“The secret to happiness lies not in getting what you waver, but in wanting what you have.” -Joanna Weaver.
One of my life goals is to be content with my life. I know it’s not a goal I will ever be able to completely check off because my level of contentment wavers each day, most especially at this time of year. Christmas is hard because I so easily get caught up in the “give-me” attitude of the world rather than the “give-to” attitude of Jesus. Each year, though, I come to the conclusion that I already have more than I need. This year that is especially apparent since I’m moving, but still that little bit of greed leaks into my heart.
This Christmas I encourage you to join me in being grateful for what you have rather than wishing for more, whether that more is more wealth, more happiness, more time, or more stuff.
Paul says to Timothy: “True godliness with contentment is in itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (2 Timothy 6:6-10)
If you need a song to help in this process check out Audrey Assad’s “I Shall Not Want”.
Imagine a scene with me for a moment. There is a young couple named Mary and Joe in a jalopy riding down the interstate heading to somewhere, anywhere but where they come from. They’ve been sent on this journey because the government tells them they must register their identity in their hometown. They don’t have much money to travel and just hope and pray that their beaten up car will make it to their destination. Mary is pregnant, but the father is not Joe. At first Joe was angry and threatened to leave Mary, but a dream convinced him otherwise. The dream of an angel confirmed Mary’s story that she was carrying the son of God. Mary wasn’t one to lie, so he asked for her forgiveness and supported her. It had been a crazy few months that brought them to this moment in the middle of the night on the interstate. They’ve been shunned by many of their friends and hope to find a new start and some forgiveness after completing this requirement from the government.
At Mary’s insistence, Mary and Joe drive late into the night in hopes of avoiding the cost of a hotel. They arrive in the town of Bethel where they will complete the required paperwork the following day. Joe realizes that asking his pregnant wife to sleep in the car would not be kind so he begins looking for a hotel open late. All the hotels he checks are either closed for the night or full. Finally he comes to a small bed and breakfast that he would not be able to afford, but he decides to check since it’s his last option. The kind lady at the desk tells him that the rooms are all full but there is a small bed in the barn where her husband sometimes takes naps in the afternoon. She gives him several warm quilts and a space heater and apologizes for the inconvenience. Joe offers to pay, but the lady will not take any money from him.
When Joe and Mary step in the barn they are grateful for the warm quilts and space heater. The barn is smelly and drafty, but the small bed will be much better for Mary’s aching back than the cramped car. Shortly after Joe dozes, he awakes to hear Mary groaning in pain. He turns from his position on the floor to see Mary bent over double and realizes immediately that she is in labor. After Mary speaks a few calming words to him, he runs to the house to get the landlady and call an ambulance. The landlady comes and tells Joe that Mary will have that baby before the ambulance can make it. She quickly and efficiently gathers rags and water and prepares to act as midwife to this young girl. The baby arrives and the sweet face smiles so beautifully that the landlady knows this will be special child. Mary and Joe tell her their story and that the baby’s name is Jesus. He will save the world from their sins. It’s a special night.
The story above is not entirely Biblically accurate because Jesus was born in a different time when there weren’t ambulances and space heaters, but during this Christmas season I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the miracles that surrounded his birth. This year as I read the accounts of Jesus’ birth given by Matthew and Luke, I was reminded of how God worked out every little detail to bring his son into the world. He used a poor couple who had to work through a tough situation. He showed a resolved struggle between the couple even before they were married. He supplied a place of humility for the baby to be born.
Many times during this season, we search for the most expensive gifts we can afford because we want the time to be special. We decorate our house with plenty of lights and light up our fires. We plan extravagant parties with more food than we could ever consume. We hope that just for a few moments there will be no fights. In reality, even the most humble of accommodations or gifts are special. Jesus was the example of that. He was born to poor parents in a barn where there was probably low light, stench, and a lack of fresh air. His parents almost split before he was even born or they were married. This year take some time to reflect on Jesus’ first Christmas as you go through the hustle and bustle that has become our modern Christmas. When your snacks don’t look like the ones in the magazine or your wrapping paper gets ripped on the way to the party, remember that it’s the time that matters the most. Take the time to thank God for his wonderful gift and for the people he keeps giving to you.
Merry Christmas Season!
There are so many posts I could make today about the very few days I have spent at home thus far, and the only thing I’ve really done is go to Walmart and church. Yesterday at church, I went in a little apathetic because I was missing my church at college. I knew that I would most likely be the only one there my age and I missed my college friends. God works though. He still spoke to me through every way possible. First a little girl came to sit next to me before Sunday School. I don’t know why but this girl likes to occasionally talk to me. This made me feel loved, because it’s nothing that I’ve done to make her want to talk to me.
Sunday school was different than what I am used to, but I enjoyed the disjointed lesson on Ruth. Even though it’s a hobnob class of people, it was a good reminder of the lessons in Ruth. In Ruth, I discovered the grace of God. God provided for Ruth in more ways than she could have imagined simply because Ruth was faithful to Naomi and to God.
Then the sermon was about different reactions to the birth of Jesus, which was a good lead-up to the Live Nativity that night.
I’ve been involved in live nativities since I was little, when I always played the angel with the blond hair. This year, the church expanded and had a mini-Bethlehem complete with bread makers, a blacksmith, and most importantly the birth of Jesus. I played the shepherd this year, and even though very few people walked up while I was out there, it was interesting to think about how the shepherds would have felt. We’ve always played the scene to be still, solemn, and silent, but I imagine there was noise, dirt, and joy. When people would stand around looking at the newer additions to our live nativity, I just wanted to yell out and remind them that Jesus was born over here, but I guess that’s how the shepherds actually might have felt. I imagine that the shepherds, Mary, and Joseph were all tired for various reasons but joyful because they knew just how special that baby was/is.
About six years ago this time, my Sunday School teacher at the time encouraged our high school class to let our family and people special to us know how thankful we are for them. She suggested we write them all letters to give to them at Thanksgiving. Being the oh-so-busy sophomore that I was, I didn’t get around to writing the letters for Thanksgiving. That Christmas, though, I wrote a letter to each member of my small family telling them how much I appreciated them. I tried to include memories I had with them and thanked them specifically for what they had done in my life. I sealed them up and those were my Christmas presents that year for my family. Since I still felt a little awkward about showing such emotion to my family (my family is not very big on showing emotion or talking about emotions), I told them that the letters had to be read in private. I received a few thank-you notes back from some of my family and life moved on.
Little did I know that was the last Christmas we would spend with my Papaw. Shortly after that, while I was on a class trip to Alabama, my Papaw died. It was sort of out of the blue. He had had a stroke/heart attack earlier in the year, but he had been getting better. His death scared me. I didn’t know how my family structure would change. God definitely used his death for His glory, but that is a story for another time.
I didn’t remember at that exact moment, but it makes me feel very thankful for writing those letters when I did. Like I said, my family is not very vocal about emotions, and I had never told my Papaw just how much he meant to me before that time. Looking back, I am very thankful for that Sunday School teacher who encouraged me to write letters to my family. I am glad to know that I let my Papaw know how much I loved him before he went to Heaven to be with the One who loves him way more than I do.
This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to let special people in your life know what they mean to you, especially your family members. I can say from personal experience that you will not regret this.
I hate to be cliche, but I must say I love Christmas. It’s not just about receiving presents, but I actually really enjoy coming up with awesome presents to give. I don’t always buy presents; in fact I sometimes make them. But this is something I really enjoy about going home from Christmas.
The Live Nativity Scene at Church. I was actually able to participate this year (as a wise man and a shepherd), but I also enjoy just looking at it. I realize it is not exactly Biblically correct. The wisemen were not in the stable, but whatever. I have to say this is one beautiful picture.