What are you focused on this Christmas? Reading in Luke 2:17-20, we find the shepherds focusing on spreading the word when they saw Baby Jesus. They glorified and praised God for all the things they had seen and heard. They celebrated the birthday of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords with exceedingly great joy. Do we focus and celebrate in like fashion?
Celebrating Christmas with love for Jesus in our hearts, reverence for God in our way of living, and guidance from the Holy Spirit helps keep our focus in check. The shepherds’ journeys of faith are like yours or mine. They heard the call and followed in faith with a focus on sharing the good news wherever they went. Leaving their fields on high (long, long ago) to spread the good news of Jesus took courage. Yet, they listened, left safe perimeters, and led people to Jesus with joy and wonder in their hearts.
Are we listening and leading people to Jesus in a spirit of love and admiration for God – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Have we been hurt or hindered along the way by “stuff” that can change our focus and distance us from the Lord and loved ones? Are we willing to leave the past behind, enjoy the present, and step forward in faith to glorify and praise God for ALL things? These tough questions cause us to look inward and seek Him as Wise Men did long ago. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and abiding in Him are gifts that please our heavenly Father and give wisdom for our journeys. Are we living wisely and giving gifts that please God?
This story stirred as the holiday season crept closer with putting up our Christmas tree not on my list. The two trees that brought James and me so much joy last year were stored away, like many precious memories that danced in my mind. When thoughts of skipping the holidays surfaced, I heeded the message on a plaque in my prayer room my son, Cameron, gave me recently
When it’s hardest to Pray – Pray the hardest!
And I did, have been doing, will do, can do, try to do, constantly do… pray for God to heal and help (not only me) but all people seeking Him for guidance and guts to “Share His Love story in our lives” and His good news joyfully – as did the shepherds – wherever He leads. Our journeys may be difficult but Jesus walks and talks with us every step of the way when we praise Him through all things…the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Blaming God, others, even ourselves for unfortunate situations steals joy in all seasons. Blessings come when we are willing to step out of the boat and walk in faith believing God can bring good from bad and blessings from burdens. We cannot avoid pitfalls and predicaments, but an intimate relationship with Jesus and strong faith in God ensure peace and promise… for all things are possible as we journey on and keep writing love stories that proclaim…Happily Ever After endings.
His answers to prayers hit home and heal hearts. Deciding no tree this year seemed right until memories of my mother refusing to have a tree the year my step-father passed away surfaced. Her sadness and sullen spirit during the Holy season of love settled in her heart and home, so I decided to take things into my own hands without consulting my mother or praying for direction.
I bought a live tree, gathered decorations, and over the road to grandmother’s house my family did go. The boys helped me lug it inside her front door and decorate it while Tim talked with mother in the den. With good deed done, we called mother into her living room for the grand lighting of the tree she didn’t want. What we meant for good went bad the minute she laid eyes on the beautiful tree. Tears flowed, she fumed, and the tree finally came tumbling down like Humpty Dumpty and ended up back inside Tim’s El Camino. All our efforts and good intentions couldn’t put the pieces of Mama’s broken heart back together again. With Tim saying, “Becky, dear, I told you so,” our sons in utter confusion, mother feeling worse than ever, and me wondering what went wrong and why my mother couldn’t just be happy…I felt regret and remorse all wrapped up in one pitiful package. It took time to process and put it in God’s hands. My hurt from being unable to help the most wonderful mother in the whole wide world needed healing also. Finally, I realized only God could fix things and mother needed for her children to honor her grieving season (even being sad at Christmas) and give her space for Him to heal her heart. And in His timing, He did just that!
Next week, I will share the rest of the story about my decision not to put up our two Christmas trees this year. Until then, may your celebrations include Christ and your decisions to help others be preceded with prayers. While waiting, let us pay attention to His still, small voice (the Helper promised) and stay close to Jesus who puts all things in proper perspective and can do miracles in the midst of mayhem.
Let us all stay focused on the real reason for this happy, holy, hallelujah season of LOVE, share the good news – joyfully – wherever we go, and pray for peace, happiness, and honor for God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to fill the hearts of all His children – red, and yellow, black and white – who are precious in His sight. And He can…but we must make the choice to accept and abide in HIM…especially in this sacred season of love!
Becky Spell Vann is a long-time columnist for the Sampson Independent’s Faith & Family section and owner of the outreach ministry Tim’s Gift.