Too Early for Christmas Joy ?

I’ve heard the complaints.

November is for Thanksgiving. December is for Christmas.

Eat the turkey before you set up the tree.

And I’ve seen the memes on social media.

Two shoppers: “The mall’s all decorated for Christmas. You know what that means.” “Thanksgiving is coming.”

Turkey to Santa: “Wait your turn, Fat Boy!”

Fairy Godmother to Cinderella: “And when the clock strikes midnight, Halloween will end. Then BAM! Christmas carols everywhere.”

But as a wise person once said:

“The calendar says Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. But in the life of a Christian, Christmas always comes before Thanksgiving!”

Joy means different things to different people. For some, joy is fleeting—dependent on changeable circumstances…or the calendar.

For the Christian, joy is rooted in a relationship with the three-in-one God who created the universe. The One who never changes. It’s a response to:

The Father…who is our joy and delight (Psalm 43:4).

The Son…who tells us to remain in Him so that His joy remains in us (John 15:11).

The Holy Spirit…whose fruit is joy (Galatians 5:22).

When we understand the grace of God, we live minute by minute in the awareness that through His Son, Jesus, God redeemed us out of the slave market of sin. He reached down to pull us out of the mire of a life enslaved to our own sinful nature. He freed us from the futility of trying harder even as we continually fail to attain the holiness He requires.

The past 11 months have been a reminder of this truth for me and my hubby. It started with a diagnosis that often results in death. After months of treatment, we received a declaration that he is cancer-free. And finally, a prognosis recommending caution for the next several years.

Some might say it’s too early to be joyful. After all, we have several years of scans in front of us to watch for the cancer’s possible reappearance. But that’s like saying Christmas joy should be relegated to a particular month or season.

Christmas joy

Joy—Christian joy—rejoices in the present moment as we swim in the ocean of God’s grace.

It remembers that all we have has been given to us by a Father who delights in the children redeemed by His Son—the One whose birth we celebrate every Dec. 25th.

True joy trusts that even though circumstances may appear unhappy, we have a heavenly Father who is always at work for our ultimate good.

If we truly understood the grace of God, we would never relegate Christmas joy to a single month. So yes, the calendar may say it’s still November, but to quote the apostle Paul from Philippians 4:4 (NIV):

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

So, today, I will rejoice by putting up my Christmas tree. It will join the nativity scene set up a few weeks ago.

And while I’m doing that, I’ll be wishing you a joyful Thanksgiving!

 


Fear of Missing Out

fear of missing out

Have you ever suffered from FOMO? Fear Of Missing Out. These days, FOMO is epidemic. Our culture constantly assaults us with a barrage of marketing messages that cultivate a fear of missing out. And nothing cultivates FOMO as effectively as social media.

Reading about the good times other people are having can foster a sense of envy in us. Learning about social events we weren’t invited to can cause us to feel isolated. Looking at all the beautiful pictures of beautiful people with their beautiful families can make us feel as if we’ve failed in our own family.

FOMO is real. And the more we give in to it, the more addicted we become to our social media accounts. We may find ourselves checking posts every few minutes for the latest news about local social activities.

FOMO is treacherous because it fosters a sense of discontentment. Dissatisfaction. Ungratefulness. Not that we’d ever admit it, but we feel cheated because someone else is having a better time. Travelling to more fun locations. Being more successful.

Black Friday sales are a prime example of FOMO. At least it used to start on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now Black Friday sales begin on Thursday. We spend the afternoon celebrating gratitude. Then we leave family at the dinner table while we chase sales from store to store, worried that we’re missing a better bargain down the street.

It’s ironic that those who are not at all concerned about spiritual things are religious about keeping up with everyone else in every other area of life. Yet they aren’t at all concerned about missing out on the most important experience of all. This temporary life consumes them, while eternity isn’t even a blip on their radar.

But Christians can fall into a similar trap. When I get caught up on the fear of missing out, I’m so busy focusing on the temporary that I lose sight of the eternal. I can become consumed with trying to do it all in this life, without considering whether the things that mean so much to me now will be as significant five months from now. Or five years from now.

As I enter this holiday season, I commit to kick FOMO to the curb. Rather than fear what I might be missing out on, I will focus on doing the next right thing. Taking the next right step. Considering the next right decision.

Will you join me?


Friendships that Sharpen Me

FriendshipAccording to Facebook, I have more than a thousand friends. Some of them I’ve never met in person. Many are acquaintances. Some are closer friends.

Then there are the friendships that go deeper. These are the relationships that have stood the test of time. Friendships based on eternal priorities. Loving relationships that truly want the best for the other person…even when “the best” might be a little painful.

These are the friendships that fulfill Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NIV).

What does this type of friendship look like?

They require good listening skills.

Good listeners take the time to listen. They’re not in a hurry and they allow me the space I need to process what I’m experiencing and confide in them when I’m ready. They listen between the lines of conversation—listening as much for what is not said as for what is said. These friends can look me in the eye and know when I’m holding back. This is a skill I need to continue to develop!

They are encouraging relationships.

These friends know when I need a phone call, a hug, or a card. They’re the ones who drop me an email to say, “This verse reminded me of you. How are you doing today?” Their encouragement is not flattery, but rather provides the fuel to keep on persevering when I’m weary. It’s difficult to encourage others if I’m self-focused.

They provide the opportunity to ask hard questions.

Small talk is nice. Surface questions are polite. But these friends have earned permission to ask questions such as, “What has the Lord taught you since we last met?” Or, “What has the Holy Spirit been convicting you of?” Still, how we ask those questions can make a huge difference. This is not an interrogation!

They offer the opportunity to give without expecting in return.

These friends give of their time for lunch or coffee or maybe just a phone call. They might send a card or a bookmark—something tangible to remind me of this precious relationship. Still, the relationship is not about the gifts. As the adage says, “It’s the thought that counts!”

They are relationships that include prayer.

Nothing beats the encouragement of being told someone is praying for me. To know that in their intimate time with the Lord, my name is being lifted before the throne of heaven is balm for my spirit. Praying for someone else communicates that this is a friend who is as concerned with spiritual and eternal matters as they are with temporal and physical ones.

This is not just the kind of friend I want to have. It’s the kind of friend I want to be.

How about you?


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