Christmas is coming, have you heard? This year I walked into a big box store in September and they had Christmas trees up. That’s how I know. September!
When I was growing up, we didn’t even talk about Christmas, much less play our Christmas music until the Thanksgiving Day Parade, because that was the day Santa made his appearance and officially kicked off the Christmas season.
Don’t get me wrong – I certainly understand the secular side of Christmas, but it’s also what makes me increasingly sad about our world, as the sacred and true meaning of Christmas has increasingly been edged out of the public eye.
There is currently so much turmoil in our world that having a ‘Merry Christmas’ almost feels disturbing. I know there has always been turmoil, and maybe it’s just me, but this year feels different.
There is no question that we live in very troubling times. The middle east is being ravaged by war and the world is taking sides. The US is being ravaged by politics and the whole country is taking sides. We are more divided than ever and there seems to be little hope for us to come together on anything.
I feel some pessimism coming on here (so unlike me) but suddenly ‘Merry’ sounds almost trite. I’m positive I too will be saying it, but I wish there was a better word. Blessed? I do throw that one around a lot while out – “Have a blessed Christmas!” That’s a little better.
Jesus couldn’t have arranged for a more humble setting for His birth.
Not much merry about it. The angelic pronouncement to the shepherds was beyond anything imaginable. The event was accompanied by fear, wonder and astonishment. But merry? I don’t think so. Webster defines merry as, “full of gaiety or high spirits.” Not sure that fits the story.
I propose that this year a better word might be ‘thoughtful.’ I mean, if there was ever a time to think thoughtfully about Christmas, it’s now.
It’s worth going into this season with a thoughtful attitude. It’s worth (He’s worth) trying to resist the superficial and the trite. In our increasingly secular society, we are becoming more aware of the abundance of secular “Christmas” songs and the growing scarcity of sacred music, more fitting to the Holiday. We sing more about snowmen and having a “holly jolly” Christmas, whatever that means, and less about “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
In the spirit of thoughtfulness, stay in touch with the narrative. This ‘baby’ is our Savior – He has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. He has completely and eternally redeemed us. He has provided for our rescue from ourselves and called us to join Him in Kingdom mission! He came as a baby in a manger but He will return again as the reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So, here are a few tips to cultivate a more thoughtful Christmas:
Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t leave Jesus out, He is the only reason we have Christmas. Purpose to bring Him into every day this season; through the music we listen to and the conversations we have with others.
Limit your news intake. Most of it is negative and repetitive. Don’t obsess over the news – use what you hear to motivate your prayers.
Talk about the Real Story often. Create traditions and rituals in your home that focus on Jesus.
Cultivate gratitude. It’s a game changer, especially in times like these. It is commanded for a reason – “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t forget – the baby who came in a manger is coming again. Ask yourself, what if He returns today? How would that shape my plans and my focus?
This Christmas I am praying for the imminent return of Jesus. Yes, I’ll buy some stuff – succumbing to a low level of retail pressure, I mean, everything’s on sale, right?
But Christmas Eve will find me looking for some hidden spot where I can be alone for a few minutes. I’ll have my juice and my wafer – I’ll worship Jesus – take the bread and the cup and reflect that, “Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” I pray you would take some time this year, to have a ‘thoughtful’ Christmas.
As I think back on this year, there is much to be grateful for. Priority One in the Delaware Valley is finishing its sixth year and about to begin year seven! God has shown His faithfulness in so many ways. Here are just a few:
God has provided faithful donors who believe in the work of this ministry.
Many have been with us since the beginning. Thank you so very much for standing with us.
God continues to financially provide for Freedom House – now the centerpiece of this ministry. We currently have seven total groups meeting at the house at various times. Five recovery groups, one Bible study, and one discipleship group.
The monthly Friday Fire which used to have 10 to 15 men in attendance now has between 75 and 100 coming to hear testimonies, and enjoy awesome fellowship and food.
Freedom House also provides a relaxing and comfortable space to conduct my daytime counseling sessions for men and marriages.
We believe we are called to help strengthen men and families. We have been blessed to observe the life-changing and transformative power of the Holy Spirit regularly.
Here are just two powerful examples:
“The Priority One ministry at Freedom House is a place where you can escape a culture that seems to work to diminish who men are and what God intended them to be.
It is a place where you can build a network of Christian friends that are critically necessary to begin the restoration of men’s hearts that have been lost and forgotten in the world today.
It has changed the trajectory of my life from a vague confusion of who I am to living with purpose as a Christian man.” — KT
“The best changes are the ones we have undertaken and we don’t even realize we’ve changed. But we can be certain others do.
Since being involved with the ministries at Freedom House, my wife has constantly remarked how much I’ve changed from the inside out. My desire to chase after Kingdom is consuming. And my involvement with Priority One at Freedom House is foundational to that.
Change is a journey and I’m blessed I started.” — Nate D
As I noted in the opening of this reflection, the times we live in are not only hard. They are getting harder, and are unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in my short time on this earth.
It truly feels like we are in a pivotal moment, and this next year is already forecasted to be tumultous.
I say this not to discourage you. On the contrary, to encourage you.
Strong, principled men who are focused on Christ as their first priority will create stable anchor points in an increasily volatile world. Husbands, fathers, workers, leaders. Pillars of their families, communities and churches. They are needed now more than ever.
The fact that you’re holding this note in your hands means that you are connected to a ministry that is dedicated to that very thing.
Your tangible monthly support makes an incredible difference exactly when and where it is needed the most.
I invite you to revisit our website to see our four key areas of ministry, read the blog, and find an easy, secure place to give generously. It truly does mean so much.
Thank you again for your faithful support, encouragement & prayer.
God bless you.