Today’s Table Talk is by our friend Ruth. For years she has spoken to countless groups on “Redeeming Christmas”. In fact, this is how I met Ruth. When TTO was a baby, I had the privilege of serving on the leadership of our MOPs group. It was my responsibility to procure the speakers. She was a must … and blessed our group greatly. Since then I’ve wrangled her into several things, including being a part of our Ironing Board here at the MOAT.
December is our month for “Service”. Each day we’re trying to find ways to get our minds off ourselves and on to others. We’ll range from simple ways to serve each other in our own home (probably the most challenging) to sharing ways we’ve found to serve through local organizations/opportunities. PLUS … we’ve got some terrific guest bloggers (including Ron Hall, best-selling author of Same Kind of Different as Me) who will share on the topic of service. I’d love to hear from any of you who’ve found creative ways to serve during this special season. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply hit the “Comments” button below. We’d all be blessed by the creativity in your home.
Thanks Ruth, for all your efforts to get our minds and time focused on what’s important during this season.
… and thanks for walking the road with me.
Advent means “coming”. The Advent Season, those four weeks prior to Christmas, offers us a much needed opportunity to slow down and ponder the immensity of the Incarnation. Jesus Christ left the splendor of the ivory palaces in Heaven to come to sinful earth. Coming as a helpless baby, He condescended and took on flesh so that we might recognize and love Him.
“The son of God became a man so that men could become sons of God.” C.S. Lewis
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! II Corinthians 9:15
Christmas belongs to the church and is its highest holyday (holiday). While it is a celebration of the birth of Christ some 2,000 years ago, it is also an occasion to experience the nativity afresh in a very personal way. The manger symbolizes the human heart. Advent is a time to anticipate His coming by un-cluttering our hearts and preparing Him room.
Advent is to Christmas what pregnancy is to the birth of a baby.
The anticipation of a birth creates great excitement and a sense of expectancy. So it is with Advent. During this period, there is a heavier sense of God’s presence which falls like a gentle rain on the just and the unjust. This common grace softens the hearts of men making them tender and yielding. For this reason, the holiday season provides unique opportunities for evangelism. The Holy Spirit prepares the soil making hearts ready to receive The Son.
Try using these 10 Tips so that busyness does not crowd out your spiritual preparation. By keeping a quiet heart amidst the noise you might just experience a personal rebirth of Christ, and you also may be more aware of the many chances to share Him.
10 Tips for Redeeming Christmas
1. Celebrate according to the church calendar. Advent begins the Sunday following Thanksgiving. The four weeks of Advent are set aside to prepare for the celebration of the Incarnation. The 12 Days of Christmas start December 25. The season ends on Epiphany, January 6.
2. Plan activities and spending before the season starts. Set limits for: decorating, entertaining, gift giving and special events. Leave unscheduled time on your calendar to meet the needs of people. The Advent season offers unique opportunities for ministry.
3. Spread out the work to other less hectic holidays. Thanksgiving and Valentines’ are appropriate opportunities for gift giving. An Epiphany party provides a fun way to bring closure to the season. And Easter is a spiritually rich occasion for sending greeting cards.
4. Spend more time pouring over scripture than catalogs. Do not allow shopping and other holiday activities to preclude Bible study and prayer. Now more than ever you need God’s word to renew your mind and galvanize your heart against the crass commercialization of Christmas.
5. Prepare your heart more than you prepare your home. If Jesus returned this year and visited your home, would He recognize Himself as the one celebrated? Keep your decorating and your schedule simple. Leave space for God and for the needs of people.
6. Communicate with long-distance family and friends throughout the year. This will help you withstand the pressure to have an annual relationship check-up with them all at Christmas time. Consider honoring them on their birthdays rather than on His.
7. Host a birthday party for Jesus. Have guests bring presents for those in need. Host an evangelistic Christmas coffee for neighbors. Take advantage of the common grace of God which tenderizes hearts and makes people more open to The Gospel.
8. Learn the true story of Saint Nicholas: a 4th Century martyr whose generous gifts to the poor saved them from bondage and death. Consider the similarities of Nicolas and Jesus. Santa Claus is a secularized St. Nic which even the non-religious can enjoy.
9. Examine your gift giving practices. Whose birthday is it, anyway? Exchanging gifts with those who are equally affluent is a cultural idea. Gift swapping can be purposeful, but it can also be a distraction to your spiritual preparation. Try giving Christian symbols as gifts, or non monetary gifts of time. The gift of a letter is the most memorable of all.
10. Give gifts to Christ by giving to the poor. Giving to those who cannot repay is the true spirit of Christmas giving. Consider adopting a needy family. Try giving anonymously; it is a great motive purifier. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 40
As we reflect over Christ’s First Advent, we also acknowledge His triumphant Second Coming, a future bodily coming, marking the end of the age.
“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11