WORSHIP FULLY (Geoff Mansfield)
Christmas is a beautiful time of year, it is very easy to be drawn into the commercialization of the season, but if we try to focus on the core of the holiday we can see the joy that God brought into the world.
My story is of how my parents tried to focus the celebration on Jesus in our home. For many people Christmas decorating starts December 1st or even November 1st, for us it did not start until December 23rd. In our house, the focus of the month before was Advent, not Christmas, a season of anticipation and preparation for the coming of Christmas. We would sing the wonderful hymn, O Come O Come Emmanuel. On December 23rd we would hike out in someone’s bush to cut down our Christmas tree. Christmas Eve, we would finally put up the tree and decorate it. The whole family would participate and we would have carols playing. Then when the tree was finished, my dad would sit and play carols from the hymn book on the piano. This focus of thinking about Jesus brought purpose to the occasion. After this we would get dressed up and head off to church. There is something special about going to church in the middle of the night, and being awake after midnight to great each other with “Merry Christmas” so early on the day. It reminds me of the ladies, of whom Jesus spoke in Matthew, waiting through the night with their oil lamps for the bridegroom to appear, the sense of anticipation is palpable.
Christmas morning was a fun time with presents and breakfast and carol singing again.
I have always found that the anticipation, without the commercial distractions, focused the joy of the season on Jesus and His coming to set us free from the bonds of sin.
I enjoyed keeping our tree up longer; we would keep it up for the twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas Day to Epiphany. It was a peaceful place to come and sit in the quiet of the morning with just the tree lights glowing.
Try to find time in the busyness of the season to find a chance to sit and reflect on the awesome God who gave us His Son, and who still speaks in a still small voice.
Challenge (by Devon Wagler)
If I was terrified like how these shepherds must have been, then this isn’t exactly what I would be expecting to hear. Everything about this story takes people by surprise, the fact that they were shepherds, and the message that was given.
Let the message of Christmas take you by surprise. Try to forget all the times you’ve heard the nativity story in the past. Try to break all the ideas you have about the birth of Jesus and try to just be amazed at how huge it is.
“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”