Sunday, November 12, 2023

Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas
Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

As Christmas etches closer and closer, the retail outlets get busier and busier.  It is November 12th and already the stores are all decked out in Christmas decorations.  The Christmas music is playing and the Christmas shopping frenzy is quickly advancing into full swing.  I love all things Christmas but it can become overwhelming if we don't stay focused.  How do we stay focused with all the lights, advertisements, parties, shopping, music, movies, and so on?  What do we stay focused on, exactly?  We stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  When we stay focused on Jesus, the whir of the world quiets down and the rush hushes.  Let's turn our focus on ways to keep Christ in Christmas.  First, we should make sure we all understand the true meaning of Christmas. 

The True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas trees, shopping for gifts, packages, bows, Santa Claus, elves, Christmas concerts, Christmas plays - all things Christmas - those things are fun!  Participating in all the Christmas things is OK as long as they don't turn our focus to the commercialism of this holy holiday.  Christmas is about Jesus, nothing else.  All other stuff is just fancy fluff.  Fancy fluff is a bonus.  It's all the stuff we are free to enjoy, including family gatherings, but even family shouldn't be the focal point of our celebration of Christmas.  Our focus should stay lasered in on the arrival of a long-promised King Jesus.  All the other Christmas things are extra blessings we are free to enjoy, but Jesus really is the reason for the season.  If you are new to Biblical teachings, I want to point you to our family's favorite Christmas passage which tells us the story of Jesus' birth.  Then, we'll touch on ways to keep Christ in Christmas.

Let's read from the book of Luke, Chapter 2:

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.). And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord," and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.  And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

The historical account we just read from the book of Luke, chapter 2 records Jesus' birth and a little bit about His first 12 years.  It is the birth of Jesus that we celebrate on Christmas Day.  He is the reason for this holy holiday.  The commercialism of Christmas is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.  To be honest, I love the Christmas season.  I love the shopping, the people, the fun, family, and food - so much food!  However, in our family, the birth of Jesus is always the focal point of the season.  It is possible, even in the midst of fancy fluff, to keep Jesus the focal point of our celebrations.  Here are several ways we can keep Christ in Christmas.

1.  Read the recorded historical account of Jesus' birth in the book of Luke, chapter 2.  Read it at every Christmas gathering.  If your children hear it 100 times every year, that is OK.  In fact, the more they hear it, the more they will cherish it.  The more they cherish it, the more likely they are to make Jesus the focal point of their Christmas celebrations when they reach adulthood. 

2.  Have a birthday party for Jesus, especially if you have younger children.  Kids love birthday parties.  Let them help you plan and decorate for the party.  In Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, he writes of wise men who followed a star to find Jesus.  When they arrived at the place where Jesus was, they gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  If you would like to add gift-giving to your birthday party for Jesus, take the kids to buy gifts for a family in need.  This creates memories for kids that will last a lifetime.  

3.  Use this Nativity advent calendar to countdown to Christmas.  Every day, your family can move Joseph and Mary closer to Bethlehem.  

Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas
This Nativity Advent Calendar is available here.

4.  Add Nativity gift tags to your gift giving supplies.

5.  Watch scripturally accurate movies about the birth of Jesus.  When you watch movies about the birth of Jesus with your kids, be sure to discuss the events in the film with them.  Call out anything that is not scriptural.  Get the kids involved in the discussion and lead them to compare the events in the film with the recorded historical accounts in the Bible.

6.  Take your family to church.  Families should be in church together all year long.  Church is a great place for families to learn more about the origins of Christmas.  Church is a place where families will be immersed in all things Biblical when it comes to Christmas.  You'll hear accurate teachings and sing Christmas songs, old and new.  Kids will participate in crafts and activities they will never forget.  Church is a place to build relationships and be part of a community with a common worldview.  Church is a place where lifelong friendships and lifelong memories are made.  Take your family to church. 

7.  Keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year long.  There are many things to learn about the true meaning of Christmas - the accurate account of Jesus' birth, who Jesus is, how He died for our sins in our place, how He rose again from the gave, how He ascended into Heaven, how He is coming back someday, how we can have a relationship with Him today, how we can tell others about the Good News of Jesus.  Remember all these things all year long.  Jesus' life wasn't meant for us to celebrate only in December.  Jesus is meant to be celebrated and shared all year long.

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Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances
Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Gratitude is a virtue that brings peace and contentment in life.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 provides a beautiful lesson on giving thanks in all circumstances. This inspiring passage from the Bible is a reminder of our obligation to be thankful, regardless of our current situation.

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is a verse that reminds us to remain joyful always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. The verse is a profound reminder that gratitude should not be conditional; it should be a constant state of our hearts, irrespective of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

How to Give Thanks In All Circumstances

Being thankful in all circumstances does not mean that we have to be happy about difficult situations. Instead, it means acknowledging and appreciating the presence and power of God in our lives, even during challenging times. It means believing that God has a plan for us and that every situation, good or bad can be used for His glory.

It's vital to differentiate between being thankful for all circumstances and being thankful in all circumstances. We might not be grateful for adverse situations, but we can be thankful in them, knowing that God is with us, guiding us, and using these situations to grow us spiritually.

To cultivate a habit of giving thanks in all circumstances, we can start by acknowledging God's presence in our lives daily. We can pray regularly and express our gratitude to God for His love and blessings. We can also keep a gratitude journal to document the things we are thankful for each day. This practice can help us develop a positive mindset and a thankful heart.

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This 16in. x 20in. canvas wall art is available here.

In summary, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 offers a valuable lesson on the power and importance of gratitude. It reminds us that God's will for us is to remain joyful, prayerful, and thankful, regardless of our circumstances. By cultivating a heart of gratitude in all situations, we can live abundantly in God's will and experience peace and contentment in our lives. So, let us strive each day to live out this divine principle of gratitude and see the positive transformations it can bring about in our lives.

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances
Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

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