It’s now December and I feel so behind. Let’s see, first there was decorating the house and the yard. Now there are parties to give and attend, Christmas specials on TV, at the school and at church. And, of course, there’s the whole wardrobe thing.
In Texas, where I live, you can be sure all December is a month’s worth of festive colors, T-shirts with silly slogans, and even though it could be over 80 degrees, there will be a fair amount of fuzzy sweaters with snowmen for buttons. So, all those must come out of storage.
Then there are the presents, which of course can only happen after the list is made and—as the saying goes—checked twice. Moms and dads, kids and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, neighbors and of course the angel-tree families. So it’s off to the mall! But on the way I remember that I’m supposed to “make a memory” of the season. Somehow I’ve gotten it in my head that I have to make everything a memory—and for everyone. It starts to feel like everyone’s Christmas depends on me!
Does something like this happen to you about this time of year? Do you ever just want to yell out, “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here!”? Only there’s really no one to yell it to, because no one puts us in that position but ourselves!
Pressure certainly doesn’t come from the Lord! He’s the One who sets us free! Really, our families generally only come to expect what we train them to. And even though they may appreciate our efforts at the time, only a fraction of our busyness actually becomes memories.
Recently, I surveyed my family regarding their favorite things about Christmas. After they took way too much time to come up with answers, I found out there were only a few things that made the rank of “most memorable.”
My husband, George, said, “I liked having gatherings over several days with the different grandparents.”
“Gee, Mom,” Jeremy finally concluded, “I liked it that you were the last to open presents ’cause you were busy watching everyone else. Oh, and the smell of cookies.”
Surely my daughter will have noticed the December clothing line, the endless decorations, the color-coordinated wrapping, or at least the bell-shaped sandwiches. “Well,” Aubrey said, clearly feeling the pressure, “there were so many! But my favorite was waking up on Christmas morning.”
“And Christmas music would already be playing really loud!”
Quickly I realized I could have baked cookies, gone to Grandma’s and opened my presents to the speedy beat of “White Christmas” and saved myself a load of trouble! Now, that may be an exaggeration, but there’s still a major revelation to be had here! There’s got to be a way to enjoy the season while glorifying the Lord. There’s got to be a way to make those memories without becoming exhausted, spirit, soul and body! There is a way and His Name is Jesus—the Perfect Way. Even though my children are grown, I still carry on as if they were small, and I now have two wonderful grandbabies. Plus our extended family is always on the grow. So my Christmas agenda has not lessened much over these last few years, but I have learned some things that have helped me discover Christmas—the Jesus Way.
It’s really quite simple. Let’s look at how the Lord handled the first Christmas and the pattern will become clear. After all, He threw quite a party, complete with singers, fireworks, a citywide announcement and a petting zoo! How can we pull off our season as successfully?
Planning for Peace
First, plan ahead. Now in actuality the Lord started His planning “before the foundation of the world.” But, He is God—you don’t have to think quite that far ahead! But do consider the fact that He really put things in motion about a year and a half ahead by visiting Elisabeth and Zacharias. Then six months later He visited Mary and then Joseph. Your cue from this? Think about next year while planning and preparing for this one. Don’t try to force everything into this Christmas season. It will come again, I promise. Then take another cue from the Lord and write down your ideas.
I have often written a letter to myself about next year’s Christmas, listing some dos and don’ts, as well as ideas or even purchases to make. I put it in the Christmas-tree box so I will find it first thing next year. It is always kind of fun to find. (I wish I had kept them!) Then I make the best possible plans for whatever time remains ’til this Christmas.
Don’t force anything but your time with Him. That’s a must. He is, after all, the Master Planner.
Next, trust God. Zacharias questioned God and made an angel mad! Not good. Thankfully there was a plan to make it all work out anyway! But then there was Mary. Don’t you know the doubts and wonderings and questions just swirled in her mind? But all she would say is, “Be it [done] unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Simple, but it works! To trust God is true humility. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7, New King James Version). To give someone else the responsibility to see to your every need requires trust. But, you can do it. Mary’s response shows she recognized there was enough power in what the angel said, to bring his words to pass. So don’t neglect your Word time. Look to it more now than usual, and then look for those words of peace and provision to come to pass.
The third observation I’ve made of the first Noel is the importance of having a grateful attitude. It is an absolute must. I’ve heard, as I’m sure you have, how depression rises during the Christmas season. Although I can’t be certain, it’s possible Elisabeth may have been dealing with it. Luke 1:24 indicates she went into hiding after she became pregnant. She was older and perhaps embarrassed. Or maybe she was ashamed that her husband had made an angel so mad by his arguing, that he was struck dumb! Whatever the case, the situation changed after Mary entered their house with a heart and mouth full of praise. Just her presence lifted Elisabeth so high she fell right in step with the mother of our Lord. I suggest you read about their Holy Ghost praise and prophesying session in Luke 1. Be grateful for what you have, spiritually and naturally. Ask the Lord to help you be even more grateful. Never feel sorry for yourself because of your circumstances. Mary and Joseph traveled quite a distance through rough terrain at what would seem the worst possible time. But it had to be done. They didn’t complain, and the Lord provided everything. Imagine a birth attended by the glory of God. The hard circumstances were swallowed up in the goodness and glory of the Lord. Yours will be too if you will be grateful for all the goodness He has toward you. Then speak that praise out loud to others and watch how God lifts everyone.
Follow His Leading
Fourthly, be led. Joseph was led through dreams and by angels. The wise men were led by a star. Now the Word does not promise you’ll be led by dreams or angels, but that’s because you have a much more dependable leader than dreams—the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “He will guide you…and he will show you things to come.” (That could mean tomorrow’s to-do list!) He will help you. First John 2:20 says you have an unction, a knowing, a sensor on the inside of you. Learn to develop sensitivity to your sensor by: knowing God in His Word, praying in the spirit, then following through. When you start to do, to buy or to go, check inside. Is there peace? Or is there a little ‘catch’? I’m not talking about in your head or your reasoning, but in your inner man. If there isn’t a sense of a “green light” then don’t do, go or buy. You’ll never develop that sensitivity or reap the benefit of it unless you are willing to walk away from a good idea or a great buy.
I love this one: Keep your eyes on heaven. The wise men kept their eyes on the star and rejoiced when they saw it (Matthew 2:9-10). Evidently it wasn’t visible all the time. But they were always looking—looking to heaven. We should be too. Only we aren’t looking at an empty sky. We are looking into the realm of the spirit. We are watching for the supernatural. We’re always ready to pray for someone—anywhere, anytime—and expect a miracle. We are always looking for the supernatural handiwork of God in our lives.
“Don’t miss the supernatural,” Brother Kenneth E. Hagin used to say, “by looking for the spectacular.” God’s direction, provision and presence are all supernatural but quite often can seem so natural. It should be. The Greater One really is in us.
Lastly, but not at all least, is love. For God so loved, He gave. Love always gives. But not all giving is love. Some gifts are given out of guilt or obligation, which brings resentment. Some are given to manipulate another person’s feelings, even to make them feel guilty. And some gifts are given to make the giver feel better about himself and have little to do with loving the recipient. Check yourself. Judge your motives and be sure love—God’s love—is behind every gift, every service and especially every word. You can be sure a store-bought-something never makes up for unkindness. Love on purpose, because it’s God’s way. Love because it’s who you are and what you do. Truly, of all things, love is the greatest.
I know these clues from the first Christmas will be a help to you as they have been to me. I have yet to perfect them in my life, but I can truthfully say I look forward to Christmas, instead of looking for it to be over. This year you may want to yell out, “Martha Stewart may not live here, but Jesus sure does!”