Ah… ‘tis the season. As I approach Christmas each year, my preparation typically includes some self-talk that goes something like this…
“This Christmas season, I am going to try and slow down, enjoy the season, be intentional with family, look for a great Advent devotion to share with the kids.”
“This Christmas season, I’m going to focus more on the reason and less on all of the ‘stuff’.
“This Christmas season, I’m going to enjoy some much needed rest.”
But sure enough, by the time December 1st arrives, I’ve already started to stress about the schedule (school concerts, work deadlines, holiday parties, teacher gifts, Christmas cards, list upon list…) I don’t have enough lists to get through the month and I find myself focusing more and more on the schedule and ‘to dos’.… to the end of perfection in many cases. It’s not that all these things are bad; but how much time (energy, mind space, etc.) is focused on these things versus the actual reason for the season? I know my time is disproportionate to the desires of my heart. And I wonder, who set all these expectations? This isn’t the world in which Jesus entered. He wasn’t even born as Kings of those days were born.
This year, a recent message I heard stopped me in my tracks. It was a message that I have heard several times before, but amidst the stress and lists, it deeply struck me.
Jesus entered this world in a stable. Likely, this would have been a cave where animals were sheltered in Bethlehem, a city that was not known at the time as an upscale destination. Not only that, He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger. So, in other words, He was wrapped in scraps of cloths and laid in a feeding trough. And that is how the Prince of Peace – our Lord and Savior – was gifted to the world. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)
But that’s not all, an announcement followed. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” – (Luke 2:13-14)
These first recorded words that followed Jesus’ birth were about praising and worshiping God and declaring peace to those on whom His favor rests. Sure, the Wise Men brought gifts, but that came later in the story. This was first and foremost about worship and peace.
Reflecting on the conditions in which the greatest gift we can ever receive entered the world, and the immediate worship over him, I sit in awe knowing that the most amazing gifts in my life are those which are immeasurable – and not wrapped with fancy paper or presented on a silver platter. They are the people with whom I’m surrounded, and the greatest gift of all – the gift of Jesus – the gift of everlasting life, purpose, and meaning. They all point back to our Creator. And how can I not, especially in this season, celebrate those gifts and praise God for them? And do so as we’re meant to do – worshiping our Heavenly Father from whom all gifts come.
James 1:17 says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He does not change; He is the same now as He was when He sent His angels to share the news of God’s greatest gift to the world, and to each of us – the gift of Jesus and ultimately, our salvation through Him. When I rest in this truth right in the midst of this frenzied season, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude and overflowing with worship to the One who made everything around me possible.
So I decided to make a new list. But this list is different. Here are simple steps I’m taking to re-calibrate this month:
- I am waking up each morning with gratitude before my feet hit the bedroom floor. I title the alarm on my phone “Thank you, Father, for this day!” Reading that spurs me to pray before I even get out of bed. And better yet, my alarm tone is set to Jamie Grace’s “It’s a Beautiful Day!”
- I am intentionally staying connected to God through His Word. I set aside time each day to read scripture and journal about it. I’m reading John and Isaiah right now. As various prayer requests arise throughout the week, I go right to the Bible to read what God says about it.
- I am spending intentional time in song worship. Before I get out of my car and head into work each day, I play a worship song. I am also reading an advent devotion with my youngest each night that specifically focuses on worship.
- I am asking myself daily, “What am I worshiping today?” I set my alarm on my phone with this reminder – at noon and at 9pm. I take a pause to reflect on what’s been on my heart – does it point towards the Lord? Is it purposeful? If not, I take captive the thoughts that are not God-honoring (2 Corinthians 10:5), repent (‘God, I am sorry these things on which I was focusing are not of you; I want to turn away from them and turn towards you’), and think about something for which I am thankful.
My dear friend and Good Word Project co-writer Erin Schreyer shared in her recent blog, “Our hearts are fickle and easily distracted by things that are not necessarily ‘bad,’ but they shouldn’t take the same holy space reserved for God.”
I’m trying very hard to keep this space reserved.
So, in gratitude this Christmas season, I am going to try and slow down, enjoy the season, be intentional with family, and celebrate the Advent with my kids. This Christmas season, I am going to focus more on the reason and less on all the ‘stuff’. This Christmas season, I am going to get some much needed rest. And I am going to be intentional worshiping God, from who all good and perfect gifts come.
Lord, thank you for the perfect gift of your son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you that all the gifts and blessings in my life point to you. I’m sorry when my focus steers to the wrong things, and I pray that you reveal more of who you are to me through worship. I pray these things with overwhelming gratitude, and in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.