Earlier this month my husband and I had the joy of going to California to meet and spend time with my eldest son’s and his wife’s first child, an adorable baby girl! From the time her birth was announced in early November, my husband and I started preparations to go see her. We thought of and talked about her often, we FaceTimed with her parents every chance we had, we relished every photo and video of her they sent us. Besides eagerly buying the plane tickets that would take us to her, I delighted in looking for gifts I could take to her. I had to exercise great control in order not to buy every cute outfit, stuffed animal, child’s book, and other baby paraphernalia I happened upon! I couldn’t wait to lay eyes upon her, to hold her, to rock her, and just to spend time in her presence!
Of course, we also were looking forward to spending time with our son and daughter-in-law; but I readily admit the focus of our trip—which our son and his wife knew and heartily approved of— was to see our newborn granddaughter. Once there, talk of her dominated all of our conversations. We hovered over her, checking on her continually— even when she was soundly asleep in her bassinet, took turns holding ‘the little bundle of joy’, rocked her and used a variety of other tactics to quiet her when she was crying, savored the moments when she cooed or ‘smiled’ at us, and took endless pictures and videos of her. We spent most of our time inside to accommodate her needs and planned every trip outside of the house around her feeding and napping schedule. We delighted in making her in every way the center of our collective attention!
When I got home from our week-long trip, as I was getting into ‘high gear’ to catch up on things after being out of town for a week, my eyes landed upon the nativity set in the middle of our family room. I was struck by the familiar scene which features Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and their sheep, and the wise men… all of them focused upon and gathered together for one purpose—to worship Jesus, who is appropriately at the center of the scene. Having just come back from visiting my new granddaughter who was the focus of our trip and the center of our attention throughout the duration of our visit, the Lord gave me a fresh revelation of the importance of keeping Jesus at the center of my Christmas celebration…as well as at the center of every day of my life! How easily we get our focus off of Jesus and unto so many lesser ‘things’ throughout the year, and even—and maybe especially—during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, a time that is supposed to be all about celebrating Him and His birth!
Consider this…what would you think was our true priority if I’d told you that once we’d arrived at my son and daughter-in-law’s home that we didn’t even ask about our newborn grand baby, and never or rarely saw her while we were there? What if we’d chosen to go out for coffee, for lunch, and for dinner without taking the baby, and had spent lots of our time shopping for gifts for others instead of spending time with our new grandchild? Or, what if when she was in the room, we’d spent all of our time watching TV, being on the phone, checking emails, and playing games on our I-phones and had totally ignored her presence. Would you have thought that the focus of our trip was really about our granddaughter, or not?
And then consider your own schedule and all of the activities that you and your household have made a priority over the past month: what would someone looking at your daily activities consider to be your priority and focus? Is it Jesus, the One Whose birthday and life we are celebrating, or has your focus been more on things like shopping, Christmas parties, concerts, light shows, or just being with or ‘doing for’ other people? As I write this, I am convicted by how often I must be intentional in order for my focus to remain upon Jesus and not to turn to the ‘lesser things’ in this world’—and that seems especially true for me during the busy Christmas season when distractions abound to try and keep the focus off of Him, even though it’s His birthday that’s being celebrated and He alone is worthy of all honor, praise, and glory! With sorrow, I confess that I all too easily can get focused upon ‘the gifts’ He’s given me—like loved ones whom I may be shopping for, or for whom I am preparing holiday meals, or attending celebrations with—instead of upon ‘the Giver’ of every gift! It seems to be an even greater challenge than usual during the extra busy holiday season to make Jesus, and spending concentrated time in His Presence, my highest priority!
Here are some tips for keeping Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebration and at the forefront of every day in the New Year:
Ask God to lay upon your mind and heart and meditate upon how different your life would be had Jesus never been born. What difference has Jesus’ life made in yours? For example, that you can know ‘peace in the midst of the storms of life’ and that you know you are never alone. If you are hosting a Christmas celebration with family and/or friends— or if the host is amenable—have all of those at your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day gathering share what Jesus’ birth and life means to them and what they have because of the ‘gift of Jesus’.
Ask God what it is that He would like you to give to Him this Christmas. Many of us have a ‘list’ of people for whom we buy gifts, and yet, the One whose ‘birthday’ we celebrate most often is left off of our list. It may be a financial gift—giving to your church or to another Christ-centered ministry, but it well may be giving of your time and surrendering an area of your life to Him for His use. Perhaps it will be giving up a cherished habit you have in order to focus more time upon being in His Presence. If you ask Him what He desires from you and listen with your heart, I believe you’ll hear His Voice speak to His spirit who dwells within you. When you obey Him, you will be blessed!
Ask God if there’s someone He wants you to invite over for a meal, or to take something to them so that they will feel the love of Jesus for them; perhaps there’s a neighbor or someone from your church who is widowed, divorced, or who has experienced a tough year whom the Lord is asking you to be ‘His hands’ to touch them with His love!
Spend time each day reading His Word, whether meditating over a verse or more, or reading several chapters. His Word will transform your life and He promises it will not return void! (Isaiah 55:11) I encourage you to begin your day by reading His Word to you, and if that isn’t always possible, resolving that you won’t go to bed until you have spent at least some time each day with God in His Word. I have found that having a daily Bible-reading plan keeps me consistently and faithfully in His Word. You may wish to adopt such a plan like The One Year Bible if you have not already done so.
Spend time in prayer with the Lord each day. Include in this time prayers of adoration and thanksgiving as well as petitions; doing so will help to keep your focus upon Jesus and ALL that He is, upon ALL that He has done, and ALL that He continually does for you!And it will build your faith in Him and His ability to overcome the distractions of life and conquer every fear!
Make your car and your home a place where God is glorified. There are so many days I get into my car and have so much to do that I feel ‘like a chicken with its head cut off’ (as my Mom used to say!) and I have found that listening to praise music and worshipping the Lord in my car keeps my focus upon Him and off of my circumstances and the tyranny of the urgent. I also will listen to podcasts or the audio Bible to renew my mind and keep it centered upon Him.
It is God’s desire that you and your household will be saved. Press in and daily/regularly pray for the salvation of any of your family members or friends who have yet to receive Jesus as their Savior and the Lord of their life. You may wish to seek out an accountability partner who you can get with in person or over the phone to pray for the salvation of your loved ones’.
Jamie and I wish you and your families a glorious celebration of Jesus’ birth that is truly focused upon Jesus and all that we have because of God’s great love for us! May the New Year be overflowing in the awareness of His Presence, which is the Source of all peace, joy, and unconditional, lavish, unfailing love!
Thanking you once again for your prayers for and financial support of True View Ministries!
Love in Jesus Who makes us one!
Julie and Jamie