Sunday Reflections – No Room? Make Room!

The Christmas story is one I’ve heard pretty much every year since I was born. I’m might even be able to recite the story from the book of Matthew by memory for the most part. Yet as routine as this story has become for me, it never fails to awaken some spark deep within my spirit each year. This year was no different, but I do hope it’s different in the way that I allow my life to be shaped by that spark. Rather than being a reminder each year, perhaps this year it can be a catalyst that leads to my best year yet with the Lord.

Having heard the Christmas story so many times in my life, I think I’ve heard it from every perspective possible – the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and even the innkeeper. I think I’ve even heard it from the point of view of the star in the sky and the animals in the stable too. There are uncountable modern telling focusing on the meaning of Christmas, and there are tellings that use favorite Christmas carols such as Joy to the World and Silent Night to illustrate the impact of that night.

While hearing the story again this year, the idea of “no room” stood out to me more than any other. For whatever reason, the inn had no room for Mary and Joseph and essentially for the Christ child. Even before He was born, people failed to make room for Him amidst busyness and rush. Still today, the hurry and bustle of the holiday season distracts so many from making room for Him. To be honest, busyness seems to prevent a focus on Christ pretty much all year. From before His birth to Christmas 2011, there seems to be “no room” for Jesus.

The only solution is a deliberate effort to make room. That starts with hearing the Lord speak through the holiday noise. It’s seeking His peace amidst all-consuming busyness not just during the holidays but during everyday life as well. But how?

A change of focus begins when you ask God to speak to you and then you make yourself willing to listen for his voice. That may mean stopping physically and mentally. It may mean stopping electronically too. Making room for Jesus is simply not a passive activity. Sometimes, hearing God through the noise involves removing yourself from the intense volume. Maybe you can’t turn it off completely, but perhaps you can decrease the volume. Sometimes, we need to spend some time reorganizing to make room, and often we need to de-clutter by letting getting rid of that which we no longer use and even that which we do use sometimes.

Do you long to hear the voice of the Lord speak to you? Intentionally reduce or remove that which drowns out His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11 & 12). Do what is necessary to allow you to hear him through the holiday noise, and then keep with those habits that make His voice audible in the midst of the everyday noise of life. He does speak to us. He does give peace. He does speak truth. Our part is to hear His voice, and we must rearrange our lives to enable ourselves to do our part.  For in doing so, we can then better understand the perspective of all those in the original Christmas story who allowed their lives to be rearranged by the birth of the Christ child.

QUESTION: What do you need to remove or rearrange to make room for Christ now and in the coming year?

Sunday Reflections – Just a Baby in a Manger?

Both of my children were born within two weeks of Christmas. While this makes the month busier and more expensive, it also makes it more blessed. I’m thankful for the lives of both my boys and the tremendous blessing they are to me. As I reflect on the stages of their lives – past, present and future – I also begin reflecting on how those stages remind me so much of what the Christmas season is all about in the first place.

When children are young, every parent dreams of what their child will one day grow to be. I was no different with my boys. What career will they choose? What about sports? More than anything, I wanted them to love Jesus. Parents have such hopes and dreams for their kids, but they have no way of knowing what will be for sure. When Jesus was a baby, his mother did not have to wonder what He would grow up to be. Isaiah made very clear what this baby King would one day do and be for countless numbers of people.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

I’m guessing no mother before or since had this in mind when she considered what her child would do and be in life.

My kids’ birthday also lead me to think about who they are today. They are funny, athletic, smart  & sweet. They love the Lord, and they want to make others happy. My kids play an integral role in my life today, and I can’t imagine living without either one of them. Being their mom is truly a blessing and an honor. Even as I consider how big of an impact their lives have on mine every day, I can’t help but also think about the role that Jesus plays in my life. And that role is tremendously larger than the ones that my kids play.  This baby in the manger that we worship at Christmas was then and is now the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He is everything we need, and he can change our destiny because of who He is.

Every parent wants success for their kids, but what that success will look like exactly, nobody knows. My youngest son is a natural at most sports. He’s every athletic, so it leads us to believe he will one day be a great athlete, maybe even a famous one. Our youngest is also very compassionate and sweet, wanting to constantly help others. Maybe that will turn into him being a gifted policeman or fireman, and possibly even both. Our oldest son is a fast runner, a talented musician, and a straight A student. He also seems to have possibilities for greatness. Maybe he’ll be a marathoner, symphony musician or an engineer like his daddy. He’s also very funny. The world certainly could use more Christian comedians. Whatever my children will one day be are only guesses teeming with possibilities for greatness. When Jesus was a baby and even over 700 years before he was born, his destiny was not one to be questioned and did not have to be guessed. Isaiah told us exactly what He would become, and He became exactly that.

This Christmas season, I am making a deliberate effort to focus not only on Jesus as a baby, but also on my current relationship to Him and how I am growing in that relationship toward a more abundant future. More importantly, I want to intentionally focus on the fact that this baby in the manger at Christmas is a worthy King. As such, I now ask myself, “Is Jesus getting my best?” He knows my past, present and future, and He loves me exactly as I am today. He deserves the best I have to give.

Question: What can you deliberately and intentionally change to make sure that Jesus is getting your best every day? What advice do you have for others who want to improve at doing their best?

Tinsel – Not just for decorating!

One of my boys’ (ages 13 and 11) favorite Christmas movies is “The Santa Clause” starring Tim Allen. Toward the end of the movie, some of the elves help Santa escape from jail by using tinsel to cut the hinges off the cell door. In this scene, one of the elves says, “Tinsel. Not just for decorating.” My boys love this part in the movie, and we hear the quote often this time a year mainly because of the presence of tinsel in our Christmas decorating.

Growing up, we always put tinsel on our tree as the final touch. When I got married, my husband was against the tinsel because it got everywhere. While that may be true, I just couldn’t forgo decorating with tinsel. Here are three reasons why I use tinsel in my Christmas decorating.

  1. My tree looks naked without tinsel. Seriously, all I see is green when there’s no tinsel on the tree. Plus, it just doesn’t look like the tree I had growing up as a child. Now, I don’t keep all of my childhood traditions alive, but this one seems to be one that produces such good feelings and memories that Christmas just isn’t complete without it. To my husband’s credit, he has never told me I couldn’t use tinsel because he knows of how it reminds me of the positive side of Christmas as a child.
  2. Tinsel is a year-round reminder of Christmas. My husband finds tinsel annoying not just because it gets everywhere, but also because we still find remnants of it in August. For me, this is just another way that Christmas joy can be experienced year-round. No, I’m not talking about the pleasure I receive by my husband getting annoyed when he finds tinsel in the vacuum in August (okay, maybe a little), but what I mainly mean is that with every piece of tinsel we find in the summer, we think about the Christmas holiday again even if just for a moment.
  3. Tinsel is great for hiding ornaments I dislike. This is turning into a post on how I like to annoy my husband with tinsel (Oops!). Well, he does have this one ornament he insists on placing front and center on our tree, and I can’t stand the thing (Sorry Dallas Cowboy fans!). So, I use tinsel to hide the ornament (and I also may relocate it to the back of the tree occasionally), and he of course moves the tinsel every time I put it there. Again, just creating fun Christmas memories with my hubby! It’s all good-natured fun… really.

I hope you found this a fun and light way to look at Christmas memories and family traditions. The point is to have fun and enjoy each other at Christmas and all year round. Don’t miss out on those small opportunities to create memories. Remember that it’s the small things that can add up to make a significant difference in your life, even something as small as tinsel.

Question: Do you decorate with tinsel? What fun Christmas traditions help bond your family?