Emerging from Thanksgiving holiday with an expanded waist line and a heart full of gratitude I look toward the Christmas Holidays with excitement. Several years ago I found that I was succumbing to the busyness of purchasing presents and planning travel, participating in Christmas pageants and parties, all of which crowded out the quiet anticipation of the season. Too many Christmas mornings I’ve realized that while my presents were wrapped, my heart was completely unprepared to truly take in the Gift. Therefore, I established a strategic plan (can you imagine a strategic plan for Christmas, remember God had one), well I did. For me, without a plan I have tendencies to let things fall through the cracks.
To you the reader, you must keep in mind June and I have Christmas a week prior to the actual date in order for our family (three sons, three daughter-in-laws and three grandchildren) to spend the holiday with us free of conflicts with other family festivities. It works greats and gives us two Christmas celebrations. Strategically, the challenge is multifaceted and my goal is to arrive at Christmas with the main thing the main thing.
My strategic plan included observing the four weeks prior to Christmas as the Advent Season. This is the first area of concentration. It helps me to focus. Remember advent means “coming”. It is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout the world. My first recommendation to anyone who wants to arrive at Christmas with a sense of ‘Christmas Spirit’ is to learn as much about the Advent Season as possible. If necessary, go to your local book store and purchase a book that gives a description of the four weeks prior to Christmas, the celebration and its meaning. During each week have a discussion at the meal table about the week’s Advent candle. Try to encourage the habit of recognizing the coming of Christ in our everyday lives all year round.
Secondly, the first week of December get out the decorations. Yes, you got it, no Christmas decorations come out until Thanksgiving is over. Over the years we have amassed a ‘ton’ of decorations. Yes, we ask ourselves; “do we want to do this again this year, the children are gone and it’s just the two of us.” You bet!!! Do your homework and discover the historical significance of every decoration and be sure they point to Christmas. Equally important is you know why we use lights, Christmas trees, candles in the windows, poinsettias, and the list goes on. If there are small children in the home be sure you discuss the significance of the decorations with them. Make decorating a family project. When the last ornament goes on the tree, daddy gather the family around the tree, hold hands and offer a prayer of love, hope and above all abiding faith. If there are no children in your home for this occasion, husband and wife should continue with this special event. Don’t forget the hot chocolate and mistletoe.
Several years ago June and I decided to not exchange Christmas gifts. This is not a tradition for everyone, but one we wanted to do. Instead, we combined the cost each of us would spend and decided to give a gift anonymously to someone. Early on we begin praying that God would reveal that person or persons to whom He would have us give our gift. For the record, we have never failed to receive, without question, that person(s) to be the recipient. Remaining anonymous has been difficult at times. Let me explain. After several trips to the Cracker Barrel restaurant we had encountered a single mother who had a small child. Each day she would take the child to her mother’s at 4:30 in the morning and then come to the restaurant for her work day. We agreed she was to be one of the persons we would give our Christmas gift . But how do we not reveal ourselves? We decided we would leave the gift in the form of a tip and quickly depart with the thought not to return to the restaurant for several weeks. The first part of the plan worked beautifully, and as we were getting in the car a young girl came through the outside doors of Cracker Barrel, tears running down her face and ran to me and threw her arms around my neck. It was only a short time before we all had tears in our eyes as we shared life and God’s blessings. A similar incident occurred at a restaurant that was located in the back of a gasoline station. The restaurant cook, dishwasher, waitress, custodian and cashier consisted of two ladies. Their specialty was southern soul food. Similar to the previous situation we had trouble determining how we would remain anonymous—you ordered your food at the counter and a tip jar was next to the cash register. There was no question these were the two ladies we had been praying about. We decided to leave our gift on the table and depart with intentions of not returning for a lengthy time. Several weeks passed and we decided to return on a Friday night. As soon as we walked into the restaurant one of the ladies with a huge smile said “Lordy Child” here they are. Guess who was blessed. Keep in mind this entire thought came from the concept of receiving a gift. At Christmas we celebrate the Gift of the Christ Child that God has given us.
As part of our strategic plan and one that I endorse with great enthusiasm occurs Christmas eve with Vesper Services.—-Vesper services in your local church. What a great way for the family to celebrate. Many times family traditions at Christmas Eve don’t provide time for this activity. Additionally many churches do not have Vesper Services. If there is a local church that does, I would encourage you and your family to attend and afterwards go to that special traditional Christmas Eve event. This is a great way to bring a Holy end to the road to Christmas.
Finally, one last thought concerning the road to Christmas. Quiet your mind, wearied with too much to do. Read a psalm and let it sink into your heart. Come sit in a patch of Son-light. Put on Handel’s Messiah. Just listen. Give yourself a quiet half hour alone so you can sit at His feet, basking in the one thing needful. Christmas brings us a most magnificent message—–The most Magnificent Message. Of all things remember this.
Be thou my vision, O’ Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art–
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Working or sleeping, Thy presence my light.