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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Home for Christmas

David W. Argue
Dec. 16, 2012

Christmas simply dazzles.

The stores, decorations, parades, pageants, holiday foods. All of this and so much more make it a wonderful time of the year. No “humbugs” about it … Christmas dazzles.

Most of all, the celebration of the coming of Jesus — God in tiny form, yet the Savior of the world — puts it all over the top.

As a child, I remember breathlessly following the endless string leading from a branch of the Christmas tree to the biggest gift, hidden somewhere out of sight. My parents did this on Christmas Eve, after they put me to bed. I could never get to sleep, aware that downstairs in the living room the sounds faintly heard were that of my parents wrapping the big surprises, stringing strings, and preparing everything for Christmas morning.

As a college student, I remember the red-eyed, nonstop all-nighters, as we raced to get home* — Missouri to Toronto. Oh yes, and the year I didn’t get to go home. And the year that it just snowed and snowed, making travel so impossible.

As a widower, I’ve known what it means to not look forward to Christmas, trying to be happy when your best friend is gone. The decorations seem to jest in reminder of things that have suddenly disappeared.

Christmas. It can be a season of great, contrasting emotions. Ups, downs, and within us all — placed there by God — a hunger to get “home.”*

In our communities and churches there are many for whom this season represents a huge challenge … those who are without family, those who are without work. Those who are struggling for health and energy. Those who are stationed overseas. Those who are elderly, or single parents. Those who are in prison. They live desperately in what is supposed to be a merry season. Joy? “Home”?

Look around you. Can you see people who will struggle during this season to get “home”?

The honest, reality-anchored truth is that in Jesus, no matter our circumstances, there are ways to make sure we all get “home” for Christmas.

And here are three key components to that sure pathway.

First, invest some focused time this way. Invite Jesus to be fully with you each day.

Here is a simple prayer you can pray right now:

 “Jesus, I thank You for coming to this earth, a vulnerable baby, approachable, gentle, humble. I invite You to come into my Christmas, with Your gentle grace and kindness. Forgive me where I have sinned, and place Your presence within me to lead me through this time in my life. Help me to experience true joy and to pass that joy on to others. Thank You for hearing me right now as I pray this prayer in Your name. Amen.”

Anytime in the next few weeks that the seasonal frenzy starts to wear you thin, go back to this first step and pray a prayer like this again and again.

This is the first component that makes for being “home” for Christmas: living in His presence and giving Him your heart.

The Jesus way of life is often upside down from our thinking.

For instance, Jesus presented this incredible discovery and life principle this way: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, ESV).

From this principle comes this second component: The pathway to deepest joy comes through giving.

Great happiness comes through giving to others, rather than receiving from them. This principle is true in every season, and especially at Christmas.

Don’t let the seasonal drain on resources trip you up here and cause you to pull back, thinking this principle just can’t work for you this year.

We all have so much to give without any consideration of finances: our time, our attention, our skills, our own treasures, our creativity, our kind words. What means the most is not the cost of something in dollars, but the meaning of something in the giving of one person to another.

The kind of giving depicted on Christmas cards pushes us toward the lavish — “gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

But the shepherds who came first brought their love, simple grace, time, honor. It was their way of saying, “We love You.”

Just days ago one of my grandsons, Carson, age 6, appeared at our door, mother in tow. Holding out the other hand toward me, he said, “Gramps, I got this for you today.” In his hand, a shiny copper 1942 English farthing (penny). On one side, a bird, and the other, royalty.

He had been on a first-grade class outing to the Denver mint, and was given this coin as a souvenir. Looking at the bird, a wren etched on the coin, he thought about me. (You might have guessed I am a bird watcher.) Tears blinked back as I received this most loving gift, which sits prominently on my desk and will be treasured always.

The third component to getting “home” for Christmas is this: Do what God prompts you to do to bring joy to others.

The first Christmas cast of Joseph and Mary typifies people from every culture and race.

They were young, awkward, far from home, needy, vulnerable, friendless and fearful, and uncertain of the future.

Just like so many people whose lives unfold around us this Christmas.

They are in the aisles when we shop, sitting in the coffee shops alone, near us in proximity, but in another world emotionally — a world that is fearful and seems unmanageable. You can see it in their eyes, and posture, and pace.

They are around all of us. Do we see them? Do we respond to them?

Make this season one of listening for the prompts of God’s Spirit to bless others in Jesus’ name … and help them, even just a little, to get closer to “home.”

For my wife, Jackie, Christmas was filled with real dread some years ago. Having lost her husband in a car accident, she was trying to function in the working world while being a single parent to three young children — and living far away from any immediate family.

Nothing came easy. And Christmas was coming. She contemplated it without joy.

And then, God nudged some people in her church family and they conspired to bring her gifts, one each day during the “12 days of Christmas.” Festive gifts began arriving on the front steps at unusual times of day, and without announcement. Fine gifts, beautiful gifts, playful gifts. And soon the children began a game to see if they could discover who was attached to the sounds of running feet.

The house had become a scene of celebration, a place of joy and love. Christmas had again become a time for the surprises of grace.

And who were these joy-givers? It was discovered later that they received overwhelming joy, watching from a hiding place to see the looks on the faces of children who happily received the gifts they had been given.

It works that way when Jesus and Christmas come together.

Getting “home” for Christmas … there are three sure pathways:

1. Invite Jesus to be fully and tangibly present with you each day.

2. Own the truth that the pathway to deepest joy is in giving.

3. Take advantage of God moments, opportunities to bring joy to others.

The highway “home” has never been on a map. It is through the heart that loves, Jesus’ way.

May this be a Jesus-filled and truly joyful Christmas for you.

* Home (without quotations) in this article refers to the place of our family dwelling. When “home” is in quotations, it refers to the well-being and joy that comes when Jesus sends His Spirit to live in us and we follow His pathway.

DAVID W. ARGUE is a former Assemblies of God executive presbyter and an author, ministry coach, and pastor-at-large living in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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