Favorite Christmas memory? Staying up late Christmas Eve nights with my little brother. He would camp out on my bedroom floor and we would talk for hours letting our imaginations fly about Santa, what gifts we might find under the tree and how excited we were to give our gifts to others. We could hardly contain our elation over what was to come; it felt impossible to go to sleep. We looked so forward to the morning that the waiting seemed almost truly painful, yet completely thrilling at the same time. It was wonderful, gut-wrenching anticipation.
I am not going to discuss the merits (or more likely demerits) of Santa here today and I understand that many will feel that children excited about gifts is a display of materialistic greed (bah-humbug!). In my opinion, gifts (tangible and intangible ones) are awesome. I love to give them and, being a person who loves surprises, I enjoy receiving them too. We have an exceedingly giving God. He lavishes grace onto the undeserving and we need to reflect that giving nature as well, especially to those who cannot return the favor (Luke 14:12-14).
I encourage you to build on the anticipation of this season and direct it God-ward. Allow children to be excited about gifts, encourage them to wonder at what they might receive (always teaching thanksgiving); let them experience what anticipation feels like. Help them to be cheerful givers too (2 Cor. 9:7). Discuss the emotions they are feeling and what it has to do with their relationship with Christ. What does it have to do with a relationship with Christ? Let me tell you.
The Bible throbs with anticipation. People of the Old Testament lived in anticipation of a Savior, someone to relieve the impossible burden of the law and to fulfill the prophesies which foretold a Redeemer. John the Baptist came to prepare the way and build anticipation for the coming Christ. Jesus came and fulfilled the anticipation, yet continued to point us toward more. He talked of his Heavenly Kingdom, stating that he is going to prepare a place for us and added, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3. Wow! Jesus gives himself as a payment for our sins, is resurrected to life and now has a place ready for us in Heaven, where we get to be with him forever to enjoy his glory and perfect presence. Hello? Can you feel the anticipation building?
There’s more. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” Unless we get there first, Jesus is coming to get us! And in style (serious style and serious power, read Revelations 19:11-16!).
We who are Christians have SO MUCH to look forward to. It is too much to contain and too joyous to express - plus the Bible tells us it is going to happen soon. This is wonderful, gut-wrenching anticipation! While I am zealous for the righteousness of the Lord, desiring justice to be finally executed upon those who reject him (“Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;” Ps. 10:15) my deepest longing is to enjoy the fullness of my Savior face to face forever and as soon as possible (“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Ps 15:27:4). If you don’t have feelings like this, you need to evaluate your heart; you may not know Jesus like you claim.
Ladies, train yourself in living a life of anticipation, allow this season be a reminder of all you have to look forward to and teach your friends and family the same. Display it for them; be excited to celebrate Christ and the insane gifts that he offers of redemption and forever life with him. Use the anticipation of gift giving and receiving as a springboard for gospel conversations. Focus your energy and fullest joy on times of praise and adoration of the greatest gift Giver of all, our Lord God.
Just like Christmas Eve with my little brother, may your nights be so filled with thoughts of our incredible Savior that it keeps you up late at night filled with anticipation of all that is to come. Come, Lord Jesus!
Go ahead, count your blessings and give thanks this week. Really… do that. Be sure that you are praising God, knowing that “every perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. He deserves all credit, if you don’t understand that, you won’t understand the purpose of life. Displaying gratitude is a great practice, but let’s be honest, it’s really easy to do and all too often it can keep us focused on ourselves and what we have. We may nod our heads at God but then go right on shoveling mashed potatoes into our faces. How about getting more serious this year?
Don’t stop at being thankful for what you have. Take inventory of your blessings and then give them away. Yes, that’s right, give them away.
Many of us women go through cycles of downsizing and “purging” of what we own. This is good, but why do we participate in this cycle at all? We give, but then we take stuff up again. If we were to look at how Christ dealt with possessions we would see a shocking lifestyle! He depended fully on his Father to provide for him as he traveled and went seeking and saving the lost. Jesus never worried about how his needs would be met but they were.
Jesus didn’t even have a place to call home during his ministry. “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58. He was constantly surrounded by crowds whom he ministered to, often sharing what he had available like fish and bread (Matt. 14:13-21). Jesus also walked the grain fields with his disciples where they found lunch “and His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.” Matt. 12:1. This was only done by those who did not have enough food of their own to eat. By the time Jesus died on the cross his only possessions were the clothes on his back and even those were divided up and taken away.
We need to do a better job at looking like Jesus in this area. We may not sell our homes and walk the fields for dinner, but come on, we aren’t even in the ballpark of Christ-likeness here. So time to go beyond the “thanks” and get serious about the “giving”. You may find yourself parting with material possessions like jewelry, clothing, collections, hobby items, a vehicle, or even careers. What you do keep, you need to share and use for the glory of God. Your home should be a ministry outpost, where people gather to be fed from your pantry and the Word of God. You could become foster parents, host Bible studies or house those in need. Or, God may call you to look very much like Jesus and sell everything and trust him in mission work.
This sharing and giving holds true for all areas of life, so don’t neglect a full inventory. Share your skills in order to share Christ. Use your time pouring out love and help onto others as you share biblical knowledge, encouragement and exhortation. Don’t accumulate financial abundance; use your money for Kingdom building, locally and worldwide. Reach the end of your life like Christ, with nothing earthly clinging to you, having given all away for the sake of his name.
Finally, I encourage you to give up the blessings that usually top every list: family and friends. You need to give them to God. Entrust them to his care at all times. You do this by praying for them daily, sharing God’s Word and by understanding that he has full authority over their lives. Lovingly push all those who are precious to you toward Jesus.
Ladies, we need to reflect the generous quality of our God and give freely of all we have been blessed with. Praise God as you count your blessings this year, but don’t stop with an inventory, continue to worship him in how you use every single thing he gives you. Focus on growing rich in Christ as you praise him with open hands, allowing the blessings to flow through.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:24, 25.