Every year at Christmas time I look forward to a few of my favorite things. It's what makes Christmas, Christmas. Here are three (of many) traditions that I cherish over the holiday season: love exchanged through Christmas cards, joy shared at family get-togethers, and peace given in quiet moments with my Savior. I think each of you can relate to one or all of these Christmas traditions.
I John 1:7
But have you ever thought why certain things are our favorites? What is the deeper root, or the foundational rock of the different traditions at Christmas? Could it be that we are made in the image of God and that He is the originator of the beautiful things that we habitually do this time of year? I believe so… A long, long, long time ago, God spoke to the Israelites: These are the appointed feast of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies (Lev. 23:1). These feasts were to be celebrated every year, generation after generation. And all these feasts pointed to…Jesus. So, we humans are not the originator of traditions, or the author of Christmas for that matter! Perpetual acts of celebrating are a God-designed decree; and it pleases Him. He is the author of love and joy and peace and fellowship and family and faith.
So over this next week, invite Him into a few of HIS favorite things. Dig deeper into these traditions and stretch your arms wider with His love that is ever present and that conquers all; then, hear Him rejoice over you with singing (Zeph 3:17).
A holiday tradition in the Baxter home is for all of us to load up together in the truck and head toward the local Christmas tree lot. A tree is picked from the selection, put in the truck-bed, and then placed in the corner of our living room. All of this is done in cheerful merriment of the holidays. (Ok, not all of us are cheerful all of the time, but it sounded good).
Our tree stood bare for a night and a day before we decorated it this year. The evergreen branches have a stark beauty all on its own. But, of course, a Christmas tree is meant to be decorated! So, three of the six of us decorated it together last night. The other three in the family obviously had had enough merriment during the tree-selection process…bah-hum-bug.
As we decorated, I was reminded of a life lesson that I have taught my kids on different occasions. The lights and ornaments are inanimate, of course, but we can learn something from them. For example, these objects don’t “look” around and about themselves, wishing they were made differently. They just display their own unique creativity. Also, they don’t “fret” over their postition, wondering why “that ornament over on the other side of the tree gets to hang in a higher spot”. No, the lights and ornaments are content to contribute to the work of art as a whole; but at the same time, their individual spot on the tree is beautiful because of them. As I placed each unique ornament on the tree in it’s designated branch, I thought of how the Christmas tree is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together.
Just like the ornaments, we are each a beautiful creation. Both time and care were put into the manufacturing of the intricate items placed on the tree. Likewise, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14).
And just like the ornaments, as well as the lights, we all have a place to rest, a place to display our beauty, a place to contribute to the whole design. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:7, 12).
So when you look at your tree this year, think of the body of Christ. You have a unique ability in sharing a universal purpose: to shine your light… and to display God’s glory. And you have a specific place in which to do it. Don’t wrestle, just rest. Hear your Creator and Positioner say, “You are precious in My sight…you are honored and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4). Merry Christmas.
The familiar line of the Christmas story goes....And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
When Joseph and Mary went knocking on the doors of the homes and inns of Bethlehem, they were shut out, one at a time. If these residents and inn owners had only known just Who it was they were pushing away, would things have played out differently?
For example, if Joseph had said about the soon-to-be-babe, "It's Jesus, Prince of Peace," would they have let the young desperate couple inside? And then, if they had entered for the night, I wonder if all guests inside the inn would have been invaded with a calm serenity like they had never experinced before.
Or, if Joseph had exclaimed about the coming-infant, "It's Jesus, Savior of the World," would some home-owner have quickly prepared Joseph and Mary a room? And then, would each individual there in that house have felt a lift in their spirit from their personal burdens, as well as a holy protection from evil and darkness?
Or, what if Mary desperately shouted in the streets about her expected child, "It's Jesus Immanuel--'God with us'!"? Would each one of the Bethlehem inn-keepers have turned their places inside-out in order to provide a place for God's presence to be within his establishment? If so, on that glorious night, would all the inhabitants have experienced life that is truly life? (I Timothy 6:19).
Sadly, these home-owners and inn-keepers were unaware of just Who was knocking at their door. But the good news is, we do know! The vital question is this: what are we going to do with Jesus, because He isknocking, and He doeswant in.
Let's not shut Him out any longer; let's allow Him into our individual hearts. And then, let's together, one by one, let Him back into our homes... let Him back into our schools... let Him back into our country. He is the Light of the World....and in Him there is no darkness at all. (I John 1:5). Why do we keep choosing darkness?
Hear His words, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Rev. 3:20)
"Jesus Prince of Peace, Savior and Protector, Light of the World... God with us. Can I come in?"
Here we are in the beginnings of the Christmas season, and I already feel surrounded by lots of the swirling and twirling activities that accompany the season. Every year, I have to keep my heart in check, and consciously choose to Whom or what I will give my devotion. (Devotion: love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or a cause.) Will I choose Jesus or will I choose the season?
I invite you to join me in reading the 25-day devotional, "Who is this Jesus and Why did He Come?". Each day, 5 defining verses are provided for you to "be still in" during the rush of the holy-days. This small booklet can be found on-line at www.respitefortheweary.com.
He is so much more than a baby in a manger! Find out this Christmas, that it's really not about our initial devotion to Him; rather, it's about His Christmas devotion to us...
For many years now, my heart has considered the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas as the "holy days." I have encouraged my children to be extra attentive during this season as well. I reminded them only a few nights ago that the Lord will be whispering something specifically to each of their hearts in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the season... so... be still... don't miss it.
God has something for you as well over His holiday. This "something" may be nestled in a phrase from a Christmas carol; it may be words from a sermon, or it might be a new thought from the age-old nativity story. Be still, hear Him.
As I traveled back from Mississippi over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Lord gave me "my something" this season. Through the first Christmas carols that were being played on the radio on the long ride home, my mind kept settling on one word: holy. One word, one gift to open. So I'm in the process of "gathering" this word from statements, from songs, and from Scripture. For example, I have jotted these things down:
A Statement-- Synonyms to holy are: set-apart, sinless, ordained, righteous, blessed.
A Song-- "O Holy Night" -- So according to the "like-minded" words above, the night of our dear Savior's birth was a set-apart night, a blessed night, an ordained night.
Another Song-- a line in "Silent Night" is: "holy infant so tender and mild." Yes, even as an infant, He was holy.
A Scripture-- Isaiah 6:1-3 says... I saw the Master sitting on a throne--high, exalted!--and the train of His robes filled the Temple. Angel-seraphs hovered above Him, each with six wings... and they called back and forth to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is God-of -the-Angel-Armies. His bright glory fills the whole earth." And this holy God is the King in the manger-bed? Were these same angels hovering...and singing back and forth to one another? And He lay there... for me?
And the gift grows each day, and I am awed.
What one word or phrase does He have for you this season? Peace, comfort, joy, love? We have so much to celebrate! He is not just one word, He is the Word. And He is not just packaged in one gift, He was wrapped in "swaddling clothes" as the Gift. Let's you and I enjoy Him throughout the Holy-days.
If you need daily guidance in your thoughts over the next several weeks, please refer to my website at www.respitefortheweary.com and view my new 25 day devotional Who is this Jesus and Why did He come? It is meant to direct you, and help you meditate on the Word...the Gift...Jesus.
On December 2nd just before lunch, I was racing to my first Christmas party--and I mean racing. I was the "set-up" lady for the celebration at my daughter's tutorial, and I was LATE. As I was I flying down highway 65, I felt much like Santa in his sleigh, especially because I had all the decorations in my back seat, one of which was a small bell on top of a Santa-hat that literally jingled all the way. Becoming aggravated at every slow-moving-vehicle in my path, as if they were to blame, I said to myself, "This is NOT how I want to spend my entire holiday--rushed, frazzled, and in a fix."
So, how do I keep from entering this whirlwind of frenzy, all in the "name of Christmas"? Because, undeniably, there are parties to attend, presents to purchase, homes to decorate, families to house. The answer came to me as I was sitting frustratingly still in a long line of traffic the day of my daughter's party. Through the lyrics of a Christmas song, the Lord spoke these two words, "Behold Him."
Hmm... behold Him... I have contemplated these words since my hectic car ride. In fact, I decided to look up the word behold in the dictionary. It means: to look at, see; especially something remarkable or impressive. If we were to divide this word, it would look something like this:
be-- exist; synonyms: have life, draw breath, arise, prevail
hold--grasp, carry, keep, remain secure, embrace.
I then investigated further and read the Christmas story located in Luke 1 and 2. Did you know "behold" is mentioned nine times in this passage? Indeed, something remarkable and impressive was happening; and Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, the angels, the shepherds, and Simeon, to name a few, were all drawing breath from it and carrying it in their hearts. They were beholding Him, Jesus, the Almighty, the all Holy One. Now the question is, am I?
In order to do this, I must first and foremost, sit still with Him. In this place of rest, He can speak wonder-full things to me, just like the true characters of the first Christmas story. I too, want to exist and then embrace the Saving One. But then, when I get up from this restful state and start running into the midst of all the Christmas cheer, I must pull my heart and mind away from the chaos and then intentionally choose to behold my Savior. So, as I drive, I will worship Him through beautiful songs. As I decorate, I will celebrate Him through meaning-filled expression. As I wrap, I will contemplate Him, the gift of Life nestled in swaddling clothes. And as I attend parties, I will take Him with me and share His love.
Breathe in, my friend, and behold Him this entire Christmas season and you will be bountifully blessed by the King of kings. He is worth every thought, and then some.
And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:10
Cause your word and Spirit to direct our steps into the places in which you want us to share your good news. Make our hearts both attentive and obedient. Bless others through us as we shine your light and speak your name. Amen.