Archives for December 2013

“Stress-mas?”…or Something Better

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Christmas is almost here.

What does that statement cause inside you? Stress because you are not ready for the guests and the food and the gifts?  Or excitement because you love the Christmas Eve worship and the joy of Christmas morning and the unwrapping and the laughter?  Or both?

It is truly a dichotomy, this season.  I can feel total peace, excitement and joy, and almost simultaneously feel complete stress. Can anyone relate?  I love the music, and the sweet manger scene in our living room, and the tradition of cutting down our tree in the mountains, and the joy on our children’s faces when they open gifts they love.  I love buying new wrapping paper and doing ornament exchanges with friends.  I enjoy the cookie exchanges and the Christmas shopping with our family and the parties.   I love the hope that the season brings of Jesus’s birth and what that represents.  I love the holiness.

Yet, it is during these 3-4 weeks preceding Christmas that I feel so much stress (my friend Erin calls it “Stress-mas”).  It’s getting the Christmas cards out on time and organizing everyone’s gift lists to send out to family and racing to the store four times in two days to get the ingredients for the baking to be done, or that extra string of lights that just burned out on the tree or the pair of nylons needed for the party that night.   The frenzy seems inevitable.

This year I am trying to take the stress and turn it into remembrance.

See, all the stress revolves around things that spark anticipation.  We anticipate getting our friends Christmas cards in the mail, finding that perfect tree, picking out just the right gift, celebrating at friend’s homes, or that delicious meal being prepared.  And of course, the ultimate anticipation of  unwrapping of gifts Christmas morning.   God has built anticipation into the season because anticipation is what it is ALL about……Anticipating the birth of our Savior.

Isn’t that right?  The nation of Israel waited for hundreds of years for their Savior to come.  He had been foretold in scriptures and by prophets.  He was their hope!  They had to believe that someday God would become man and walk among them and reconnect them to God.  And he did, but not without the anticipation of his people over time.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, Or the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

We can’t forget that when Jesus finally became God incarnate, it was “FINALLY!”  Through generations and generations of patience and faith and bloodshed and hope, the people of God had waited for the promised one to appear on this earth.

And now, through so many woven threads of this season of Christmas, we recreate that anticipation.  We do and make and give so that we can make people happy, and we get to be expectant of that joy!  We look forward to so much leading up to Christmas Day, and while that can create stress, it is all for the joy of the season.  We are creating memories and establishing tradition.  We are sharing love.

If we are able, in the next few days when we are feeling a little frenzied, let us remember this idea of anticipation.   Like hunger pangs during a fast remind us to think of God, let the lists and the gifts and the countdown remind us of the reason for the season!  Let us remember Jesus and how much we look forward to celebrating His birth.

A Christmas List Helper for Kids

“I want, I want, I want……oh, and I want this too!”

Moms, you get this.  It is SO easy for our kids to become a little too “gimme” focused this time of year, and to a large degree it’s understandable! They are excited!  They get to ask for gifts they don’t normally receive, and the anticipation of Christmas is incomparable to most other experiences in their little lives. Yet, all this excitement can easily lead  to The Focus On The List.  The List becomes the central expectation, the hope, the culmination of Christmas Day.

What is Christmas?

Christmas is our response to God’s gift to us of His Son, and we give gifts to others in celebration and imitation of that love shown to us by God.

I have made it my mission the last several years to “reset” the true meaning of Christmas before the season even starts.  It’s like a re-wiring, so that when the media barrage starts, it sort of pings off my kids instead of seeping into their little bones.  We do this in several ways, and I have shared those in past year’s blog. Of course, our sweet Charlie Brown Christmas tree that stands in our family room seems to bulge with gifts as Christmas Day arrives, and the gift opening is joyous and wonderful, but I know (hope!) that deep inside, my kids understand it’s about more than this frenzied unwrapping of The List.

I just read a post on Facebook from my dear friend Wendy Edwards as to how she is hoping to set her kids up for the excitement of gifts while helping them to see the bigger picture of Christmas and I loved it!  With her permission granted, I would love to share her ideas with you:

POST TITLE: GUIDANCE FOR HER CHILDREN’S WISH LISTS

“Offering the children the Christmas wish list guideline again this year…their lists are always insightful…and sometimes really, really funny!”

Something you want, something you need,
Something to wear, something to read.
And something to share, for a girl or a boy,
A ball, a book, a game, or a toy,
To give to another, Christmas joy!

List

(Amy jumping in here…I asked Wendy how she implemented this list, and combined it with the scriptures below.  She said the above saying helped her children focus their list and keep it simple.  It created a framework that reduced excess.  The scriptures below were shared with the kids over the course of a week or two, so that they wrapped themselves around the physical list for perspective.  They teach that even though we all love giving and receiving gifts we can hold and touch, there is a bigger picture and a heart attitude we can all enter the Christmas season knowing).

Here are the scriptures that go with the passage above:

SOMETHING YOU WANT  (His provision is abundant, beyond our needs)

I Timothy  6:17     Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Psalm 37:4   Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

SOMETHING YOU NEED  (His omniscience He knows our need)

33   So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
SOMETHING TO WEAR (His provision/spiritual clothes)

Matthew 6:28-30    And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?


Ephesians 6:13-16  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

SOMETHING TO READ (His word)

Psalm 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.

Psalm 119:45-47 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.

SOMETHING TO SHARE (the blessing in giving, and for the last one– in receiving )
II Cor 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

So, I hope this helped you as it helped me this year.  Instead of The List becoming the central hope, expectation, and culmination, let it be Jesus!Blessings to you during this Christmas season!

~Amy

 

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