By Dena Johnson, ibelieve.com
Why is it that Christmas just seems to sneak up on me each year? It seems as if we just celebrated the start of 2016, and now we are in the final countdown of the year.
To be honest, I am nowhere near ready for Christmas!
I used to be the “put up the Christmas tree in October” kind of person. I simply couldn’t wait to start shopping and wrapping presents and decorating. I was enthralled with the joy and wonder of the season, and I loved celebrating with my family.
Somewhere in the last few years, I have lost that sense of anticipation. Perhaps it is because I am busier than I have ever been before. As a single mom raising three kids and working full-time, I am constantly running. Perhaps it is the full-time pursuit of what God has called me to, beginning a ministry and writing a book, that has zapped me of the energy and enthusiasm. Or perhaps it is the simple fact that Christmas falls right in the middle of basketball season, the time when I am chasing my kids across the state, supporting them in their endeavors four nights every week.
Or perhaps it is the financial strain. I work hard, but my paycheck never seems to stretch quite far enough. The cost of living continues to increase, but my check seems to be shrinking. And, I long to give my kids a good Christmas—nothing elaborate, but to give them something they will enjoy. Yet, scraping together the money to buy gifts is nothing short of a miracle in itself.
Somehow, I’ve gone from Buddy the Elf to the Grinch. I’ve gone on a downward spiral from loving Christmas to dreading its coming.
But, I don’t want to be the Grinch this Christmas. I want to regain the joy of the season. I want to look forward to the celebration of our Savior, to time together as a family. I want to look for the Savior, to experience his peace and his presence. I want to revel in the anticipation of my Savior, born in a manger in simple surroundings so long ago.
As I’ve contemplated my attitude toward Christmas, I find myself looking to scriptures for answers. How can I change my attitude? How can I regain my sense of wonder and anticipation? How can I restore joy in the holidays? How can I focus on the greatest gift ever given to mankind in the midst of my hectic schedule?
Perhaps the answer is in the Christmas story itself.
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14
When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they came praising God! They chose to sing simple songs of praise to the Father.
Turning our hearts to God in praise is one of the best ways to change our hearts and our attitudes. When we focus our hearts and minds on who he is, we are overcome with his goodness and his faithfulness. We are drawn into relationship with him, and we experience his joy and his peace.
I am choosing to spend time praising my father each day as Christmas approaches. I am choosing to focus on him, on his character, on his faithfulness throughout my life. I am choosing to sing songs of praise to him.
Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Matthew 2:7-10
The wise men. The wise men had spent their lifetimes studying, digging deeper. They knew all the signs indicating the appearing of the Messiah. When the star appeared in the east, they found themselves on mission, intentionally seeking out the Savior.
Many of us find ourselves too busy to pour over scripture, looking for the signs of the Savior. We let life dictate our schedules. We begin to overlook the disciplines of prayer and scripture reading because of the tyranny of our to-do list.
I know I am guilty. But, this Christmas, I am making God my priority. Each morning, I will focus first on digging into scripture, looking for my Father. I want to know the signs to look for, signs of his presence. I want to find the Christ child in my everyday life. I want to be diligent in searching for the things of God.
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. Luke 2:15-17
The shepherds encountered the angels as they sang songs of praise. Their hearts were burning, and they had a sense of urgency. They left everything to go in search of the Savior, to find the one the angels sang about.
I have a sense of urgency about many things: work, being on time to every activity, completing my daily to-do list. But do I have that same sense of urgency about seeking my Savior?
The truth is, I cannot survive without God. I need him, more each day. My life does not work without his hand guiding and directing me. He is the one who meets my every need, who gives me the strength to endure through this crazy life.
This Christmas, I want to have a sense of urgency about seeking my father, about seeing his hand at work around me. I want to have a passion to know him better, to be obedient in all things.
All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. Luke 2:18-19
Sweet Mary. Here she is, still a child herself. She’s probably still reeling from the revelation that she, a virgin, has just given birth to the Savior of the world. The world must be moving faster than she can possibly imagine. She’s just been through the most remarkable moment in her life—giving birth to her firstborn son—and yet she has no idea the journey she is just beginning.
As Mary contemplated the visits of the shepherd and the wise men and the birth of her son, she chose to simply treasure it in her heart. She tucked it deep inside, contemplated what it all meant. She clung to it, knowing she was in the midst of the greatest story ever told.
I often find myself tucking away little whispers of the father, hiding them in my heart where I can return, find comfort and strength. Some of these moments I share with others; some I simply hide away until such a time I sense God calling me to share. But, no matter what, I treasure the moments with my father, the promises given and kept, the reminders of his presence and his faithfulness.
And, perhaps this Christmas season, I simply need to take time to reflect on those moments treasured in my heart. Perhaps I need to pull out those precious memories, remember how he has poured out his love and faithfulness in my life. Perhaps it’s time to reflect on this journey on which he has led me.
Where is your heart this Christmas? I pray it is soft, open, ready to celebrate. I pray it is focused on the reason for this season, on finding the joy and peace of the Savior born that beautiful night long, long ago.
If it’s not, will you join me on a journey to restore the wonder of the season? Will you fall to your knees in praise, seek him with your whole heart? Will you have a sense of urgency to know him better? Will you treasure the moments in your heart, allowing yourself to be reminded of his faithfulness on this journey?
There’s no better time to renew joy and peace in this life. Let’s make this Christmas one to remember.
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three kids who loves God passionately. She delights in taking the everyday events of life, finding God in them, and impressing them on her children as they sit at home or walk along the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her greatest desire is to be a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement. You can read more of Dena’s experiences with her Great I AM on her blog Dena's Devos.
Publication date: December 10, 2015