Saturday, November 21, 2009

WARNING: Holidays Just Ahead!

The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down in front of the Lord and was listening to what he said. Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!"
The Lord answered, "Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her."
(Luke 10:38-42, CEV)

Most of us are familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving celebration in America. The early settlers, besieged by starvation and cold had much to be grateful for when Native Americans assisted them in their survival. Recognizing such, President Abraham Lincoln instituted the national holiday in 1863.

Today, we find ourselves consumed by stress as the holidays come upon us. There's the housecleaning, the grocery shopping, the food preparation. If you have a child with a special need, add to that the dietary, behavioral, and medical treatment concerns that are inevitable this time of year. And then there's that pervasive prospect of spending time with relatives who stretch our patience and love. The day after we've consumed mass quantities of turkey and all its accompaniments, we launch into the frenzy of the Christmas season. Surely this isn't how the holidays were meant to be observed!

Look back to Deuteronomy 16:13-17 to see the first formal Thanksgiving celebration established by God himself. The focus is completely on joy birthed by a recognition of the blessings granted by the Lord each year. There is a sharing of gifts that occurs in proportion to the blessings received.

How far we are from the heart of God in our celebrating! If we are truthful with ourselves, we are more like Martha, consumed and irritated by the preparations, than we are like Mary, keeping the main thing the main thing.

What if this holiday season we let all the noise and chaos fall by the wayside and instead, focused our eyes on the Author & Perfecter of our faith? In doing my homework for this entry, I found the word "blessed" 222 times and "blessings" 89 times in the Bible translation I examined. There is enough to make any person feel fortunate! Even in our darkest times, we have so much to be thankful for. The Bible lists things like children, perseverance, fear of the Lord (or as I call it, awe), forgiveness, obedience and discipline as blessings that we may not ordinarily consider. God tells us in His word that He has poured out "one blessing after another" (John 1:16) and "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). How our joy would increase during the holidays if we would only slow down and turn our hearts and eyes towards those lavish gifts!

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, pray with me that Jesus would calm us, focus our eyes on the good graces all around us, and foster a deep sense of recognition that our very lives have been spared! Before we throw ourselves into yet another time of obsessing with the preparations rather than THE Reason for the celebrating, may our Savior pour into us more humility, appreciation and joy that comes from having our priorities straight!

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