Today, the day I posted this blog article, is 14 days–exactly two weeks–from Christmas. Are you busy yet? How much are you giving, spending, eating, running, partying, frolicking, and exhausting yourself? Is the Christmas season going too fast for you?
I’m trying to take my own advice and pace myself (see the meme I crafted on my blog’s FB page for this past Friday, December 9). It is very challenging, I’ll have to admit. When it takes me all day to run my regular errands, and then I have to add holiday errands and incorporate holiday gatherings on top of that, it can become very hectic.
I can’t even practice good self care at times! Just Friday morning, when I was chewing a protein bar after my workout, I popped the bracket off the crown of my tooth (second time now. Don’t tell my orthodontist yet!).
I prefer to enjoy my holiday as I run through it, and try not to run so fast. How can I do it? How can you do it?
I’m looking at my schedule, my mood, and my serene enjoyment of the holiday this year in 2016. It feels a bit different, in a good way. It does seem like I am actually doing it–slowing down and enjoying the holiday, that is.
I looked at what I was doing differently this Christmas holiday season to slow down and enjoy it. Much of what I’m doing has to do with worship. I’m worshiping a little differently these days. Maybe these are things I can continue to do throughout the new year. I’d love to share them with you.
1. Private worship. To thrive as a follower of Christ, we have to worship Him privately, not just in corporate settings. That’s not going to change after you get married.
One thing I’m doing more of is using a different posture to worship Him: singing on my knees in my room; (very) quietly declaring His sovereignty, glory and honor in spiritually dark situations like workplace drama and bad traffic. Another thing I’m doing much more of this year is singing traditional Christian Christmas carols directly to the Lord. When I can, I change the pronouns to I and Me and My, and to You and Your and Yours. Sometimes I just change the words altogether. An example is:
O Holy Night, roughly revamped
O holy night
The stars were brightly shining
It was the night of
Your glorious birth
Long lay my heart
In sin and error pining
Till You appeared and
My soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope
My weary heart is singing
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn
I fall on my knees
I feel Your Spirit lingering
O night divine
When You were born
O night divine
And I’m glad that You are mine!
Privately singing more regular worship songs that are addressing the Lord in first person, and singing more worship songs that are throwbacks to the earlier time in my life right after I became a Christian, are also things I’ve been doing more of lately. That last part is something I will be continuing into the new year. He loves to hear from us any time we would want to connect with Him.
2. Corporate worship. Worship is not the prelude to the main event of preaching. It’s not a time-filler that gives all the latecomers a cover for sneaking into the service. It’s not a concert or entertainment or something you watch happen on stage that you view as a bystander. Worship, genuinely engaged, prepares my heart and yours for receiving the Word taught and the Spirit caught.
Personally, I love corporate worship. I enjoy spending time with Him amongst fellow believers. I look forward every weekend not only to the teaching of the Word, but the language of worship through singing.
And I love Christmas carols.
So when this time of the year comes around, I relish putting together two activities I absolutely crave: worship, and singing Christmas carols. Though I’ve been singing these carols for a long time, I still think about the lyrics. I marvel at the miracle of the impossibility of the eternal God willingly, lovingly, squeezing Himself into the infinitesimally tiny shell of a newborn baby’s skin and subjecting Himself to the imperfect humans He created. Corporate worship during this season involves fully engaging in the eternal, corporate song of gratefulness for His descent to earth.
3. Giving & serving. Typically giving goes up during the holidays, not just because of Christmas gifts, but because people want more tax deductions and they cram it all into the end of the year. Churches and non-profits know this and bombard the airwaves and social media with calls for you to pour your tax-deductible gifts on them. Sometimes Christians who are single, and especially if they do not have children, tend to become a little stingier with their money and noncommittal with their time.
How about you give something that you won’t get a tax deduction for? Allow some measure of generosity to bless your soul by blessing others. So many individuals, families, and groups all around us need our love, help, and tangible support. Now is a great time to reassess all the resources the Lord has given you for both now and the new year and seek His face to clarify how He would want you involved. Whatever has been strongly drawing your attention might be a sphere of ministry for you to seriously consider.
4. Inviting. Just like Andrew invited his brother Peter to meet the Lord, so you can invite people to activities. These include church services, Bible studies, Sunday School, special events, caroling, serving the community, private Christmas parties.
Here’s a scary one: How about your inviting them to meet the most important part of the holiday: the Lord Himself? If sharing the gospel is intimidating (you may be thinking, “I’ve never led anyone to the Lord!” or “that’s for people who are outgoing” or “that’s for preachers and people with the gift of evangelism”), pray about it. Repent about being fearful of sharing the gospel and allowing the devil to intimidate you from sharing. And learn the Romans road or drawing the bridge or other mechanism to share the gospel. I’ve done it several times and I am not an extrovert at heart; nor do I have the gift of evangelism. Practice helps ease the fear factor. For an explanation of either, see these links: https://www.teenmissions.org/resources/roman-road-to-salvation/ or https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJ-_XazuzQAhUCj1QKHaxCC0gQFgggMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.extendgrace.org%2FPDF%2Fspiritual%2520conversation%2520tools.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHD2wijTnTUHQPXM64nIaw927owbQ .
5. Silence & resting. This might be more comfortable for us introverts! Silence and resting involves pulling both your body & soul (mind, will & emotions) back, away from all the noise and activity, and experiencing the silence that results in peace and rest. Isaiah 30:15 AMP says, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength.”
Stillness is awkward for most of us, especially during this time of the year. After some “good’ worship songs at church, when the solemnity of Christ’s holiness begins to descend on us, we clap like we’re at a concert. We don’t like it when we drive or are hanging around the house and it’s really quiet. We like to put on the TV, music or radio. Yet it’s good to set apart some time so that we can enjoy some stillness. It allows the Spirit of God a few minutes to poke His way into our hearts like a happy pet or child who’s been waiting for us to come home so they curl up under our armpits. Let the Spirit of God curl up in joyfulness inside your soul.
6. Reading & reflecting. Any good, godly book, but especially the Bible, is the perfect thing to read slowly and reflect through this season. I’m slowly reading a book recommended by one of our worship pastors (I did a review of it, see the sidebar next to my blog) this month. And for part of my devotion, I am slowly reading through the original Christmas story in the first two chapters of Luke and Matthew. I love reading and studying the Bible, and rereading the historical account of Christ’s birth increases my appreciation of what He did for me.
7. Creating & crafting. Food, crafts, decorations, singing or playing music, hosting events, ideas… whatever you create with your own hands is precious to family and friends. Using your natural gifts and talents for the Lord and for others is a wonderful way to worship Him.
8. Developing and dedicating a new or formerly used talent or skill. Have you thought about taking up guitar or piano lessons, or brushing up on your oil painting? How about reviving your mechanical repair or horseback riding or airplane piloting abilities, or learning to woodwork or quilt? That little drummer boy almost always makes me cry as I identify with him when he gives the only thing he has to offer a king: his little kid drumming talent. Here’s a challenge: developing and dedicating a new or old, unused talent or skill to Him as a form of worship.
This year, I revived my writing skills and have already dedicated any future successes and glory to God. It’s fun to see what and who the Lord brings into my life as I continue to move forward in faith, obedience, and character building. When I flow in my gifts and develop them, whether natural or spiritual, I sense His joy and pleasure ebbing and flowing through me. I get a similar sense of God’s glory as did Olympic medalist turned missionary, Eric Liddell, when he said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
9. Cleaning up. Now here is one that challenges me: cleaning up my messes from this year! Accumulated mail that needs to be sorted and shredded, my storage unit that needs the same, my wardrobe that I need to go through and pull clothes I haven’t worn in over two years so I can get them donated…
Cleaning up is an act of worship because you are tending to the resources entrusted in your care by the Lord. And He wants you to make room for what He wants to bring into your life, not all your junk or mine. I have already started. I don’t want to carry my old junk into the new year or wait for “spring cleaning.” I want to go into the new year with a clean room & car… Which leads to the last but possibly biggest act of worship on today’s list.
10. Repentance. Bringing Him your failures, your heart, your hopes and expectations and sins–indeed, everything that you are–is one of the greatest acts of worship you can engage in this Christmas season. Because when you do, you are giving Him yourself.
I am continually renewing my commitment to Him and giving myself back to Him. Not through decisions at altar calls, but in a growing heart stance of humble repentance, as I forsake this attitude and that sin and all those words I shouldn’t have said.
You are the best gift you could give Him. He is pleased and joyful when we come to Him on His terms and allow Him to really take over our lives, our characters, our attitudes, our values. Everything.
This is repentance: making an 180-degree turn and going the opposite direction; having a complete change in attitude. Admitting He is God and we are not. And that is the very best thing you could give Him, my friend.
If you are holding back something from Him, whether from fear or from anger, release it to Him today. Relieve yourself from being the incomplete god of your own making in your own universe.
Slow down this Christmas season and worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
O come let us adore Him
Extendgrace.org. Spiritual conversion tools.
Teen Missions International. Roman road to salvation. https://www.teenmissions.org/resources/roman-road-to-salvation/