Women think they have to be everything to everybody every day. On Christmas Day, they add to their responsibility: making sure that absolutely no one is disappointed, creating magical memories, cooking fabulous food, which they should eat without gaining a pound. They are to think up and buy perfect presents for everyone they know, send out Christmas cards, decorate their homes, host parties, and have all the above done by December 24th. Is the idea of Advent, counting down to Christmas; more of a timer that you must race against to prove your worth? If so, you are not alone. But, why not let Advent–anticipating the truths of Christmas reveal the truth about who you are and why you are here? This year, really listen to the message of Christmas and model your Christmas after receiving God's gift of His Son, not what you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie. Each week of December, we will count down to Christmas together through the time-honored tradition of lighting a candle for Advent. I hope you will find guidance for getting off the Christmas Pleasing Merry-go-round and discover the true freedom that Christmas brings.
Week One: Light One Candle for HOPE
I love that the ancients started here in preparing our hearts for Advent. You will definitely need large doses of hope this Christmas. I know you. You will try to make everyone happy. You will make your best attempt not to let anyone down. I've got news for you. You will. I can guarantee it. This is why you need to remember your hope candle and keep it lit during your season of Advent.
The candle of hope is the prophecy candle. It is a reminder that the prophets told about Christ's coming hundreds of years before he was born. What is your hope this Christmas? Is your list similar to mine?
- a house decorated early enough to enjoy
- good family relationships
- gift receivers surprised and pleased with their gifts
- a Christmas meal that turns out tasty and satisfying
- Christmas cards to stir old memories and help keep in touch with loved ones
- Christmas parties and events that are joyful
- worshipful experiences
- safe travels
- don't spend more than I budget
As I review my hopes for Christmas, I know that I am not going to get everything I want. That doesn't keep me from hoping. In fact, the best way I can hope is to pray about what I hope for. And, like the prophets of old, I need to realize that God's timing is not my own. When Isaiah told the people of Israel; For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), he had no way of knowing who Jesus really was and when He would come. There were hundreds of years separating the prophecies and their fulfillment. Are you willing to hope even when you can't see you hopes happening? Romans 8:24, 25 points out; For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Why not write down your hopes in a prayer to God. Perhaps you hope for an opportunity to share Christ with an unsaved family member. Maybe you just hope that you can get through the holiday without a big blowup. It may be your hope that you don't overspend like last year. Is your hope just to not give the family food poisoning from your first turkey dinner? God wants you to hope. Hope is not demanding. It is unrelenting faith in God.
Follow these three tips to creating hope for your Christmas.
- Don't stress. Most holiday stress comes from thinking you have to please everybody. Do less this year. Say "No" to some things with confidence. Know that saying "yes" to every person, party invitation, and charity will definitely land you in the stressed out zone. Realize that the world can go on without you, but you cannot go on without proper sleep, exercise and mental relaxation.
- Be joyful. Hum along to Christmas tunes. Make it the most wonderful time of the year, because it is. Jesus came to earth to make it possible for you to have a relationship with God. That is something to celebrate. Practice praying without ceasing by asking God to show you the joy in each task: wrapping gifts, decorating, baking, card writing shopping, and all the others.
- Be with joyful people and prepare for grumpy ones. Make sure you have time to share joyful moments with others this year. And for those negative people who live in your house, or you will visit this holiday season; accept their faults. Don't let yourself be abused by them, but don't let unforgiveness extinguish your holiday cheer.
Next week of advent, we will light a candle for love. If you don't have an Advent Wreath, you might go out and get one, to remind you that counting down to Christmas begins with hope. Remember to light one candle for hope for a peaceful Christmas.