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When Christmas Peace Falls to Pieces

17 Dec

A stressed young mom tried to wrap Christmas presents for her toddler while juggling her new infant. It was dogindiaper_akc-aboutdogdiapersafter midnight and she was so tired and not thinking correctly.

Imagine her husband’s surprise when he walked in to see the dog, Murphy, wrapped in one of the baby’s diapers.

“I didn’t have time to take him for a walk,” she said.

Now that’s stressed!

Some people get so stressed in December, they use their stress ball to throw at people who stress them out!

For many years, when I flipped my calendar to December, I flipped out!

My heart and mind started racing. Everything had to be “just so,” perfect for the holidays. I justified my heightened expectations with nice, spiritual-sounding statements: “I want everyone to enjoy the spirit of Christmas” and “God would want us to do all things with excellence in honor of Jesus’ birthday.”

But the reality was, I was a Christmas Control Freak.

I have a pretty ceramic plaque in my home that reads, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” But if you asked some of my family members back then, they might not have agreed with that. Whenever I got into Christmas Control Freak mode, I created chaos in our home.

Christmas Control Freak mode is the quickest way to destroy Christmas peace.

Christians or not, there are times we all struggle with finding peace. We may try to generate it within ourselves with positive thinking. We may seek it in others, longing for the kinds of encouragement that will keep us calm.

Some people travel to far off lands in search of some kind of peace. Others go into seclusion, hiding from the stresses of life.

But the truth is, no one can give us true, lasting peace except the Lord, because He created a restlessness within us that can only be satisfied in Him! The apostle Paul says when we are “justified by faith”—when we have trusted Christ alone to rescue us from our sin—we have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

The Psalmist said “the Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). This means there is no condemnation when we stand before the Lord someday (Romans 8:1); Jesus paid sin’s penalty, which we could never pay (Romans 5:6-8).

The world the peace gives can be good for a while, but it doesn’t last. Because we live in a fallen world, peace is temporary.

But Jesus says,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. . . . I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:27; 16:33 ESV).

So the peace of God is ours, but we must receive it. We must learn to stop our striving and rest in Christ’s peace (Matthew 11:28).

We have to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14). We gain peace when we love the Word of God and fix our minds on Him (Psalm 119:165; Isaiah 26:3).

And we must not only receive it, we must let it rule our hearts (Colossians 3:15). When the Holy Spirit is in control, one of the results of being “spiritually-minded” is peace (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 8:6).

Too many of us will not let peace reign. We insist on sitting at the control boards of our lives, manipulating and fixing things ourselves, when God calls us to surrender to His control—to trust and obey—so He can usher peace into our hearts.

I think Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood the importance of peace reigning in the heart. She responded to the angel’s announcement with words reflecting her heart surrender: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)

Peace in the midst of tough circumstances is especially hard. “Peace on earth” can become a struggle with strained finances, death of a loved one, loneliness and isolation, and other not-so-peaceful situations.

These days, when Christmas peace begins to fall to pieces, I am learning to pause and pray. I ask the Lord, “Where am I running ahead of you or focusing on things that aren’t important? and “What do you want me to do next?”

His answers to my heart sometimes surprise me.

  • “Come apart a while—be still and listen for My instructions”
  • Rest in me and find fresh strength.”
  • Be more relationship-oriented and less task-oriented.”
  • “Be less self-absorbed and more others-conscious.
  • “Help that person see Me.”

I’m reminded by scripture, those that have peace must learn to sow peace (James 3:18). We sow God’s peace (and love) as we seek to resolve conflicts, share our resources, spend time with others who are hurting, comfort the grieving, and act with compassion toward those who need it most.

Christmas peace is ours if we will receive it and let it reign in our hearts. Three of the quickest ways I know to realign with God’s peace is to be grateful, practice contentment and stay surrendered.

All three are choices we can make to pursue peace.

~ Dawn

Dog in diaper graphic on American Kennel Club site, regarding dog diapers.

 

 

Ho Ho NO!

2 Dec

There’s always a jokester in the Christmas crowd.

I ran across these (clean) “Dirty Santa” gifts:

  • A book called “Crafting with Cat Hair” giftnotinluded_lolwithgod_energizerbatteries_2
  • A wall-mounted fishbowl
  • An adult “onesie” (footy pajamas)
  • A shirt that reads, “Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again” (for the technically challenged
  • A “Hooked on Yodeling” CD
  • A Gummy Bear lamp
  • A Zombie survival crate
  • Bacon-themed adhesive bandages
  • And my favorite: “Gift NOT Included” (a box full of batteries)

Gifts are a huge part of Christmas, whether it’s “Dirty Santa” gifts at the office, donations to charities and ministries, or gorgeously-wrapped gifts under the home Christmas tree.

Some of the gifts we receive make us smile. Others make us think, “Ho, Ho … NO!”

  • Maybe the giver didn’t take the time to think about what would please us. Maybe they just didn’t know. 
  • Maybe the giver wasn’t creative—I mean, six years of socks or soap-on-a-rope might not be so welcome. A truly creative giver takes into account our needs, not just what we can check off a shopping list.
  • Maybe the giver was giving “on the cheap.” The Dollar Store can be a great starting point to create a truly special gift. But then again. While some Pinterest ideas are gorgeous; others, not so much.

I’m taking lessons from the Greatest Giver of all time.

1. God the Father knows us inside and out. He knows our deepest yearnings, not just the things we express to others. (Psalm 139)

2. God the Father is creative in giving to us exactly what we need, if not what we think we want. His gifts may not look like much on the surface, because His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). In fact, they might look like sorrow or difficulty. But they will deeply resonate with our hearts and teach us valuable lessons we might not learn any other way.

Trials are training! Good gifts!

Strengthening gifts. Gifts that protect us. Gifts that develop our character. Gifts that teach us wisdom and how to trust God more. (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:2-6, 12; Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 10:35-36; 12:5-11; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Psalm 121:5-8; Romans 5:3-6; 8:28-29)

3. God the Father gave the most expensive gift ever. When Jesus came to earth, it was at great sacrifice, and He was the gift that keeps on giving—for those who would believe. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:14; 2 Corinthians 9:15)

This Christmas, I am taking time to give thanks for every gift I’ve received from the Father’s hand.

I invite you to join me.

Instead of a Ho, Ho, NO … let’s lift up Hallelujahs of praise to the One who so loved us, He gave an indescribable gift. And He keeps giving, and giving and giving.

Write a Thank You note to the Father today… in prayer.

~ Dawn

Be Like Wise Men, Not ‘Wise Guys’

12 Dec

3GuysFromTheEastSide_LOLwithGodI’m LOL-ing at this child’s version of the Wise Men visiting Jesus:

“When the three wise guys from the east side arrived, they found Jesus in the manager.”

This was probably the same child who said Mary, the mother of Jesus, sang the Magna Carta!

All I know is, I’d rather be a Wise Man from anywhere than a “Wise Guy” when it comes to the story of Christmas.

Some “Wise Guys” today are out and out scoffers; they mock the birth of Christ (as well as His “atoning” death and resurrection).

But other “Wise Guys” are believers who don’t want to be bothered with the Savior.

Both need to pay attention and learn from the biblical Wise Men!

While the “Wise Guys” (the religious “professionals” of Jesus’ day) wouldn’t even travel a few miles to greet their Messiah, the Wise Men traveled “from the east” (some say, several hundred miles!) to see Him. They were eager to get to Bethlehem and prepared to respond when they got there.

The Wise Men’s intention was to follow a strange “star” that caused them to rejoice—some Bible scholars describe this as God’s shekinah light—and to find and worship the newborn king (Matthew 2:2). Perhaps they’d read about Him in prophetic scriptures. These men were not Jews, but somehow they recognized the significance of Jesus’ birth.

The Wise Men prepared and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). These treasures were practical and sweetly TheThreeWiseMen_pixabaygenerous for the family of a newborn, but biblical scholars today believe they were also highly symbolic.

Gold was a gift sometimes given to a family with a newborn baby to help with expenses. Valuable in biblical days as it is today, it is said to symbolize Jesus’ divinity. Our Savior was born as God in the flesh (John 1:1-4; John 14:9-10; Philippians 2:6-7; and see “Is Jesus God in the Flesh?”)

I wonder if, in offering the gold, the Wise Men were acknowledging Jesus’ right to rule—His sovereignty.

Frankincense, a white resin from Boswellia trees, was used for incense or perfumed oil, and in some cultures as a medicine. Used in worship offerings in ancient times (Exodus 30:34), it is said to symbolize Jesus’ holiness and righteousness. Some scholars believe this incense symbolizes the sacrifice Jesus would offer up to the Father and the blood that would flow to atone for our sins. *

I wonder. In offering frankincense, did the Wise Men point to Jesus’ sinless nature, making Him the only possible Savior?

Myrrh, considered a spice, is also a perfume. It was obtained by making cuts in the bark of a tree from the Arabian Commiphora family.  The cuts allowed a white resin to flow. Myrrh (or “gall”) was sometimes mingled with water to form a comforting drink, similar to what was offered to Jesus  (Mark 15:23; Matthew 27:34). It also used in embalming.  Myrrh is said to symbolize the bitterness and suffering of the cross. *

I wonder if the Wise Men knew Jesus would be “stricken, smitten by God … and afflicted … pierced … crushed” (Isaiah 53:3-5) so that we might be healed?

[Some people believe the Wise Men might have read that passage in Isaiah as well as Isaiah 60:3 and Daniel 9:24-27—where “an anointed one shall be cut off”—and other prophetic verses, giving them insight not only into who the Messiah might be, but that He would be killed. Perhaps this is why they brought the myrrh.]

But my point is this:

The “Wise Guys” (the Jewish leaders schooled in the scriptures), knew where the Messiah would be born (Matthew 2:3-5), but didn’t want to be bothered with checking out for themselves whether this was indeed their Messiah. They just didn’t have time for Jesus.

On the other hand, the Wise Men not only want to check the baby out for themselves, they responded correctly when they encountered Jesus in the manger (Matthew 2:11). They not only had time for the Christ Child, they heartily and reverently worshiped Him, offering their gifts. It’s been said the Wise Men’s gifts were prophetic—fit for a king (gold), a priest (frankincense) and a Savior (myrrh).

Later, understanding that to return to King Herod with their report might endanger the baby, they made the wise choice to disobey Herod (Matthew 2:12). Their decision indicated wisdom, and perhaps faith. The Spirit of God had likely moved in their hearts.

The Wise Men are examples for Christians today too.

And, Christians,  let’s be wise and do all we can to help today’s “Wise Guys” wise up and recognize who that baby in the manger really was! (Daniel 12:3)

Are you “wise” regarding Jesus? If not, here is how you can “wise up.”

References about gold, frankincense and myrrh: http://www.compellingtruth.org/gold-frankincense-myrrh.html; http://www.gotquestions.org/gold-frankincense-myrrh.html

– Dawn

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