Those of us who love the Christmas season–I plead guilty!–often are in the market for ways to make it more meaningful.
I polled some friends and would like to share some of the results.
Give more. Give yourself. Give the unexpected. Give ten times as much as they expect. Give more than ever before.
Shop less. Buy fewer. Spend less. Stress less.
Quit giving to the adults; give only to the children.
Give no more than 3 presents per child.
Emphasize the personal aspect.
Write more notes. If you send Christmas cards, write personal notes on them. Don’t be afraid to tell people you love them, even if you need to vary the verb and make it “I treasure you.” (Or, cherish, adore, appreciate, or thank God for you)
Okay. Now, our ten ways to transform your Christmas season….
It was some forty years ago, and I was flying home from somewhere, the last leg of the trip being from Memphis to Columbus MS where I pastored.
It was a dark and stormy night.
And the planes assigned to our Golden Triangle Airport by Southern Airways were the ancient Martin 404s. Prop jets, maybe they are called.
We bounced all over the sky that night. Lightning flashed around us, rain pelted our little plane, and thunder crashed.
You’ve heard of white-knucklers; this was the mother of them all.
The next day in the supermarket, a woman whom I did not know introduced herself. “My husband was on that awful flight from Memphis last night.”
Oh yes. That was unforgettable, I said.
“Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
God knows a zillion things we do not.
Let’s start with that no-brainer.
The overwhelming majority of “things God knows” are, I expect, reserved exclusively for Him. “The secret things belong to God,” we’re told in Deuteronomy 29:29. The farthest reaches of this enormous universe are seen and appreciated only by Him and His legions. And the heavenly realm itself is His and His alone.
The Heavenly Father has many things He is dying to show us, to reveal to us, to allow us to stumble upon, or learn in His classroom.
“Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” (Psalms 19:13).
The latest non-issue was Starbuck’s red cups, said to be a substitute for anything Christmas-y. As I heard it, some of the Lord’s people were enraged.
When we posted a note regarding the silliness of such (ahem) courageous convictions, several people pointed out there was no issue, that no one had actually slammed Starbucks over this.
Good. They sell coffee, not Christianity.
Any day now–we’re posting this on November 20–we may expect to see Facebook pages devoted to supporting only commercial establishments that allow their employees to wish people a “Merry Christmas” as opposed to the generic “Happy holidays” or “Season’s greetings.”
The things God’s people make issues of.
A friend asked, “Have you noticed that so many Christians seem to be discontented with their lot? That they envy the rest of the world, and maybe even resent a little having to live like Jesus?”
If this is true–and I know enough of my own heart to suspect it is–it’s not a new phenomenon. The condition has been with us from early on.
The malady was voiced perfectly by the Psalmist:
“I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3).
You and I suspect the Psalmist may have been a bit too selective of the ungodly whom he chose to envy. But that’s how we do it, after all.
“…rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The other day I posted this on Facebook…
Ever wonder how pastors deal with Sunday morning anxiety? They’re about to enter the pulpit and lead a congregation to worship the living God, then open His book and declare its life-changing message. What a responsibility! How do they cope with so great a burden? I’ll tell you how. They breathe deeply, commit it all to the Lord, and keep telling themselves, ‘Relax, hotshot. This is not about you.‘ — Most have to say it about 150 times before the message gets through. For some, 600 repeititons are required. And alas, some never get the message and approach this most solemn of responsibilities thinking it’s all about them.
That generated some response. And one in particular that resonated with me.
“The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid, and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).
It occurs to me that most of the reality shows on television–if not all of them–deal with people in search of treasure.
The Weather Channel has prospectors digging in the Colorado mountains in search of precious metals and gems. The Animal Channel gives us a fisherman who travels the world in search of exotic “monsters” in rivers and creeks. They’re searching for treasures in pawn shops, in attics and garages and barns, in the stock market and in the ocean depths. I’m come across shows where men are crossing battlefields from ancient wars in search of treasured artifacts.
They’re looking for treasures in relationships, for just the right mate or sexual experience which will fulfill them. The treasure may be in the form of money or homes or oceanfront property. It may be the experience of a lifetime or a person who fills their deepest need.
Everyone is in search of a treasure of some kind.
Into that milieu, the Lord Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure….”
“Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.” –Matthew 6:8.
We would all like to lose weight without dieting. We’d like to get healthy and have our muscles toned up while we sleep. We’d like to get a college degree without going to class or studying.
Those are not about to happen.
Spiritual disciplines require great effort from us also. Whether we are fasting and enduring great tribulation for Jesus’ sake, or doing something as simple as studying our Sunday School lesson and offering grace before meals, conscious effort is required, and that means a strong focus on the Savior.
Prayer is hard work, we are told.
“And without parables (great stories!) Jesus did not teach” (Mark 4:34).
I once sat through a long session of a convention of realtors just to hear a motivational speaker. The story with which he opened quickly became a mainstay in my arsenal of great illustrations and sermon-helpers.
Time well spent.
I’ve read entire books and come away with one paragraph that became a staple in my preaching thereafter. It was time well used and money well spent.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling “Eat, Pray, Love” (which I do not recommend, by the way), attended a party 20 years ago and heard something from a fellow whose name she has long forgotten. “Sometimes I think this man came into my life for the sole purpose of telling me this story, which has delighted and inspired me ever since.”
“‘…your ways are not my ways,’ saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Keep an eye on how the Lord works in your life. You might learn something useful for the next time He wants to use you.
This little couplet seems to sum up 90 percent of what Scripture and life teach us concerning the operation of God in this world….