Thursday, December 8, 2016

If You Don't Hate Christmas Yet...

Photo Courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

If anyone comes to me and does not hate their father and mother, 
wife and children, brothers and sisters
--yes, even their own life--
such a person cannot be my disciple. 
Luke 14:26, NIV

I know, I know...this doesn't SOUND like the start to a post about Christmas-but it's a message that God has been giving me repeatedly in the past week.

It READS as though it's a message of hate...
It READS as though it's contradictory to a commandment about honoring your father and mother...

What it really IS, however, is a statement about how much we have to GIVE UP in order to BE a Christ-follower.  

However much we love our family- We need to love God more.
However much we love our pets-  We need to love God more.
However much we love our job-  We need to love God more.

We need to love God MORE.
We need to love God MORE.
We need to love God MORE.

This is the repeated message that God is delivering to me this holiday season.  Whatever I love in my life, I must love God more.

It takes me back to our decision to move from Wisconsin to Nevada.  The opportunity had arisen, and yet there was much fear and sadness at the thought of moving 1800 miles away from our friends and family, not to mention the doctors and therapists we had learned with and grown with in our journey of our daughter's rare disease.  We were going to have to teach all new doctors about WAGR syndrome!

And what about the friends our daughter had?  It was scary to think about moving to a new place where she would be stared at and possibly made fun of for her differences.  The friends she had in Wisconsin, she had since she was 3 years old.  We couldn't help but wonder, would we find new friends in Nevada?

Ultimately, we decided that this was God's move.  If we held back because of friends, family, doctors, teachers, therapists, or anyone or anything else which was tied to the "fear" of moving...then we were saying that THEY were bigger than God.   But, we needed to "take up our cross and follow Him."  When you step out in faith like that, the journey might be difficult, but it is always blessed.
What does this mean for Christmas?
This means doing whatever we need to in order to keep God at the center of Christmas.

During this time of Advent, what are your biggest distractions? Christmas cards? TV? Parties? Shopping?
Whatever might distract you from the reason that we actually CELEBRATE Christmas...give it to God.
If it's Facebook, take it off your phone or suspend your account, then carry a pocket devotional with you or use a devotional app that can be opened up anytime you would NORMALLY be on Facebook. (Don't tell me you GET your devotionals on Facebook...I've used that excuse too...but that doesn't stop you from getting sucked into the newsfeed for another 30 minutes...find a NEW devotional).

Instead of decorating an ENORMOUS tree, decorate a smaller tree and use the left over time to enjoy some Christmas Carols on the radio and hot chocolate with family or friends.

Instead of putting up outdoor lights, just enjoy the lights that others put up...then you can dedicate that afternoon or evening you would have spent putting up your lights helping to serve food at a homeless shelter, or taking your kids sledding.

The fact of the matter is, WE ARE TO LOVE GOD MORE than CHRISTMAS. That's why God still allows terrible things to happen on and around Christmas.
Deaths, accidents, cancer, fires, shootings...
Christmas is not immune from its pain and from its trials and that's because God wants us to HATE Christmas and LOVE Him.

So, if you find yourself feeling conflicted this holiday season, that's okay! God would like all of us to go through a Christmas or two where we find ourselves relying on nothing more than HIM to bring us joy...because that's what He gave us as the number one commandment:
You shall have no other gods before me. 
Exodus 20:3 NIV 
No Christmas pageant, present, cookie or carol should be more important to us than God himself. No family gathering, no family tradition, and no family photo should be the purpose of our plans.

I guess you could look at the words Jesus spoke in Luke and imagine him saying, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate Christmas, such a person cannot be my disciple."

Pray:  Heavenly Father, Christmas is a sacred time, yet you have shown us year after year that even you won't set it aside as a time that is completely free from heartache. That is your way of reminding us that our world is lost without you and that our joy can only be complete in you. God, as I try to control my stress in this season, help me to remember that I'm to love you MORE than anything else in my life and that fact alone can help ease the anxiety that rises up in me. Bless us all as we try to LOVE YOU MORE. Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

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