Monday, December 2, 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Changing the focus.

It begins the week of Thanksgiving. Relatives start to come into town, the grocery store causes a near anxiety attack, and the meal that takes five hours to prepare is over in less than an hour. My once spick-and-span house has turned into an army bunker complete with cheerios on the floor, dirty dishes, and sticky counters.

My fuse is blown. My head is spinning. I feel hung over, even though I barely had a glass of wine the whole Thanksgiving holiday. I try to muster up my "holiday spirit" with Christmas jingles in the car,  a wreath on the door, holiday candles, and hot chocolate by a fire. But what I came to realize this morning is that I really have it all wrong this year. Don't worry this post isn't about shaming you in regards to your holiday traditions and me telling you how "superficial" and "sinful" they are. This isn't about not getting a christmas tree or how certain carols we sing have pagan roots. This post is about me, and my need for Jesus and his help to shift my heart; worshiping at the altar of Christmas greeting cards, frosty the snowman bowing down to the "holiday god's" to make me feel better even just for a brief second.

I have forgotten that the reason I celebrate Christmas is to glorify the TRUE Prince of Peace. Everyday this Christmas I need a reminder that Jesus loves me, he humbled himself to be God made man, to be a King born in a manger and hung on a tree for my sins. Nothing, no amount of good hosting and glad tidings will bring me peace. No amount of charity work or donations, no amount of gifts I give or receive will make me feel whole. Only Jesus can fill me with complete joy, peace and love. I can not do it on my own, my flesh is self serving and weak.

Every year I dream of perfect family holiday where everyone gets along and we all laugh, and everyone has a helpful spirit, but I set my expectation and hope in these desires. Every year I am let down. I focus so hard on making the perfect day, planning, cooking, prepping only to be let down mostly by my own performance. I become controlling, even if I don't outwardly mistreat someone I hold resentment and martyrdom in my heart. Ask my husband how he feels during the holidays. I am pretty sure the guy walks around terrified to voice any of his own desires because if they aren't in-line with mine I may (or may not) have an outburst. Almost every Christmas we get in a fight when we bring our tree home, because no matter what I put these crazy expectations on how the "tradition" should go! I sabotage it, and I hurt my best friend in the process.

Glory be to God that Christ has changed me in so many ways, but as I grow in my relationship with Jesus I am more aware of my shortcomings and sin. I sympathize with Paul when he wrote in Romans 7:15-19 ;

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.

As I sat down this morning I desired so deeply to stuff my Christmas cards and play christmas music, and I kept asking myself "why?" and then I realized that it was to momentarily escape. Escape from the reality of my own sin, and to use Christmas to make myself better instead of Christ who is the only and true healer. So I confessed, and I confess now - and I hope it will be encouragement to you. I don't say these things to heap shame but instead to say take heart! In Christ we have the ability to put to death the desires of the flesh, and love others the way Christ loved. In Christ, there is freedom and forgiveness of sins. We don't have to "try harder or do better". We can truly rest in his completed work.

Philippians 2: 1-11 
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I pray that this Christmas I would be more like Christ. Not that I would make everyone "happy" and "oohhh and ahhh" over how wonderful of a host I am, or how perfect my house looks. I pray that I would simply love and respect my husband, and that there would be peace between us.  My "grown up christmas list" is that I would remember that Christmas is about remembering the greatest gift I have received, that is salvation in Christ, and that I would keep my focus there. While sitting by the fire, driving in my car, shopping with friends, making christmas cookies I pray that we will all enjoy all the many blessings we already have bestowed upon us. Filled with hearts of gratitude in this season where it is so easy to get preoccupied, and become increasingly unhappy by succoming to the consumeristic spirit the holidays can often bring. Let us refocus, begin this season with Thanksgiving in our hearts and merriment in our homes.

Merry Christmas Friends! God Bless you & keep you!

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