We're less than 24 hours away from December, and you know what that means? Christmas cheer is here. Sure, some kick it into gear right at the beginning of November. I even saw Christmas lights going up right after Halloween in a nearby neighborhood. K-LOVE starts playing Christmas songs on the heels of Thanksgiving. The plan-ahead types complete their Christmas shopping by the end of Black Friday. And while we've gotten an earlier-than-normal start to putting up Christmas decor around our home, I personally make the mental transition in earnest when December 1st hits.
Christmas. It's definitely a special time. It's a season that moves many of us to go beyond our normal routines to create memories and give of ourselves for the sake of others. At the same time, it can be a very stressful time. Depending on our past experiences and the expectations we carry into this time of year, we can feel the burden of this season rather than its blessing. I for one want to make an intentional choice to experience its full potential for blessing and joy, and I want to invite you to join me in doing the same. Let me share a few simple choices & attitudes I'm choosing to embrace in my pursuit of experiencing joy to the world this season.
CAST YOUR CARES
Yours may be different from mine, but I can almost guarantee that you've got cares too. Do I have the budget for that? Do I really want to travel all that way? Am I going to get off work? Am I going to have work at all? Will my health hold up? Can I even celebrate if I miss my loved one so much? Whatever your care or concern, join me in casting those cares on Jesus at the onset of this season and throughout:
...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7, NKJV
Give your burdens to the Lord,
and He will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22, NLT
This isn't an invitation to naivety and sweeping things under the rug. It's an invitation to trust that there is One who cares for you and is mindful of the burdens we bear.
Jesus wants us to lean on Him to sustain us in the midst of our anxieties and to be the One to cause all things to work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
CHANGE THE QUESTION
Christmas as a kid was a time to ask: What can I get? It was a time to publish wish lists for my parents and hope those would get passed on to aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. As I grew older, I added another question: What can I buy? I started paying attention to my siblings' wish lists, even wondering if my parents ever had one. And while that may seem like an improvement over the first question, I think the question can still grow up so to speak.
Rather than just the selfish "What can I get?" or even the materialistic "What can I buy?", I'm choosing a different question this year: What can I give?
For me, this modified question expands my focus beyond things that can be found on a shelf or a catalogue. What I give doesn’t always have to come with a dollar amount. Gifts will always require something from us — time, energy, effort — but they don’t have cost us money. (Can you tell what one of my primary cares I need to cast on God is this year?)
The other reason I'm choosing to ask "What can I give?" is to be intentional about keeping my focus on the intended recipient. I want to be considerate of how I can bless others around me, to be thoughtful & genuinely sensitive to the personal needs that my loved ones may have. When our focus is on ourselves and the demands Christmas makes on our budget, we become stingy and less than enthusiastic. When our focus is on the other person, we find joy — joy in relationship, joy in paying attention to others' interests and needs, joy in being a blessing to someone else, joy in simply giving.
Remember it's what God gave that we celebrate during the advent season. He gave all heaven in the gracious gift of His personal presence -- Immanuel, God with us. Because He gave and eternally gives, we can give too.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, NKJV