Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas is Coming - Time to Prepare Mentally

Making Room for Christmas
Barbara Henderson

Here it comes again!  That most blessed and cursed holiday of them all is just around the corner.  How are you doing on preparations for the big event?  Are you even sure what the big event is anymore?  Let’s take a look at Christmas as a joy and as a burden.

Christmas as a joy
There was a blessed and supernatural event in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Christ the Savior was born.  He was born in a humble place.  I mean what can be more humble than being born in a barn and having a cow’s food dish for your bed?  We hear a lot about this lowly birth, and how there was no room for Him at the inn.  I always think about two things when I consider this. 

First, the barn may have been a bit draftier than the inn itself.  However, neither the inn nor the barn had running water, indoor plumbing, or electricity.  Neither had memory foam mattresses or a guest laundry.  So, from that point of view it appears that main difference was animals in the stable.  But wait, there may have been animals in the inn!  Sometimes animals were put inside for their safety. 

Second, Jesus Christ left the splendor, glory, wonder, and perfection of heaven to come to earth.  So, what difference did it make if He was born in a golden earthly palace or a simple stable?  The Bible tells us, ‘But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ 1 Corinthians 2:9.  Even Herod’s palace was so far below the splendor of heaven that it really didn’t matter.  No matter where Jesus chose to be born it was a big comedown from heaven.

Third, Jesus didn’t come to find room in a physical structure.  He came to find room in the hearts of individuals.  The shepherds came to see Jesus.  The magi came to see Jesus.  They worshiped him.  So in that sense Jesus got exactly what He wanted from some people.  He got room in their hearts.

Fourth, if you are a Christian Jesus has room in your heart.  You made a place for Him, but how much room are you giving Him?  After all, He is the King of all kings.  He is the Lord over all lords.  His names are Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, and Prince of Peace to name a few.  He deserves to be ruler over all your heart.

Fifth, the image of a helpless baby in a manger dominates the life of Christ for many people.  However, that is just the first chapter in an amazing story.  People love to obsess about that tiny baby, but they don’t care to pay a lot of attention to the rest of the story.  Jesus grew into a man who changed the world.  He suffered.  He died.  He rose up from the grave.  He went back to heaven.  He is coming back to get those who have made room in their hearts for Him.  He told us these things so we could have joy.  Truly, Christmas began with the first promise of a Savior given to Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis.  The joy of Christ’s coming is for every day of your life.  Don’t limit it to a stressful shopping season!  And speaking of shopping, let’s move along to the ‘burden of Christmas’

The Burden of Christmas

People can be difficult and specific people can be a burden any day of the year.  Then comes Christmas time.  People feel some sort of obligation to get together with family and friends they don’t spend much time with throughout the year.  They love the idea of getting together, but they come with their feelings hanging on their sleeve.  They may be around for a get-to-gather or reunion, but they don’t arrive planning on how to get along and make the day better.  They are planning how to rule the day, throw verbal darts at people who may have offended them in the past, outshine all the real or imagined competition, and simply make the day about them instead of about Christmas or family.  This is a burden.

Then there is gift giving.  Don’t you just love that part of Christmas?  Oh wait, unless you are a bazillionaire then that part of Christmas probably isn’t that much fun anymore.  After all, you are obligated to give gifts to ten percent of the population in your city.  That isn’t counting putting money in that little bucket by the door of most stores, contributing to various organizations that provide toys for the underprivileged, send money to third world countries, and at least 100 other expenses that will burden your budget without giving you much in return.  Yes you may get a few return gifts, but they probably won’t be what you want; they won’t be returnable; they won’t be useful; and they will be mostly a waste of money.  That really drains the joy out of Christmas.  Then when Christmas is over ‘stress let down’ hits between the day after Christmas and January 2nd.  Sometimes it is honestly a case of post-traumatic-stress disorder!  You realize you missed some great opportunities to enjoy the season and you get hit with buyer’s remorse when you consider all the bills you have now that you didn’t have before Christmas.  You also realize another Christmas came and went without any overall improvement in your life, the life of your family, or the world in general.

Then there is meal planning.  You have to cook a lot of traditional stuff that may or may not be welcome by half the people you cook for.  Let’s face it.  Probably half the people eating a Christmas feast would have preferred a hamburger and fries with a milkshake for dessert.  And the money it costs to put on a fancy meal is more and more and more.

Then there is the worst of all.  That is the expectation that Christmas is going to be some magical time where peace on earth and peace in your family, and peace in your life.  This is a burden that cannot be lifted by any earthly event.  The best Christmas of your will just be one day.  Unless something outside of Christmas itself happens it will not change your life for even one day, much less permanently.  And, if you have Christmas in the proper perspective, you still have to deal with people who think it is a day of magic.  Basically, from an earthly viewpoint, Christmas is shot down before it even gets started.  Maybe you personally knew well in advance that the day wasn’t going to be life changing, but you still had to deal with adults who have some fantasy idea of how the day was going to turn out.  By three in the afternoon they were beginning to realize the day wasn’t going to change the world, they had eaten way to much sugar so their diabetes/hypoglycemia was kicking in making them immeasurably grumpy, and you were praying really hard ‘Thy kingdom come – and now would be a great time.’  A day of celebration had turned into a burden, and you knew it was going to be a burden next year as well.

Coming out on top

There is a rumor out that an idea is more powerful than circumstances.  If that is the case, then you can get a few ideas about how you would like to spend this Christmas season that can change unpleasant circumstances to something more to your advantage.

First put God in His place.  God’s place is King over everything.  Christmas is about Jesus Christ, but it is only part of the story.  You could call it the middle scene of a three scene play.  Scene one – Jesus promised to come.  Scene two – the manger scene where Jesus fulfilled His promise to come.  Scene three – the ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Bonus Scene – yet to be played out – Jesus comes again.  Don’t limit the scope of the story of Jesus to one night in Bethlehem.  Praise God that Jesus came.  Praise Him for all His wonderful goodness.  I think people are fascinated with the idea of God as a helpless baby in some ways because it sort of puts them above God.  After all, Jesus was God, but He had to be cared for like any other baby.  That is a more pleasant idea to some people than the idea of Christ dying for their sins.

Second, remember that the burden of the future is not on your shoulders.  There are probably things you need to do to be ready for future events, but the ultimate outcome is not up to you.  Buy the groceries you can afford and need for events.  Buy the gifts you want to buy as long as you can afford them.  Cook meals.  Show up where you are expected to be.  Be cheerful.  Don’t be needy.  Ignore obnoxious behavior.  Act like the Christian you claim to be. You can do these things, but you can’t make anything turn out perfect or even the way you would like.  Your job is to do what is right.  When you do the things that please the King of your Heart then you can count the day a success.  The actual outcome is not in your hands.  Your attitude is yours.  That’s all.  Face it.  If you are trying to pull of the perfect Christmas lay that burden down right now.

Third, give Jesus all the room in your heart.  He deserves it.  He will do what is best for you as ruler of your heart. 

Don’t let the world rob you of the true joy of Christmas.  Set your mind and heart to please God with all He asks of you.  It can begin as simply as grasping the idea of what Christmas should be like.  It should be a time of overwhelming thankfulness to God for His wonderful goodness to the children of men.

That is basically the end of the article but I would like to take a minute to encourage those who are facing Christmas under a greater burden than usual due to bereavement, illness, financial difficulties, or other tragedies.  I am very sorry for your difficulties.  God bless you and help you. 
1 Peter 5:7  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.’


‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ is not considered a Christmas song, but it does seem to be a song that reminds us of that the scope of Christ’s life is far more than one day in a manger.

Holy Holy Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
 Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
 Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
 God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
 Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
 Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
 Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
 Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
 Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
 Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
 All Thy works shall praise Thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
 Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
 God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!