This Christmas I have learned some very valuable lessons that I don’t believe I would’ve learned had I not been homeless for three months with my family of five. I’m grateful for this season of homelessness. It’s taught us to cling to Jesus, to need (and want) less stuff and to focus on the truth. The Gospel becomes a whole lot more important when it’s all you’ve got. You start to realize: it’s all you need.
Children need to hear, see and experience the Gospel. They need to act out the Nativity even if they don’t seem to “get it” right away. You’re planting seeds in childhood and they’ll bloom the more you tend to them.
We each have our own family gardens to plant, tend and reap from. We can enjoy each other’s gardens, we can tend them for short periods of time, but we have to be careful of planting foreign seeds in them. A dangerous statement for sure. Christ is the ultimate gardener. He and His ways should always be found in every garden, but the ways of the world should be cut, cultivated out.
I mistakenly allowed the ways of the world to enter into our Christmas celebrations and I saw greed, discord, discontent and willful disobedience…to name a few. I understand that no harm was meant by those who gave gifts, yet…more joy was had by those receiving none.
The Spirit of Christmas is not giving. It’s receiving the Christ child into our hearts and growing in faith. It’s understanding that from His very birth, Jesus was destined to serve us and then die. As harsh as that may sound, that is the true spirit of Christmas. Satan does such a great job of convincing us otherwise, doesn’t he? We all got caught up in one way or another and we have, over the years done so much harm to our little ones in teaching about Christmas. We must retrain them. We have to stop right now with Samaritans Purse, Toys for Tots, giving trees and all other like-minded programs. These are great for other times of the year, but at Christmas, we need to celebrate the season of receiving. No gift placed underneath a tree can ever do that for us no matter how deep in poverty we may be. Only Jesus can truly lift us up and give us hope. Only Jesus can save us from ourselves, from our circumstances, from our sin. Only Jesus can redeem us. Toys are just clutter that are soon broken and forgotten. We can mess with those throughout the rest of the year. December 25th is for Christ and Christ alone.
Join me in taking back Christmas. Resolve to give freely throughout the year. Shower our family, friends and neighbors with gifts and fulfill their needs as Christ calls us to do. Then, during Advent next year, slow down. Stay away from the stores, resolve not to give (commercially) but to receive. Receive Christ. Celebrate His birth, life, death and resurrection. Await His coming. Tell it on the mountains and everywhere! JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!
I had the opportunity – and took it – to pray for a troubled teen tonight. I’d never met this kid before and I don’t know his whole story, but I do know his entire demeanor changed dramatically following the prayer. He had no idea I’d prayed for him but I know. I know somehow God spoke to him.
I’ve been on a mission lately to privately pray for people and watch to see what happens. It’s amazing. Some people become increasingly hostile. They’re not interested in anything God’s doing. Other people change almost instantly – they’re subdued, quiet, thoughtful.
I wrote some scripture on my van windows about two months ago. I wanted to see how people would react to it. Most vehicles cut off mini vans. I wondered how or if that might change if other drivers perceived there’s a bunch of Christians inside. I figured I’d be made fun of more than anything. I really wasn’t prepared for the responses I received. On the first weekend, I was approached by at least five people thanking me for the message of hope. By the end of the following week, it was at least a dozen more folks. The following week I changed the message, adding more scripture. As I was driving, people honked, gave thumbs up. One lady honked at me as we drove down main street. I turned to see who’d honked and I burst into tears. She had a series of oxygen tubes and looked like she was battling cancer. She needed hope and she received it from the message on my windows. I hope she kicks cancer’s butt.
I have had one negative reaction. One person wrote me a note telling me they liked my message but I needed to speak to people directly. Seeing the message alone doesn’t save anyone, they stated. I tend to agree. That’s why I do talk to people, but there’s no way a stranger who leaves anonymous notes could ever know that.
It’s been interesting to see the outcome of these experiments. The world needs Grace and quite frankly, the outcome of privately spreading the Word isn’t that different than publicly doing it. People are still affected, still changed. The pace is different, sure. God gets full glory in secret. That’s always a great thing. Bottom line- just get out there and spread the Word. Pray for people. Stop judging folks and just commit to praying for them. You don’t know their story and you can’t see their battle, but God sees and God knows. He’ll sort it all out. Just trust Him and commit to praying for each person you meet. Even if you don’t see a change in them, God is changing YOU.