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Tuesday, December 23

Choosing Life at Christmas ~ 'Tis the Season Indeed!

This is my latest Choosing Life column at Take Root and Write, which posted yesterday. I hope you enjoy. Ladies, if you'd like to read other fabulous columns in a great variety of topics, please check out Take Root and Write. Blessings and Merry Christmas!

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‘Tis the season, indeed! By now, I’m sure we’ve all been inundated with everything Holiday, a lot of which is probably without the Christ aspect. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we as Christians are in the world, not of the world. For us, Christ is (or should be) the reason for Christmas! So how do we choose life at Christmas time? By choosing to be mindful of and embracing the true spirit of Christmas.

I love to give and get gifts, for Christmas or any other time, for that matter. In fact, that is one of my primary love languages. I love unwrapping gifts, I love looking at all the pretty packages under the tree, I love the anticipation of unwrapping gifts, and I love seeing how someone I care about reacts to receiving a well thought out gift. All of that is to say this: I think that gift giving and receiving at Christmas is a lovely expression of our affection for the people we love. HOWEVER, we must never forget the true spirit of Christmas.

I’ve mentioned that twice now, the true spirit of Christmas. So what do I mean by that? I’m sure if you ask that to 100 different people you’ll get 100 different answers! But, to me, the true spirit of Christmas is first of course, the birth of Jesus, and second, being an extravagant giver. The birth of Jesus was a miracle and it paved the way for the redemption of mankind. The birth of Jesus was as great as it was humble – the birth announcement was given by angels, the gifts were brought by kings and first visitors were lowly shepherds. And the birth of Jesus was the perfect example of extravagant giving – from God the Father, to us, His children.

Being an extravagant giver is not about spoiling our children with all of their wants, or giving meaningless gifts to everyone regardless of the relationship we have with them, and it’s certainly not about going into debt to have Christmas. On the contrary, that is choosing death, not choosing life. Being an extravagant giver is giving with your heart and it doesn’t matter who the recipient is – you may not even know them. But it is giving without thinking of receiving and it is giving cheerfully and it may even be giving sacrificially. Again, I’m talking about much more than money or gifts that money can buy, though obviously that is included.

Christmas is called the most wonderful time of the year – there’s even a song about it. But to many people, it’s not. To them, it’s a long, drawn out period of time which is painful and they dread it coming every year. Sorrow, pain, poverty and loneliness seem much bigger during the holiday season. If you’ve lost a loved one, are in a bad marriage or have no family, there is a loneliness that exists that is both oppressive and destructive, especially during the holiday season. This can also be a particularly difficult time for our military who may be all alone and thousands of miles away from home, often times in hostile and dangerous areas (please I implore you, don’t forget about them). Whatever the cause, it’s hard to see beyond the pain of your own situation.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that self-destructive and emotion-numbing behavior tends to increase this time of year. It’s a sad reality for those in the world, but what about those in the church? Isn’t God enough? While the easy, and patronizing, answer is yes, the reality is much different. When someone feels all alone in the world, they may know that God is with them and loves them even, but it does not negate the fact that deep down they know they were created for relationships. God said it Himself in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” The sad fact is that there are many even within the walls of the church who are feeling loneliness to the point of despair, especially this time of year.

What about those who live in poverty? As a child, when I believed in Santa, I didn’t understand why, as good as I tried to be, I was never good enough to get what I wanted for Christmas. When I was old enough, I realized why – it was because we were poor. I know what it is like to experience Christmas mornings, knowing it’s only because of the church, Salvation Army, or another charity, that we kids had anything to open at all. Now, as a mother, I can’t even imagine how difficult that must have been for my own single-mom. But as bad as we had it, I realize now that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. For far too many others, receiving a gift of clean water for drinking, a goat for milking, immunizations to be combat disease, a coat to stay warm, a blanket to ward off the cold of sleeping outside, or even having a place to escape to so they can leave the horror of forced prostitution, is a life, and hope, giving blessing that cannot be underestimated in worth.

How do we choose life, during the busy, hectic and far-too commercial Christmas season? By looking beyond ourselves. It’s easy to see, if we will just look. Things are tough right now in the U.S., there’s no doubt about that. But for most of us, if we were to be honest, it wouldn’t hurt us in the least to go without the latest gadget, or cut down on the latte’s. If we choose to see the need that is all around us, we can also see that there is probably something we can do to help – even if it doesn’t seem like much to us. That is choosing life. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. This year, my husband and I have decided to give to World Vision, in lieu of exchanging gifts with each other. Please understand, I’m not trying to make you do the same, or even something similar, this is just something we feel compelled by the Lord to do.

Most of us can give something of financial value, even if it seems to be of low value to us. That is the miracle of multiplication – God can take our little amount and multiply it with others, to do something really significant. Of course, if we have more to give, that is even better.

But can we go beyond giving something of financial value? Of course! Caring for and showing kindness and concern to someone who is hurting and alone can make all the difference in the world. Phone calls, cards, letters, prayers and gifts are all things that can be done to help someone who is hurting to get through the season. That is choosing life. Most importantly though, bringing them into your home and family for dinner, or to simply spend time together, is not only choosing life, but it can truly be life-giving.

Beyond that, there are so many organizations that you can donate your time, talent and/or treasures to all the time, but again especially this time of year. With all the options out there to be actually be an extravagant giver, surely there’s something that suits you.

Some of you, who are reading this, may be experiencing any of the situations I’ve talked about or many more that I have not. How do you choose life? It is still by taking your eyes off yourself. In the pain you may be feeling, that is probably not easy, and I truly do understand that because I’ve been there. But if you reach out to others and reach out to God, and do something that is beyond yourself, I have no doubt that God will meet you where you are and touch your life in a powerful way. He is faithful, He does love you and He did choose you.

So this year, please join me in choosing life during Christmas. This season more than ever we should look and see to find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it. That is Choosing Life!

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” ~ Luke 2:8-11

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

2 comments:

Lori said...

What a beautiful article Tracy. This particularly touched me..."How do you choose life? It is still by taking your eyes off yourself. In the pain you may be feeling, that is probably not easy, and I truly do understand that because I’ve been there. But if you reach out to others and reach out to God, and do something that is beyond yourself, I have no doubt that God will meet you where you are and touch your life in a powerful way."

For me, reaching out to others (whether it be a phone call, an email...whatever), takes focus off myself and my stuff. Great message, not only for this time of year, but everyday! God Bless!

Josh said...

What a joy it is to give. From my experience, some of the happiest people I have met have been givers. There is just something about giving (especially out of our own needs) that really pleases God and opens the door for blessing in our lives. I agree with everything you have said here, Tracy. Let us choose to help others this holiday season and the during the entire new year that is approaching.