Each year on Black Friday, 'it' begins. 'It' is that season of hustle and bustle, rushing and going to this party and that party, trying to squeeze a years worth of familial and social engagements into a four week period, and somehow, in the midst of all of that, buy gifts, send cards, travel to relatives, host relatives, fight traffic and yes....'rejoice' and experience the awe and wonder and peace that comes from our relationship with Christ and remember the incredible gift of God's Son all at the same time.
But all too often there is little in the way of rejoicing, peace, awe and wonder and a lot of stress and sense of being frazzled. The culture has been remarkably effective when it comes to changing the meaning and narrative of Christmas. That said, we are responsible for what we choose to do (and not do) during this season. We are responsible for whether we'll allow the culture and expectations of others to shape our Christmas experience or if we'll use this time as a time to be renewed, to rediscover that sense of awe and wonder and to rest in the One who gives us peace with God and peace from God, Jesus Christ.
Here are a few suggestions to consider as we approach Christmas:
1) First Things First. Remember that Christmas is about the gift of Christ, the incarnation, and not consumerism and everything else. Spend time each day in the Word and in prayer. Slow down to meditate on the Word. Gather your family to pray and read through the birth narratives leading up to Christmas. Worship with God's people (we have two services to choose from-Saturday at 5:00 or Sunday at 11:00). Prioritize Christ in your daily life, in your family and by worshipping with others. Takeaway: make worship (individual, familial and church) priority one.
2) Set a reasonable budget and stick to it. More isn't better. Overspending causes more stress. Don't try to 'keep up with the Jones'.' Be content with what the Lord has given and don't buy the lie that spending more than you have will create more happiness. It won't. It will cause more stress on so many levels.
3) Imitate God-Give. The antidote to consumerism is blessing others. Give above your tithes and offerings to Lottie Moon (International Missions). Give to someone else. Decide it's best to bless others than collecting stuff. Give to someone in need. Give to someone to say 'I appreciate you.' Give. Giving loosens the grip of the idol of materialism.
4) Set boundaries, Unplug. It is okay to say 'no' to an invitation. You cannot please everyone. It's okay to not answer the phone at times. It's okay to turn the television and computer off. It's okay to not be on your smart phone checking Facebook. Do what is needed to silence the noise that distracts and stresses. All too often it is our personal choice to engage in things that ultimately stress us. Saying 'no' to some things will give you a great opportunity to say 'yes' to the most important things.
There are many other things I could mention. These four things alone, however, are a good place to start. The Prince of Peace has come! He gives us peace with God and peace from God. He is present.
Seek and you will find, and to do that requires intentionality.
May your Christmas be filled with wonder, worship and peace and above all, the Prince of Peace.
Grace to you