking myself, what is wrong with me? Life has thrown an inordinate amount of curve balls my way. Maybe I have lost hope. But, I can't seem to get the words of that hymn out of my mind:

Pixabay

Pixabay

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

When Jesus came into my life, he became the owner of this abode. It was His blood and His righteousness that bought me and it is His grace and His Spirit that enables me to live in this world. Just as if a person of unlimited resources could go into one of those old, abandoned houses and refurbish it, Christ came into my life, not to let me get run down, worn out and empty, but to repaint, rebuild and fill up. It is on this solid rock of Jesus that I must stand. If I try to build my hope on anything else, I will become an old, rickety, empty house.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Built on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

Even when things seem their very darkest and those curve balls keep coming and coming, I still can stand on Him. I rest, not in what I can see right now, but what I already know to be true of Christ through his Spirit and His word. He does not change. He doesn't get tired, or worn out or depressed. He is our anchor, always and forever!

Stocksnap

Stocksnap

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

His oath, His covenant, His blood....not mine. We give ourselves too much credit. Every commercial you see, every song you hear, everything we read, tells us, "You can do it! You deserve it! You can win! If you just....." It wears me out and that is precisely where Christ can begin to do His work. Some of the greatest saints of the past were those who appeared, from a worldly perspective, to be the weakest. 

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
— I Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

Leave it to God to switch things up! He's so good at that. Our human point of view would never think to use the foolish things of the world, or the weak things of the world. Our flesh is all about getting its own glory. I'm strong! I'm smart! I'm powerful! Not! But He is! Oh, the blessed peace and rest, to know that is true.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. [Refrain]
— My Hope is Build on Nothing Less - Edward Mote - 1834

One day, this will be true. I will stand before His throne, faultless, because I stand on HIm alone. His blood and righteousness, not mine. Until that day, I am going to keep trying to let Him work in this old fixer upper. I want people to be able to look at me and see, maybe my porch is a little saggy and maybe my flower beds are not completely free of weeds, but that Jesus is working, always working to make me into something beautiful.