Wow, it’s 2017, the beginning of a new year! This is a great opportunity to look at the year ahead and make sure it’s as good as it can be. How?
We all have a list of things to get done before this Sunday. It may include work deadlines, buying gifts, or preparing the house before everyone arrives. All very important to do’s, but there are two critical things you must do before Christmas…
1. Stay Focused on Christ
Luke 2:10-11 – … the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
When the angels announced to the shepherds the birth of Christ, they did it with “great joy”. In other words, their Christmas celebration was possible because they were solely centered on Jesus! This is a good reminder to all of us during this busy time of year. With so many things to do, you can actually miss the whole purpose of celebrating Christmas. That’s right, it isn’t about a season, holiday, or party, it’s about Jesus! So as you stay focused on Jesus, your Christmas will not only be more meaningful, but your celebration will be less stressful and more joyful.
Here is one suggestion that will help you stay focused on Jesus this week. Follow this daily scripture reading leading up to Christmas:
Tuesday: Luke 1:26-38
Wednesday: Matthew 1:18-25
Thursday: John 3:16-21
Friday: 1 John 4:9-16
Saturday: Philippians 2:1-11
Sunday: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
2. Reflect on Your Salvation
It is also important to note the reason the angels were celebrating… For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. The celebration wasn’t just about a baby Jesus, it was about Jesus being a savior and coming to save us from our sin (see my blog post, Hell No). This is what makes it a “Merry” Christmas for every Christian. But if we lose sight of that truth, we can actually miss this and fall into the trappings of an anxiety-filled busy season.
One way that has helped me to reflect on my salvation this Christmas is to remember how it happened. It is always encouraging to think back to the time when you first heard the Gospel and how you ultimately gave your life to the Lord. It is also encouraging to remember how God changed your life and made you a new person in Christ. When you reflect back to the day you got saved, you are really reflecting back to your own personal Christmas story and its purpose! So spend a little time each day reflecting back and thank God for His love, mercy, and forgiveness for you. This kind of reflection can also take place when you sit around the Christmas tree and exchange gifts with family and friends. Let it be a reminder that you have received God’s ultimate gift of eternal life, which is definitely worth celebrating! (John 3:16)
As you step into these “Two Must Do’s Before Christmas”, you will find that your celebration is much more centered and joyful. It will also help prevent those anxiety-filled days that often occur when Jesus isn’t at the top of your list.
Are you emotionally struggling this Christmas? Do you find it hard to be joyful and happy? If this Christmas is challenging for you, here’s some encouragement…
We all know that the Christmas holidays can trigger many different emotions. This is because there is a sense of nostalgia that often goes along with the season. Celebrating Christmas can trigger past memories, which will make it either a joyful or painful experience. So how can you balance these two emotions and get through a tough Christmas?
1. Remember The First Christmas
It is always helpful to remember back to the first Christmas by reading the two accounts found in Matthew 1:18-2:15 and Luke 2:1-7. When you review the events that took place, “joyful” would not have been the first word that comes to mind. Getting pregnant before marriage, giving birth in a stable, running for your life to a foreign country, would not have been what we would term today as a “Merry” Christmas. In fact, words like tough, confusing, fearful, or painful would have been more appropriate to describe the experience. Yes, there were moments of relief and encouragement but they were only moments. The prevailing theme for the first Christmas would have been “tough”.
The reason it’s helpful to remember back is because we can have a tendency to romanticize the Christmas experience. In doing so, we set ourselves up for emotional failure when it isn’t a pain-free experience. It’s important to remember that a pain-free Christmas is impossible because it isn’t real life nor was it Joseph or Mary’s experience. So be sure to keep your emotional expectations in check and remember when it gets tough, you’re actually participating in the first Christmas experience.
2. Replace Fear With Faith
Another theme that emerges from the first Christmas is faith. Joseph and Mary faced some very tough and scary situations, which required them to either move forward in faith or sit still in fear. It required faith in God to stay together as husband and wife. It required faith in God to give birth in a stable or travel to Egypt with a newborn. Their Christmas legacy was placing their faith in God rather than giving into the fear of their circumstances. Through it all, we can now look back and see how God was faithful!
It’s important to remember this truth when Christmas becomes an emotionally scary place. Fear can be a very powerful emotion and will consume you if you let it. As a Christian, you have the opportunity to replace fear with faith. You have the opportunity to move through Christmas trusting in your Savior rather than your circumstances. This requires a moment by moment decision to not give in to fear, but instead to stay focused on Jesus. It is bringing your thoughts captive to Him rather than letting them go unchecked (2 Cor. 10:5). It is doing what He wants you to do rather than what you feel like doing (John 15:10-11). Every Christmas should remind you of how God shows up and provides when you place your faith in Him rather than your circumstances.
So as you anticipate these next couple of weeks as being an emotionally tough experience, remember this is what the first Christmas was all about and look how that turned out!
Putting up Christmas lights is a tradition that most families enjoy doing this time of year. It makes the home festive and helps usher in the Christmas spirit. That is, until they stop working. When this happens, the Christmas cheer quickly turns to anger and frustration. If this is you, I’ve found an easy way to avoid a Christmas light meltdown…
If you’re like me, it doesn’t matter how careful and methodical you are when putting up Christmas lights, there is always going to be a problem. It may be a section of lights that randomly goes out, a blown fuse that is impossible to trace, or simply some burned out bulbs that are too high to reach without a ladder. There’s always something and if you’re the one who spent hours putting up the lights, it can be very frustrating. You don’t want to invest more hours trying to fix the problem, yet every time the lights go on you see the problem. Well this year, I’ve had a breakthrough and found an easy fix for the frustration.
Let the light be a reminder
Throughout scripture, we see God’s word using everyday occurrences to help us remember spiritual truths. In the case of personal evangelism, the Bible says…
Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
In other words, Christians are called to shine bright and be bold for Jesus in today’s world and not be hidden or dark in our witness for Him. We’ve all experienced walking into a room to turn on a light and it doesn’t work. You can’t function until you replace the light. This is the metaphor that Jesus used to remind Christians about being bold with the Gospel and living a life that helps people see God.
Now here’s where you can also make the connection to your Christmas lights. Just like Jesus used light and dark to highlight evangelism, use your Christmas lights to do the same. That’s right! Instead of viewing those dark Christmas lights as a place of frustration, let them be a reminder to you about your personal witness for Jesus and the need to always be careful how you shine. In this way, you are simply using a Christmas light problem to illustrate a potential spiritual problem. A needed reminder for us all!
This is the first year I’ve made a spiritual connection to my non-working Christmas lights and it’s been amazing! I’m no longer frustrated and I’ve even been encouraged by the daily reminder every time the lights go on! It’s great! Give it a try! You’ll find it takes much less time than trying to track down the Christmas light problem and it keeps you centered on the Lord!
I would love to hear what you think and if it worked for you. Click here to comment!
It’s no surprise that “Merry Christmas” has long been replaced by “Happy Holidays” in order to avoid discriminating against other religions. But do people really care? How offensive can “Merry Christmas” actually be? Regardless of your answer, here is a why a politically correct Christmas will never work…
When you read the Christmas story about the birth of Christ, you quickly realize it was anything but a politically correct holiday. In fact, it was an event that was offensive to most. King Herod wanted to eliminate Christmas (c.f. Matthew 2:16). The Magi had to face political risk to celebrate Christmas (c.f. Matthew 2:1-4). Even Joseph and Mary found themselves being ostracized by family members (c.f. Matthew. 1:18-19). All this to say, Christmas has never been a politically correct event and attempts to challenge and dismiss it, are nothing new. Why?
1. Christmas Exposes Sin
Matthew 1:21 – She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
When the angel appeared to both Joseph and Mary, the message was clear. Jesus came to save us from our sins. In other words, the Christmas story is not some romantic fairy tale reflected by wonderful music and a cute manger scene. No, Christmas is a rescue mission conducted by God to save us from our sins. This means, we are at risk without Christmas and need saving.
Most people don’t like to think about themselves as being sinners and would rather focus on trying to be a good person. The idea of needing a savior implies you can’t save yourself and can feel offensive, but that is the truth behind Christmas. Why would God send a savior if we didn’t need it? To process this requires deep reflection and humility, which can often be painful which most people resist. It is much easier to say “Happy Holidays” and move on assuming everything will turn out okay.
2. Christmas Highlights Risk
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The reason Christmas took place was to save us from our sin and eternal separation from God. In other words, Christmas not only offers the promise of heaven but also highlights the risk of hell (see my blog post, Hell No!). Again, most people don’t like to think about dying let alone the risk of going to hell. In fact, to even mention this topic could be offensive and imply that someone isn’t a good person. Of course, the truth is we aren’t good enough but that doesn’t matter, it is much more comfortable to believe everyone will go to heaven and leave it at that. Unfortunately, that would make Christmas meaningless because we wouldn’t need a savior. Celebrating Christmas is all about celebrating God’s sacrificial love for us even when we don’t deserve it. This is what makes it a “Merry” Christmas.
So no matter how much you may try to edit a seasonal greeting or try not to offend others, the true meaning of Christmas will never be politically correct. It never has been and never will be.
Are you somewhat dreading this Thanksgiving with family and friends? Are you finding it hard to be thankful given all relational drama that has been taking place? If you think this Thanksgiving is going to be a bummer, don’t believe it! Here’s why…
When it comes to being a thankful person, there seems to be a myth surrounding this topic. Namely, that one’s ability to be thankful is contingent on their circumstances. For example, if someone handed you $100 with no strings attached you would probably be thankful, right? So your ability to be thankful is contingent on the positive experience of receiving $100. Although this may be partially true, it is not entirely true. Scripture says that you can be thankful in any type of circumstance, positive or negative.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Notice the verse says “in all” circumstances, not “for all” circumstances. There is a big difference. In other words, you can be thankful in both positive and negative situations because a thankful attitude isn’t contingent on your circumstances. In fact, a thankful attitude can take place in spite of your circumstances. That’s right, you can be thankful when life gets difficult, when things aren’t easy, and even when there is relational drama. Why? Because God is still working, He is still faithful, He is still in charge and is accomplishing His will (see my blog post, Why Does God Allow Pain & Suffering?).
Notice the verse also says to “give thanks”. This means that a thankful attitude is something you have control over. Simply put, it is a choice you make and not an emotion you experience. In fact, you can be thankful even when you don’t feel like it! Here is how it works. In order to “give” something, it means you have to be proactive and intentional. It requires looking for things to be thankful for. It requires seeing the positive in a situation rather than only focusing on the negative. This is how you are able to articulate and give thanks. Now make no mistake about it, this isn’t always easy and will require practice. But when you step into the discipline of giving thanks it will not only bring balance to your perspective but it will also help reduce volatility in emotionally charged situations.
So as Thanksgiving Day approaches, don’t believe the myth that circumstances dictate a thankful attitude, you do! It’s your choice! Also, be encouraged that as you trust God and step into the truth of His word, He will provide and make this Thanksgiving Day a happy one regardless of the situation.
In the wake of the 2016 election results, Facebook users are “unfriending” those they politically disagree with at an alarming rate. What does this say about our ability to handle conflict and our emotional and relational immaturity?
It’s no secret that Facebook has become the modern-day town square. Instead of gathering together in the center of town for a face-to-face discussion about cultural issues, people can now hide behind the faceless interaction of the internet and Facebook. As a result, what used to require coming back to the table to resolve issues has now become a dump-and-run society. In other words, if you disagree with someone today you can simply “unfriend” them and say goodbye. A simple cyberspace “au revoir” and you’re conflict free! Sounds good, right?
But what does God have to say about it?
Ephesians 4:1-2 – …walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…
Patience is a godly virtue and not one the world seems to readily embrace today. In fact, some might say patience is weakness and it’s better to make your stand or leave! But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is much easier to operate with a “my way or the highway” approach, then to be patient and hang in there with those whom you disagree. Humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with others takes incredible godly strength especially when emotions are running high. Yet, this is what God has called every Christian to do!
God wants Christians to be an example of Jesus and avoid getting caught up in the fear-based, vicarious value system of today’s man-centered culture (see my blog post, How to Handle an Election Loss). Christians are called to be different!
So simply put, if you are tempted to “unfriend” someone who is frustrating or irritating, don’t do it! Rather than delete them, pray for them. Rather than avoid them, be patient with them. In doing so, you will be shining the light of Christ where it is needed most.
We live in a divided world and if Christians aren’t any different then where is the hope going to come from? So don’t wimp out, hang in there and keep the friends you have on Facebook. In doing so you will be stepping into what biblical love is all about. You will also develop some emotional and relational muscles in the process.