1. DREAMING OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS?
1 DREAMING OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS?
2. TRADITIONS CAN BE TOXIC
3. WHAT'S WRONG WITH PERFECT?
4. LOOK FOR GIFTS OF JOY
5. THE POWER OF BLESSING
6. EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US
I was somewhat bemused one summer to be stopped by 'greeters' at the local supermarket who explained that the shop was 'trialling' that year's Christmas displays. Apparently, they would be taken down at the end of the day and put up again in the festive season... Thinking of the time and resources this required, I wondered if they were completely mad! But somehow it seemed to me to be indicative of the way our view of festival in the West has become skewed.
Gaining a proper perspective on celebratory occasions is not easy in the face of seductive commercial campaigns. We are bombarded with wonderful images of family, community, romance, and fulfilment—all gift-wrapped with a particular purchase or activity; or magical environments where anything can happen; sentimental films with a sprinkling of snow; or comedy capers alive with seasonal laughter... Inspirational or aspirational, the effect is overwhelming.
TAKE A REALITY CHECK
The reality is often rather different. For many, Christmas means stress; and because of the power of the romanticised ideal, that stress is frequently compounded by feelings of guilt and failure. Hard-pressed parents worry about funding the latest must-have; families anxiously anticipate relationship challenges, and just about everyone frets about the to-do-list. And then of course, there’s all that shopping… it’s hardly the season of peace on earth! And yet as Christians we want to do it right; how can we manage our dreams, keep focused on the Lord, and ward off pressure?
Before we get right into the centre of the maelstrom, now is the time to diary in some Sabbath moments—a portion of time here and there when we can take some time quiet and recalibrate (see Spirit-led Refreshment: the Rhythm of Sabbath). These will become our anchors to peace and rest in the weeks to come.
Emmanuel means ‘God with us’, and He is the whole point of the season. The Christmas story reminds us that we worship a God who has chosen to come down to us to meet us where we are. Therefore, our Christmas Sabbaths must first of all be about inviting the Lord to fill the time with His presence.
WHAT'S IT ALL FOR?
Then we need to focus on the big question: What is it all for?
In order to reduce our stress levels, we need to ask the Lord to help us nail down two or three core intentions for the season, then use these to provide a framework for our activity.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all
without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
I love The New Bible Dictionary’s description of biblical wisdom as being intensely practical, rather than theoretical or philosophical: ‘Wisdom is the art of being successful, of forming the correct plan to gain the desired results.’ [TNBD p1333]
If we accept the truth that whatever the glossy magazines say, we can’t do it all, and lay all our dreams and aspirations at His feet, He will give us a grace-filled plan which will fit us perfectly.
NEXT WEEK: TRADITIONS CAN BE TOXIC
Christmas is a recognised time for cherished traditions, but when can they become a snare rather than a blessing…?
PASS IT ON
[Photo credits: Wout Vanacker (sparkler); Sharon Mccutcheon (candle); Jess Bailey (planner); James Lee (talking birds)
@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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