Create a Little Space

We always grieve the fact that Jesus was born in a manger. Why weren’t people more aware? Why couldn’t people see what was going on?

Most likely, the answer to that question is easier than we think. People were busy. They were taking care of their kids, running errands, getting their work done. There was nothing remarkable about Mary and Joseph. They were just another young couple having their first baby. Most people didn’t even notice them.

That’s what busyness does. That’s what the craziness of the Christmas season does. It squeezes out time. By the time we shop and eat, travel and visit, we don’t have any time for Christmas.

Which means we don’t have any time for love. After all, how do you spell “love”? T-I-M-E. We spend time with the people we love and doing the things we love. Do you love Jesus? Well, how much time have you spent with Him? Love your wife? How much time have you spent with her? Love your children? Does your time show it?

For most of us, the best thing we can do for Christmas is to create a little space: to worship and to love. This year, make sure there’s room in your life for Jesus and all those you love.

A Time to Practice Joy

Most things in life take practice. If you want to be a better golfer, you practice. If you want to be a better musician, you practice. In short, if you want to get better at anything in life, it just takes a little practice.

So, while it may sound a little strange, the fact is if you want to live a more joyful life, you have to practice. So, how do you practice joy?

First, let’s get our definitions straight. Joy and happiness aren’t the same things. Happiness is momentary. It’s the reaction we have when something good happens to us. If someone gives me an Oreo cookie, I’m happy. When the cookie is gone, so is my happiness.

Joy stays with you no matter what. Joy is knowing the hero is going to win at the end of the movie even though it doesn’t look like it at first. This is why Christ-followers are joyful. We know how the story ends.

Christmas is a great time to practice joy. During the holiday season, we can break routines and do things we normally wouldn’t do for no other reason than the fact that it’s Christmas. Ask yourself this question: if I were certain Jesus would win in the end, how would I live now?

Then, live that way now.
Give without the thought of getting back.
Forgive without being asked.
Love even when love isn’t returned.
Worship even though it’s not Sunday.
Grab hold of joy.

Sure, it takes a little practice, but that’s the great thing about Christmas—it gives us the chance to practice joy. Who knows, if we practice joy long enough we may end up being good at it. We may get so good living in the joy of Christ we can live this way all year long.

Stepping Out of the Madness

The Christmas commercials began just after Halloween. Many of the major retailers started offering “Black Friday” deals way before Thanksgiving. The Christmas season has now become a commercial gorging in the name of the One who had nothing when He was born. All of us complain that “this year, the commercialization of Christmas has just gone too far.” Given the American appetite for excess, we can count on Christmas being pushed more and more toward shopping until we can’t even recognize it any more.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. You and your family can make other decisions. While the rest of the world is standing in line trying to buy the latest “must have” gadget, you can choose to celebrate Christmas another way. You don’t have to make a big deal about it. No public announcements are required. Simply choose not to get caught up in the mania of spending and shopping.

How can you do that? It’s easier than it seems.

First, make worship a priority of your Christmas celebration. Sure, attend the traditional Christmas Eve services and Christmas concerts, but more than that, make sure worship is the focus of your family’s Christmas. Read the Christmas story to your children. Talk to them about what it means that Jesus was born in our world. Make individual worship a priority. Find a time every day to read and meditate on the miracle of Immanuel—God with us.

Second, set a budget…AND STICK TO IT! Too many of us ruin the joy of our Christmas celebrations by charging too much on our credit cards. This makes January tougher than it already is.

Third, use time, not money, as your Christmas currency. For instance, you might give your daughter a dinner and movie date with you as her Dad. Take your son to see his favorite ball team (or rock band or DJ…you get the idea). Give your wife a coupon for a weekend getaway. Maybe if you’re a good boy, she’ll let you come along.

Fourth, make your family a priority. Remember, you have 364 other days in the year to see everyone. There’s no law that says you have to see everyone in your family on Christmas.

Yes, Christmas can be a crazy time of year, but it doesn’t have to make you or your family crazy. You can choose to make your Christmas different and meaningful for you and your family. Just because the world is selling it, doesn’t mean we have to buy it.

How Much Trouble Are We In?

Not too long ago, a friend of mine had a heart attack. He passed out at work and came to in the emergency room of the hospital with the doctor leaning over him shouting, “Hang with me. You’re going to be all right.”

“Do you know how much trouble you’re in,” my friend asked me, “when you come to in the emergency room and everyone’s shouting at you to hang on?”

We have those moments in our lives, don’t we? Those moments when we suddenly realize we’re in serious trouble. A check has bounced. The water heater has exploded. The doctor is concerned about your latest test results. Your wife says she’s not happy. Your child has a headache that won’t go away.

All of these moments, and so many more, make our blood freeze. There’s a sudden wave of realization that feels like heat burning from our head to our toes that tells us we’re in trouble…real trouble. We’re not going to be able to just talk our way out of this one. This time, there are consequences.

Do you ever feel that way at Christmas? When you hear the angels say, “A Savior has been born…” does it make you wonder how much trouble we’re in that God had to send a Savior? More than that, how bad is it that God had to come Himself?

The good news of Christmas is a Savior is born. The bad news of Christmas is that we’re in bad need of saving. Many of us miss the good news of Christmas because we won’t take the time to understand—really feel in our guts—how messed up everything is. We really don’t want to think about how much trouble we’re really in.

But when we do, then Christmas is good news indeed. A Savior has come. And just in the nick of time because we’re in bad need of being saved.