Prioritizing Christ This Holiday Season

I feel a little off balance this holiday season.
Memories are still so fresh in my heart and mind of the simplicity that is the forced daily reality for so many in other parts of the world. How does one reconcile watching a child being given a pair of second hand shoes that thrill him to the core of his being because he doesn’t own sneakers with the busy-ness, the commercialism, and the details that exist on this side of the world?

It’s not that they have all the priorities in order. There is a lack of opportunity but not a lack of desire for more things. I saw 1/4 of a monthly paycheck be put towards an outfit that was a want, not a need. I could go on listing the ways I saw money being spent on desires rather than needs – leaving those in a bind when needs arose – but my point isn’t to criticize how money was spent. If anything, we can all empathize with misspent priorities. We all struggle with priorities.

And I feel it more keenly this holiday season as I teeter a little bit between two worlds.

One of our boys asked us this week about some of the poverty he had seen overseas and commented about how those with more must live with so much guilt. That was a precious conversation, not because we are anywhere close to having figured out the answers and nuances, but because the conversation was a balm to my conflicted heart. We talked about the freedom we have in Christ, how we aren’t to live in guilt, and that the Holy Spirit who lives within us gives us wisdom and discernment to deal with the situations we find ourselves in. And we talked of the example Paul set when he talks in 1 Corinthians of being all things to all men. He says in chapter 10 verse 33;

“… not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

There are those with significantly more and there are those with significantly less. But the priority needs to always be Christ.

In John we have the story of Mary bringing expensive perfume to pour out on Jesus’ feet as an act of worship. When Judas selfishly mentions that the money could go to the poor Jesus says;

“For the poor you always have with you,  but you do not always have me.”

While Judas’ motives for the money going to the poor was so that he could help himself to the money, Jesus addresses a true heart issue for us all – how often do we want to serve the poor but not serve our Lord and Master?
There will always be the poor for us to show kindness to, but of far greater importance is that we worship the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a little harder of a pill to swallow, isn’t it? It’s not as neat and tidy of a checkbox to check off. Of course it will include taking care of the poor and the widowed and the orphan. Prioritizing Christ is so much more than that.

Romans 12:1 puts it this way;

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

So how does prioritizing Christ this holiday season play out in our lives? What does that look like?

There is so much good that we can choose; but good doesn’t mean it is right.
Good doesn’t mean we need to choose it.
There is good – but then there is better and best. That which could appear good, without any intention of it being anything but that, can turn bad. Too much good can rob us of the enjoyment of peace and rest and reflection.

Certainly our purpose is not to do every good opportunity that arises and leave us in the quiet moments of our home, away from watchful eyes, exhausted, burnt out and snapping at our children.

Our purpose is not to buy that perfect gift for each dear loved one, and come January face a credit card bill we aren’t quite able to handle.

Our purpose is not to appear to be the perfect hostess, with perfectly coordinated everything, and yet become frazzled, or even undone, should those who live in our home with us need us for something.

How we prioritize Christ this holiday season will play out in the quiet moments of our homes, in the moments when little eyes watch to see if that which we do matches with that which we speak.
Those little ones, they hear us with their eyes. And they don’t miss anything.

If I tell them with my words that; “This holiday season is a celebration and remembrance of the Lord Jesus coming to earth for us!” And yet with my actions I wear myself, and my family, to a state of exhaustion doing all the good things and then in the privacy of my home become the Nightmare-Before-Christmas – what will my children walk away having really heard?

As Christ followers our purpose is to honor and glorify Him in all we do, and prioritizing Christ through the holiday season should be easy to do – after all, it is His coming to earth and His birth we celebrate. But the good so often distracts us from Christ.
Maybe we need a little bit of  thought and planning for our holiday season to help us keep Christ first during the very season we are celebrating Him.

How we play this out in the rhythm of our homes will be as unique as each of us – the beauty of the body of Christ. Some have more money to spend, others more time. Some were created to organize events, others to just open the doors and let people into their crazy, and still others to encourage and nurture in quieter ways.

Our purpose is united – to honor Him – but our beings are unique, and the playing out of this is unique.
The obligations and invitations and expectations … those things need to be examined where they fall – the good, the better, or the best for this particular season, with the priority being Christ glorified through our choices.
I love the honesty in this quote from Sally Clarkson;

My aspirations and what I can idealize often times far exceeds my ability to live up to them in reality. Yet it is in being able to visualize the dreams of my heart and beauty of God’s design that I have found a standard of maturity to move toward.

Visualize the dreams of my heart and beauty of God’s design – prioritizing. Finding a goal to move towards rather than being swept off our feet unexpectedly in the midst of all the good.

I have through the years considered four questions at the brink of each new season and I find this to be particularly helpful during the busyness of the Christmas season; to be purposing ahead through the holidays what I want for our family rather than getting lost in the midst of the hectic. We cannot do everything. Our season will not look like everyone else’s. And these four questions really help me to keep on track.

Four things we can consider this season to help keep our purpose and our sanity over the next few weeks ::

1. Describe my ideal Christmas season. What does this look like for me and my family?

2. List the challenges I can think of that might stand in the way of the ideal and ways to deal with those challenges.

3. List what activities and traditions are essential to my family this holiday.

4. Consider, how can I show hospitality and Christ’s love to others? Make a list of ideas and how to implement the ideas.

Defining and planning on how our purpose will uniquely play out in our homes will create a solid framework for living intentionally and letting the good opportunities pass us by without guilt.

In Christmas seasons past I have enjoyed reading from  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus  throughout the Christmas season. This is a favorite quote from the book;

“…and let me beseech you to strive to love, fear, honor and obey Him, more then ever you have done yet; let not the devil engross your time, and that dear Savior who came into the world on your accounts have so little. O be not so ungrateful to Him who has been so kind to you!”
– George Whitefield

If all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ prioritized Him this holiday season the world would have the sweetest gift as they would bear witness to His love and power in the life of ordinary people. Praying that we all consider prioritizing Christ this holiday our chiefest aim.

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