Yesterday at church our pastor started a series that is going to be about helping us to focus on the significance of Christmas in our lives. I mentioned this briefly yesterday, but thought I'd go ahead & share the rest of my thoughts on it since I really enjoyed it and benefited from it. He began by encouraging us to take a "holiday" or vacation, to set aside our worries and to focus on what truly matters. To do that we need to:
- Take a holiday from the cares of the world: Worrying about our jobs, our finances, and all the Christmas tasks we have to finish only "causes us to look at ourselves instead of God" and the majority of the time those concerns are beyond our control anyway. We need to instead focus on bringing "Glory to God in the Highest." Oh how I understand this! I am a big worry wart and I know that I often worry too much about things that I cannot control. So how do we take a holiday from the cares of the world? We visit a favorite verse of mine (one I've mentioned before) - 1st Peter 5:7, "...casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you." We need to pray and give up the situations that are weighing heavily on our mind to God.
- Take a holiday from conflict: The pastor went on to talk about how so many people dread the holidays because of certain family members or because of all the strife that inevitably seems to happen. I can empathize, and I'm sure many of you can too. We had plenty of this on our most recent holiday, Thanksgiving. But instead of lashing out at the arguing family member or replying with a sarcastic remark or whatever the case may be, he encouraged us to instead practice keeping the peace, even with the difficult people. It is hard to "turn the other cheek" and I'm not saying to just let yourself be walked on - but in the end, holding our tongue or changing the subject works out so much better for everyone all around. Not only are you being the bigger person, you're also following God's direction.
- Take a holiday from commotion: "Peace on earth; goodwill to men." That's hard to imagine in a world full of wars, political back and forth, and angry Black Friday shoppers. The pastor also touched on the "war on Christmas" that I've seen many people posting about on Facebook. He talked about how people are getting mad and even boycotting stores that are telling their employees to only say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so as not to offend anyone. While I do think that our world is getting a little too PC, I think he made an excellent point here: Now, I don't want society to ignore the significance of Christmas, but if we think that the key to keeping the Christmas spirit alive can be found in forcing retail sales clerks to use certain terminology, we've already lost sight of 'the Christmas spirit.'
Very convicting to me who has used "Merry Christmas to you too!" as a retort back to a store employee who very grumpily told me "Happy Holidays." Even if they were grouchy sounding, I didn't show them a very good example of a Christian. I'm going to make it a point to tell all the store employees I come in contact with this holiday season how I appreciate them wishing me anything.
I've been fretting recently about doing all these different Christmas activities with the kids - making ornaments, going shopping, making paper crafts, writing letters to Santa, having Christmas-themed movie nights - I want to do them ALL and I've been trying to figure out how I'm going to squeeze them all in. However, I got a BIG dose of reality last night when talking with Zeke. We had sat down to read from an Advent book and I said something about all the stories and lessons in the book leading up to December 25th which was a very special day. His response was, "Yes! That's the day Santa comes!" I said, "And what else do we celebrate that day?" He looked puzzled and shrugged. Sigh. I know that he DOES know that it's the day we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus - they just talked about it at church yesterday! - but obviously Santa is more at the forefront of his mind right now. I realized then I've been a little too focused on the worldly aspects and the THINGS, and not on the real reason why we're actually celebrating. So I'm going to purposefully not worry too much about all the activities and instead take a "holiday" with the kids - read the Bible and Advent stories, do activities as we can, and just enjoy the season with them.