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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent Day 19 - Christmas Rules

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God.  Read 2 Corinthians 13:14 and meditate on the words.

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

1)    Be still and know he is God. 

2)    Mediate on the grace of the Lord Jesus. 

3)    Experience the love of God.

4)    Fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    Tell the Christ Child about what rules you this Christmas. 
i)    Offer him your grief, frustration, and worries. 
ii)    Tell him about your busy schedule.
iii)    Ask Him to “rule” your heart and your activities during the season.  . 
b)    Have you been trying to make the “Christmas Rules” for others?  (Write your answers in your journal.)
i)    Have you been trying to tell people what to do?
ii)    Have you been insisting on having Christmas “your way?”
c)    Have you been letting people (as opposed to God) control or influence your celebration of Christmas season?  (Write your answers in your journal.)
i)    Are you doing too much?
ii)    Are you spending too much?
iii)    Are you participating in Christmas celebrations that are unnecessary, counter productive, or harmful?
d)    Ask God how he wants you to celebrate Christmas.
e)    Appendix 1: Pray and update.

2)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Praise God that he is God. 
b)    Sing Glory to God in the highest.
c)    Praise him for sending Jesus to give us peace on earth.  Write it in Appendix 2.
d)    Praise him for sending Jesus to give us good will to men.  Write it in Appendix 2.

3)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a)    Offer Him your loyalty.
b)    Offer him your steadfast heart. 
c)    Offer to be his peacemaker on earth.
d)    Offer to be his ambassador of good will. 
e)    Appendix 3: Pray and update.

4)    Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out. 

5)    Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

This devotion is for those whose “to do” list is longer than their “time left” list.  It is for those good-hearted people who want to make Christmas good for everyone and are trying to be all things to all people.  It is for those people trying hard to live life by the right rules and finding themselves overworked and overwhelmed.  This devotion is also for those people who feel trapped into Christmas celebrations for which they have neither the heart nor the energy.  If your Christmas season is going perfectly and you are thrilled with everything about it, you may either skip this devotion or merely review it so that you will have more compassion for all those who are still suffering. 

What is ruling your life this Christmas?  Perhaps it is time.  The newspaper says 50% of Americans have stopped putting up a Christmas tree.  Most give time as the reason.  Money or the lack thereof, rules many homes at Christmas.  Maybe worry, fear, family pressures, or a sense of duty is driving you forward. 

Have you found yourself secretly wishing Christmas was over, or even wishing you could skip it entirely?  You are not alone in those thoughts.  While children’s eyes light up at the thought of Christmas, many harried people anticipate it with some dread.  Most do not skip Christmas, even if they fantasized about it.  They take a deep breath and forge ahead, hoping this year will be different.  They follow the rules established generations before them.  They find themselves resenting the family pressures that dictate their Christmas activities.

For example, one family meets every year at 8:30 AM at Grandma’s for a Christmas breakfast.  Everyone dreads it.  They wake their children early for gift giving.  At 8:00 AM, they drag their family away from new toys and rush into the car.  By mid-morning, everyone is exhausted and grumpy.  At one point or another, every family member (including Grandma) has complained about this family tradition.  No one is willing to change it.  If families are not careful, what started out to be an enjoyable family tradition becomes a set of Christmas rules that govern the family and steal the Christmas spirit. 

Background Scripture

Read Psalms 100:3.  What does it say?  How do you think this applies to the Christmas season?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

Read Luke 2:14.  The angels tell us why Christ came.  They describe the Christmas Spirit.  The King James translation (below) says it most clearly.  Christmas is about giving glory to God, peace on earth, and good will towards men.  That is worth celebrating.

Luke 2:14 (KJV)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

How did the birth of Jesus accomplish all of this?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Psalms 78:8.  God speaks to us through our longings.  Everyone longs for peace.  When we allow the very season of peace to become frantic and nightmarish, what have we become?  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

What do you think it means to be loyal to God at Christmas?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

What do you think it means to have a faithful or steadfast heart at Christmas?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Psalms 51:10.  David’s ancient prayer is relevant to what we all need for a holy and peaceful Christmas season.  What two things is David asking for?  (Write your answer in your journal.)  Pray this prayer along with David. 

Top Ten Christmas Rules

There have been times in my life when I acted as if I thought I would make a decent god.  I believed that everyone’s well being depended on me.  I worked hard to try to take care of everyone.  I may have even believed that if everyone would just do as I say, then everyone’s life would work out just fine.  I tried to explain it to everyone, (tactfully of course.)  This character trait particularly manifested itself at Christmas.  Most Christmases found me frustrated, disappointed, and full of self-pity. 

Then I realized that no one was paying any attention to me.  To my utter humiliation, I had to admit that it was all I could do just to take care of myself.  Alas, I resigned from playing god and decided to let God be God.  At Christmas, I turned to God and began getting out of his way.  My life and my Christmas seasons have been more peaceful.  Family members seem to like me better.  The irony is that now, I seem to have more influence on my family’s Christmas season. 

Still, I must confess to occasionally thinking that I know how God ought to do things.  I still want life on earth to be fair.  When it is not, I sometimes grow indignant.  I am particularly saddened when things are not fair at Christmas.  I have been known to pout with God and the people around me when things did not go my way.  If I were allowed to be god at Christmas, I would institute some Christmas Rules. 

Cheryle’s Top Ten Christmas Rules

1.  Jesus: Everyone would know Jesus.  He is awesome.  It seems like a “no brainer” to just decide that everyone should know him.  I guess that means I would probably take away your free will.  You would most likely react just as my family did. 

2.  Health: No one would be sick at Christmas. I would not even allow colds (particularly when people are trying to sing in their church’s Christmas presentation). 

3.  Home: Everyone that wanted to could go home for the holidays.  Beloved and nice relatives in heaven could visit earth on Christmas.  (Ornery ones could stay wherever they are.)  Grandparents could always be with their grandchildren on Christmas.  Of course, we would all have to get much larger homes and cook more.  Possibly, I could institute a corollary Christmas Rule that the people visiting from heaven ate no food and did not take up any room. 

4.  Equality: Gifts, food, and other resources would be distributed equally to everyone.  So much for free enterprise! 

5.  Self Control: No one would overeat, get drunk, or participate in other damaging activities.  Now you are thinking I have gone too far.  You probably enjoy that stuffed feeling on Christmas day.  In my world, I might do away with pie, cake, and certainly all alcohol.

6.  Time: The days would be longer at Christmas.  I talked to an exhausted woman who had just worked a twelve-hour day.  She is against this rule. 

7.  Unity: Wars would stop.  There would be no fighting between countries, families, friends, and neighbors.  Everyone would get along.  One wonders how I would enforce this since the very principle of this rule means I could not threaten them with a “nuclear bomb” if they started a war. 

8.  Employment: Everyone would have jobs.  No one would get laid off just before Christmas.  Of course, if resources were distributed equally, why would we even have to work at all?  Yes, life might get a little boring.

9.  Love: People would love each other.  One has to wonder if I forced everyone to love, how we would recognize and appreciate the feeling. 

10.  Weather: The weather would be warm.  It would be 90 degrees outside.  I cannot help it.  I love Florida.  This is my fantasy!

You probably would not like living by my rules.  Some of them might be all right but many of you would prefer a White Christmas.  I know from watching some of you eat that you would prefer a Christmas with pie. 

The problem is, I would not stop with my rules.  I would also include some “Christmas Suggestions.”  These are only suggestions; people could choose to do just because they wanted to “delight” me.  Have I mentioned that I would be willing to “reward” people that “delight” me?  Would that make me a god of “works” rather than a god of “grace?”  This is sounding worse by the minute.

Cheryle’s Top 10 Christmas Suggestions

1.  Lighten Up: People would stop turning off all of my many singing, dancing, ringing, jingling, and snoring Christmas toys.  I have never really understood why the noise annoys so many people. 

2.  No Housework: I would have my housekeeper back.  Of course, that means she would have to give up that exciting career she is enjoying so much.  Oh, and I would probably have to stop writing these devotions to go back to work to pay for her. 

3.  Bubbles: Everyone would play with bubble toys.  Surely, there is nothing wrong with that suggestion!

4.  Schedules: People would be on time for Christmas dinner - the time I set.  I do not eat between meals.  It is part of a “self-control” commitment.  On Christmas, I eat breakfast early.  I do not like getting ravenous before Christmas lunch.  Of course, if I were god, maybe I would not get so hungry. 

5. Music: The family members would actually practice for the family Christmas recital.  These are talented people.  Is not there a scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much is expected?”  Since I gave them longer days, they would have time to practice. 

Luke 12:48 (KJV)
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. 

6.  Food: Aunt Catherine would always make her dressing on Christmas.  One day, my Aunt Catherine would probably prefer to be allowed to go to heaven.  I guess to enforce this rule, I would have to make cooking a part of the work in heaven.  Some might take exception to that. 

7.  Cooking Lessons: Someone would teach me how to make whipped cream without it ending up on the ceiling.  I need to learn to not cut my fingers with the sharp knives my brother gave me.  I want the string beans to stop boiling over.  In fact, I want the string beans to taste like my mother’s string beans.  I even wish I could make dressing like Aunt Catherine.  I seriously believe that my mom and aunt leave out an important “secret” ingredient when they share recipes.  Of course, if I were god, I could just read their minds and find out the ingredients. 

8.  Gifts: The family would open presents one at a time.  We spend months buying Christmas presents.  It is over in 20 minutes of paper flying and packages ripping.  There has to be a better way. 

9.  Courtesy: People would remember the Christmas gift idea, phone number, address, etc. that I just gave them last week.  Or, I could stop keeping all of those phone numbers and addresses in my hand held computer. 

10.  Grace: No one would ever get mad at me.  That probably will not work.  People are always getting mad at God.  At least when people are mad with me, I deserve it.  Thank God that his grace is perfect! 

But, alas, my family will just continue to turn off my noisy Christmas toys.  The world will continue to fight with one another until Jesus returns.  People will get sick at Christmas and we will miss seeing people that we love. 

When things do not go the way we think they should go, many of us find our faith tested.  I have come to realize that this questioning means that we think we could do a better job at being god than God.  You have heard my best efforts at playing god.  It certainly left much to be desired. 

This Christmas, do not let yourself or anyone else become god in your life.  Go to God’s dwelling place and worship at his footstool.  (Psalms 132:7.)  Examine all of your Christmas traditions, using the three rules:

1.    Glory to God.
2.    Peace on Earth.
3.    Good will to men. 

If they do not pass the three rules above, do not participate.  Let God rule your Christmas season.  This Christmas, gather around him.  Let him rule over you from on high.  He gave us Christmas.  From Christmas, we see his glory.  From Christmas, we find peace on earth and good will to men.  Thank God for Christmas.  Christmas Rules!

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    Write your own set of 10 Christmas Rules in your journal.  This is your fantasy.  Write what you would do if you were allowed to make the rules for Christmas. 
b)    Now, write the potential negative side effects of your Christmas rules.
c)    List each of your planned holiday celebrations.  How can you make them:
i)    Give glory to God?
ii)    Spread peace on earth?
iii)    Generate good will to men (or women)? 

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    As you go through your day, when you do something well:
i)    Thank God.
ii)    Find some way to give glory to God.
b)    As you go through your day, when you see any tension or conflict:
i)    Pray first.
ii)    Be a peacemaker.
c)    As you go through your day, look for ways to generate good will between people. 
i)    Ask God to show you how.
ii)    Be an ambassador of good will.

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Have you been trying to play god? 
i)    Did you think you knew what was best for people around you? 
ii)    Have you been sharing your “not so helpful suggestions” with those close to you? 
iii)    Are they annoyed? 
iv)    If necessary, confess.
b)    Did you give glory to God?  If not, confess.
c)    Were you a peacemaker?  If not, confess.
d)    Were you an ambassador of good will?  If not, confess.
e)    Ask God if you owe anyone an apology.
f)    Praise God for Christmas.

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