A Real Christmas

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The friendly clerk looked overwhelmed, her face revealing the tension. She asked me, “Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?”  “Some,” I replied. “I ordered gifts for some of my grandchildren drop-shipped to Florida.”  I thought she was going to cry as she said, “I don’t even want to think about it. I really can’t afford it, don’t have time … “  Can you identify? Are you wishing away the next three weeks, longing for January 2nd?   There are some choices each of us can make so that this is a ‘season of wonder’ instead of a time of stress, exhaustion, and over-commitment.  We really can find ourselves singing ‘Joy to the World’  with sincerity.  As you continue to read, I want to encourage you not to see these thoughts as more ‘I gotta do this, too.’  Think of them as choices for spiritual and mental health, pathways to the renewal and hope this Advent.

Make people your priority!

Likely, you will either host gatherings or be a guest at one or more. Be present, not thinking about the next hour, the next day. Enjoy the moment. Give another your full attention. Don’t rush, hurry, or just try to ‘get the program’ completed. Enjoy the opportunity to be with friends and family.  Be content with less-than-perfect preparations of food and décor. Those things will quickly fade into oblivion anyway, but an evening of meaningful conversation creates a lasting memory.

Remember to include worship!

If you just read ‘church,’ think again. Yes, worship gathering are valuable to help us reset if we truly enter into the songs, pray, and learn.  I am talking about adding something to your list of to-do’s.  IF you will set aside 20 minutes each day between now and Christmas Day, to meditate, to pray, and to read the stories of Jesus’ nativity from Matthew and Luke, you provide an opening to God’s Spirit to meet you! Tell your family you will be going to church on Christmas Eve. Arrive early and sit with a listening heart, not one wondering, “when will this be over?”  Do more than sing,  “O come, let us adore Him… Christ, the Lord!” Actually enter in.  Which god will claim more of your attention in the next week – the ‘stuff and things’ one, or the Beautiful Savior?  The use of our time, the investment of money, is irrefutable evidence about the identity of our deity. Keeping Christ in Christmas more than putting up a crèche on the lawn , it is about honoring the One whose life is the cause for the celebration.

Give yourself away!

It is much easier to buy a gift than it is to give ourselves. Who needs a gift of forgiveness from you?  Give love. Give time. Give grace. Give away your expectations and receive what these days bring your way. Sit and listen to a child. Go see an elderly person who is alone and enjoy their stories. Send a long overdue note of appreciation to your parents. Be aware of the people in your life and listen to them, loving them.

Recover wonder!

Read the Christmas story with a child-like heart that says, “Lord, tell me again, how much You love me.”  Make it personal! Watch the old film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and don’t make fun of it! Instead, let it inspire you to make a difference in someone’s life today.  Our sophistication, our cynicism, our intense focus on now can rob us of God’s gift. Let the sophisticates pretend to be bored by the holiday. Choose to be child-like (not childish!) in your wonder.

Let’s anticipate the arrival of New Year’s Day, 2020, having a renewed heart! Sure, you may be tired in body from staying up too late, going here and there, but you will have received Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And, He brings life.

Here’s a word from the Word for this Friday morning – “The Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. … We have all benefited from the rich blessings he brought to us-one gracious blessing after another.” (John 1:14, 16, NLT)

__________

O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)

(Celtic Woman sings this carol so beautifully)

O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels

 O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

 Sing choirs of angels
Sing in exultation
O sing all ye bright
Hosts of heav’n above
Glory to God all
Glory in the highest

 Yea Lord we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus to Thee be all glory giv’n
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing

Frederick Oakeley | John Francis Wade © Words: Public Domain

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