Don't Let Christmas Pass You By

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Christmas. For as long as I can remember, I have loved Christmas. More than any holiday of the year, it is my favorite. From the time I was small, I have loved everything about it:  the lights, the decorations, the energy, the busyness, the events, and the music! If it had anything to do with Christmas, it was my thing. I had specific ideas about how decorating should be done. I created Christmas murals on the wall outside my parents’ bedroom for them to enjoy, (although I’m not so sure they enjoyed the leftover marker and tape) and apparently, 4-year-old Jill once asked her mother, “Why are you decorating our tree like THAT?”

As I have grown older, my love for this time of year has not changed (I’m fairly certain I just about push my husband over the edge with my love of Christmas…or off the roof, as he hangs our Christmas lights!). However, as I get older, Christmas seems to get harder. There is so much to do with people, circumstances, and expectations—both internal and external—pulling at me from all sides. As a child, I remember Christmas being magical and exciting, but as an adult, it has become weighty and exhausting. I have found myself wondering, “How do you get through this season and actually enjoy it? Is this what the Lord has in mind as we celebrate His season?”
 

Lessons for the Season

This past summer, our family was blessed with an 8-week sabbatical, and let me tell you, it was life-altering! Whatever I may have expected, it was far more than I could have imagined. So many areas of our lives were “churned up” as the Lord dealt with us specifically, individually, and as a family. He revealed areas of sin that needed to be confessed and repented of, as well as areas of apathy and laziness that needed conviction and change.  Through all of these moments, the Lord extended so much grace, kindness, and love to each of us, and it was just sweet. During this time, Romans 2:4b would often roll through my mind, “…knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance…” And it did—so often it did! Over the course of those 8 weeks, there were three specific things that He began teaching me. I’m still learning them, and am learning to continuously pursue them so that they don’t slip away.

1. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

This saying is popular because it is true for life in general. If I keep eating chocolate and don’t exercise, I will keep gaining weight! In the same way, if I am caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas—frantic, busy, and not focused on the Lord—I will feel anxious, hurried, and overwhelmed. On the flip side, if I am filled with joy and wonder at the excitement of Jesus coming to earth, I will have joy and hope even in the midst of the busy Christmas season.

2. Be intentional. Sabbath will pass you by if you let it.

A fear I had going into our sabbatical was that 8 weeks would come and go without my learning what the Lord had for me. But as we prayerfully sought Him, He graciously helped us to be intentional with our time, plans, and expectations so that the time was truly not wasted.

So it is at Christmastime. People have expectations; families make plans; churches present programs—all good things—but if not done intentionally, you may wake up December 26th and realize you were in the Christmas season but missed the whole point of it. The Lord wants us with Him. I must intentionally fix my eyes on my Savior, sit at His feet, enjoy His presence, and delight in His word. Don’t allow what truly matters at Christmas to pass you by.

3. The Lord loves to give good gifts to His children.

I think this is something I have always known, but I experienced it afresh this summer. There was something I had so hoped would happen on our sabbatical and I told no one–not even the Lord (though of course He knew, duh!) and you know what? It happened! I was stunned. I sat on a boat in the ocean, weeping out of gratitude to the Lord, who not only loves and cares for us, but sees and hears us…and even likes us! Sometimes that means He gives us a gift—something that perhaps we hadn’t even dared to utter! He has no obligation to do that (and I don’t look at Him as a genie, granting my wish), but wow! He knew my heart and granted this simple desire. As a parent, I totally get this concept. I LOVE to give my son gifts. To receive such a good and kind gift from the Lord blew me away! I still get a lump in my throat and currently have tears in my eyes as I type this, remembering that gift.

We were given the ultimate gift when God gave us Jesus. Do you get that? I mean, just think about it. GOD CAME. Why? Because He had to? No!  Because He loves YOU and made a way to rescue you from your sin. Revel in that today: The Lord loves His children and delights in them. He showed the ultimate love by sending Jesus. My heart could just burst!

Don't Let Christmas Pass You By

There is more for me behind the scenes of these three lessons.  I’m reminded of Mary in Luke 2:19, after the shepherds came to the stable and she was overwhelmed by all that was happening. She “…treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” These were sweet times for me with the Lord that I continue to treasure.

I still love Christmas. If anything, my love for it has grown and deepened, not because of the activity, but because of the One we celebrate. I pray that as you go through this Christmas season, you will have the courage to change things up (remember, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten!). Be intentional—don’t let Christmas pass you by. Pause, savor, reflect, stop, be quiet, enjoy the Lord. Most importantly, I pray that you will know, beyond anything else, that you have a Savior who loves you and who came. For you. For me. Treasure that. Ponder that in your heart this Christmas. I think this is what the Lord has in mind for us this season.

Merry Christmas! You are so loved!