Let me offer six quick words to help us ready ourselves to celebrate Christ’s birth.
(1) Anticipate. It’s human and helpful to hope. We long for what’s not yet. We see a future that is coming. Anticipation is wrapped up in our belief that God is up to something. Christmas is a time to strain forward; today is not all there is. Christ came to earth as a baby, he will come again as the Redeemer and Judge of all things!
(2) Discipline. The way our culture does Christmas is EXCESS: more music, more food, more drink, more presents. More, more, more. As people of the Cross who anticipate a future “more”, let us be counter-cultural in our disciplined lives. More is not gain; godliness with contentment is great gain (Paul says this in 1 Timothy 6). This means knowing our limits and living into them (dollar limits to spend on gifts, calorie limits at feasting, time limits if we just can’t make every get-together, etc.). Just like a backyard fence brings freedom for a toddler, so discipline brings freedom for us all.
(3) Vision & Perspective. The pressure of others can lead us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t. Don’t lose perspective. Be who God made you to be, and live where God called you to live. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones, or make up for last year, or spend a ‘coming bonus’. Have a clear-eyed vision of where God has you & why.
(4) Encouragement. When was the last time you allowed God to encourage you? To build you up? Ponder: God sent his Son, born to a peasant, and laid in a manger… to “save his people from their sins.” Be encouraged: God is for you. He loves you. He set his love on you before you knew he was there! Repeatedly let the gift in the Manger be the encouragement of God in your heart.
(5) Nativity. This is the center of the whole season, the climax of everything in December. It’s all for naught if we forget the nativity. Refresh yourself with the Story of Christmas (Luke 1-2, Matthew 1-2). Rejoice in the ‘invasion’ from eternity, and the reclaiming of his fallen world by its rightful owner and king. All of this begun as a baby asleep on the hay! Our Christmas season will never be centered if the Nativity is not in the center of it!
(6) Trust. All of life is trust. We trust the chair we sit in, the car we drive in, the plane we board to visit relatives. We trust our boss to pay us, our bank to release the funds, our mortgage company to reduce our loan. We trust our friends to help us, our church body to love us, our government to maintain the peace. All of life is trust. Why? Because that’s the only way we can relate to God.
Anticipation, Discipline, Vision, Encouragement, Nativity, Trust. A six-fold orientation us in these December days. You might have noticed they spell ADVENT. I trust you can use them to be a pilgrim through Advent on the way to December 25, and not a passenger carried along by the world!
“Unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” Amen and Amen.