How will you experience Christmas?

I recently read that while most of us dream of a Christmas straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, we actually live closer to the Griswold’s mess in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  How true! We dream of family gathered to tell stories, of warm emotions, loved shared over perfect meals.  In real life, people argue, feelings get hurt, somebody doesn’t show up.  

In 2020, it is going to require a stretch to reach for Christmas joy. Most of us will not travel to large family gatherings. Our feasts will be suppers with few. If we go to church, at all, we will meet in smaller groups. A cloud will hang over the holidays, and yet …

JOY is possible. Happiness surprises us, joy comes from our inner reality.
How can we live joyfully this year at Christmas?

FOCUS on the people around you.

I’m going to miss my family this year. There is no question about that. We will talk on the phone, perhaps make some video calls, but those will be poor substitutes for the happy chaos of a full house on Christmas morning. Still, there are people all around me that I can care for, who need a friendly face, a helping hand, an open heart. We can live wisely with restrictions imposed by COVID and still care, still be hospitable. Think about someone who needs a call and pick up your phone.  Listen a little longer to that person who stops you in the grocery store. (Keep your mask on!)  Pray for family members and friends, one by one, by name, asking God’s blessings. Joy is born in a heart that loves others.

Include worship in your life!

“Keeping Christ in Christmas” is not just about where we go to church or if we say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” (By the way, I always say, Merry Christmas.)  Use one of the many Advent devotionals to turn your thoughts to the things of the Lord each day.  Find time to get quiet with God, thanking Him for the gift of life in Christ Jesus.  I know you know the stories, but read them again — from Matthew and Luke. “O come, let us adore Him… Christ, the Lord!”  needs to be our life attitude, not just a song we sing at church.

Give!

Paul reminds us that “Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8, NIV)  That text is often taught only in the context of church giving. The principle is much greater. Adopt an attitude of great-hearted generosity. Give forgiveness. Give love. Give time. Give away your expectations.

Recover wonder!
When you think about a Baby in a stable, a star in the sky – allow that story to speak to you about God’s love. Jesus came for YOU.  Enjoy the music of the Season. Let the pseudo-sophisticates pretend to be bored by the holiday. Choose to be child-like in your wonder. See the lights. Sing the songs. Love the Gift God gave.

Here’s a word from the Word –
“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)

So, how will you close this year, in true joy or lamenting life? You choose!
________________

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious Kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Charles Wesley | Rowland Hugh Prichard © Words: Public Domain

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