Shades of Grace: It Really is the Thought that Counts

November 25: One month away from my 51st CHRISTmas (since I was born just a few weeks before Christmas). It always has been one of my favorite times of the year. Although “the world” tries to distract us from the Christian perspective of this season … that is, the Reason for our celebration … I try to find the ways to enjoy all the aspects of this time of year, without falling into a trap. And that trap can be subtle. It’s scary, but true. As much as secularism can infiltrate our Christmases, so can traditionalism!
I love traditions. Family and friends making memories: kitchen times – conversations and cooking, mealtimes and laughter, smells and sounds of music or football in the background; the schedule – coffee mornings, movie nights, downtown fun, decorating; gatherings – Christmas parties, game nights, singing carols, watching the parade, the Christmas Eve service …
These are a few of my favorite things! And I believe it really is ok that Christmas is all of these … as long as Christ is at the center. And He can be when we intentionally speak of Him, and sing of Him, and pray to Him, and share Him in the midst of these things. We don’t just simplify our lives for the sake of simple. We don’t keep traditions just to create some picture of a happy closet-knit family. Hopefully, whatever we do in word or in deed is all in the name of, and for the sake of, Jesus. I am always looking for that thing I can do that year that will take the focus off of self. But inevitably, if we aren’t careful, we end up feeling noble about our simpler Christmas … and we still miss Jesus.

This year, I’m taking time to recall what I remember most about Christmases past. I’m thanking God for all of the moments He purposed for me to walk in, that I might see Him more clearly and know Him more dearly. Emmanuel – God with me. In remembering, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I really remember about days gone by. And that’s my “take away” … I want my life to reflect Christ. I want people to remember Him. It’s not about big gifts, or little ones. It’s not about spending a little bit of money or lots of it. It’s not about hiding Santa away or placing the Star in a prominent place. It’s not whether we erroneously have three Wisemen in our nativity or that we omit all the songs that have reindeer in them or don’t give an accurate view of that “holy night” by placing a little drummer boy at the scene. It isn’t about refusing to shop on Thanksgiving Day nor is it about everyone dressing up and heading to the Christmas Eve service.
Whether we are putting on or taking off this year; whether it’s the year of adding to or getting rid of; everything is to be done with Him in mind all the time … every day. Too often I try to do something, rather than to be something. Especially this time of year. I try to do Thanksgiving and Christmas well. But somehow I miss being … I miss thanksliving and Christmas in my heart. What if Christmas, perhaps, shouldn’t look different at all?

During this my 51st Christmas season, and during this week of Thanksgiving, I’m intentionally recalling the words of the missionary Paul and realizing someone got it right. It really is the thought that counts!

Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.
And the God of peace will be with you.
I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing

It is well. With my soul.
Wow. THAT’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. And every single day in between.

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