Intentional Christmas

Thanksgiving has come and gone and that can only mean one thing–it’s time to enjoy Christmas!  But do we truly enjoy it? Or do we often end up enduring it? And if we are only enduring Christmas, how do we move from endure to enjoy?  I know lots of people have a variety of thoughts on this.  Some will tell you to just stop sending Christmas cards or to only buy three gifts for your children.  Others talk of not making cookies or of cutting down on their decorations.  But what works for someone else may not work for you. Here are five basic ways that will help anyone enjoy– rather than endure– the Christmas season.

1.  Worry most about what God thinks. Family comes second.  Co-workers, cousins, and others come a distant third. This makes a choice between a work dinner and your child’s program so much easier. It also helps to clarify when choosing between Christmas Eve service at church or a get-together with friends. Oh, I know it’s not that simple and sometimes circumstances dictate certain choices. But this principle can be a helpful starting point.

2.  Examine which traditions you enjoy most and keep doing them. Do you love to bake Christmas cookies? Or perhaps you receive tremendous joy from seeing your house lit up on a dark winter’s night? Others enjoy sending out Christmas cards and making homemade ornaments and shopping for others.  Whatever it is, choose what you love and keep doing it!  Some of you are truly energized by doing it all and there is no detriment to your family life. If that’s the case, good for you!  But if there is something that just isn’t important to you or your family–well, then consider not doing it. The world will not end if you don’t bake Christmas cookies or hang Christmas lights outside.

3.  Ignore the voices around you and mind your own business. You will hear people this time of year start complaining about how much money is spent on gifts or how many lights so-and-so put up or how much food Mrs.______ makes or –you name it–people always find things to criticize. The glorious fact is that the there are truly only a couple of opinions that matter. They are God’s and your family’s. When criticism comes your way, contemplate it for just a moment. If it makes sense, do something about it. But if it doesn’t, just ignore it. On the flip side, provide the same courtesy to others around you. If your neighbor chooses to put up the most beautiful, homemade garland around her door, don’t mutter about the waste of time but, instead, be sure to tell her how amazing it looks! And if the neighbor on the other side chooses not to put out one single decoration, then leave them to make that decision without any criticism from you.

4.  Keep the focus on Jesus. Jesus truly is the reason for the season if we are Christians. But, more and more increasingly, Jesus is not part of the world’s Christmas, where they instead turn their attention to Santa, elves, and occasionally talking animals or angels.  But we have a responsibility to keep Jesus the center of our season.  Whether we are buying gifts or making Christmas cookies or choosing what entertainment to include in our Christmas season, we must remember that we are celebrating because Jesus came to earth to provide a way for us to be saved from our sins. We, of all people, have a true and incredible reason to celebrate!

5. Don’t throw real life routine completely out the window.  We have to be careful we don’t get so busy that we stop having our devotions.  We are not at our best if we are not spending time each day with the Lord. And we need to continue to exercise and eat properly and stick to our budgets. Life doesn’t stop for a month, and if we pretend like it does, we will have consequences to pay on January 1.

So there you have it–a few simple ways to make sure that we enjoy this Christmas season, rather than endure it.  Merry Christmas!

After-Easter Days

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from a book called “The Cross of Christ” .  This seemed so appropriate for the day after Easter.

Easter morning is the beginning of a unique and most tenderly interesting portion of our blessed Savior’s life. It is the transition period between His earthly ministry and His heavenly exaltation. Like the Indian summer of the year, there is a tender veil of loveliness and mystery about it which links it with both worlds, and makes it a peculiarly appropriate pattern of a life hid with Christ in God, in which we may walk with Him all our days with our heads in heaven, while our feet still tread the earth below. May the Holy Spirit vividly reveal to us such glimpses of this blessed life as will enable us to reproduce it in our own experience and to walk with Him with a new sense of His abiding presence and glorious reality!

This glad resurrection morning dispels from the religion of Jesus all the shadow of the sepulcher and all the morbid atmosphere of sorrow, depression, and death. The Christ of true Christianity is not a bleeding, thorn-crowned Ecce Homo, but a gold and radiant face, bright as the springtime morning and radiant with immortal life. “I am the Living One; I was dead,” is His message, and “Behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Revelation 1:18). Oh, may this day impress upon our hearts the reality of a risen and living Christ, until He shall be more actual to us than any other personality; and we shall know what it means to be not only “reconciled to him through the death of his Son,” but “shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10).

What a picture of easy and uttermost triumph is that resurrection scene! Satan had done his utmost; men had done their best to hold the Captive of the tomb. But without an effort the mighty Sleeper calmly rose before the Easter dawn, deliberately laying off the grave clothes and wrapping up the napkin, and putting all in place as naturally as any of us this morning arranged our bedroom. Then through that colossal stone that closed His tomb, He passed without even rolling it aside or breaking the seal. And before the guards could know that He was risen, He was standing calmly in the garden, talking with Mary as though nothing had happened. The infinite facility with which He put His feet on every foe and rose above every obstacle is, perhaps, the most overwhelming impression we have received from all the incidents of His resurrection.

So, too, we see the same victorious power expressed in the attitude of the angel who followed Him, and with a single touch rolled away the stone from the sepulcher and coolly sat down upon it, and then looked in the faces of the keepers till they grew pale with terror and flew in horror and dismay without a struggle.

Such is our risen Christ still, the mighty Victor over all His foes and ours. Could we see Him now, we would behold Him sitting on His Father’s throne, undismayed by all the powers of darkness, and “since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:13). Oh, how it cheers our timid hearts to behold our glorious and victorious Captain, and to hear Him say of every adversary and every difficulty, “I have overcome for you.” God help us to see the Captain as Joshua beheld Him, and before Him the walls of every Jericho will fall and the legions of every opposing force will melt away!

—The Cross of Christ, by A.B. Simpson