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Paying attention…

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This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it Psalm 118:24

This verse from Psalm is a favorite for many Christians. But there are some typical days during the year that, no matter how hard we try, we cannot muster a sense of rejoicing. During the Christmas season, rejoicing comes easier. This season is the rejoicing season. We were given the greatest gift of all. We were given God’s Son here on earth who would take away our sins and certain eternal death. We are reminded of this wonderful gift by the many decorations and festivities around us.

There is definitely something different about the weeks before Christmas, or the season we know as the advent. There will be plenty of chaos, rushing around, last minute deadlines, attending events, and planning of gatherings. Families work hard to be certain that celebrations and traditions are maintained. Churches hold more services and meetings than the rest of the year. There is an abundance of activity.

Yet, with all of the expected hustle and bustle, somehow we have unusually warm and happy feelings during this time before Christmas. We observe with great pleasure the twinkling lights on trees, houses with nativity scenes, and Santas in the yards. We treasure the warmth of fire places. We inhale the delightful smells of cakes, pies, sugar cookies and other seasonal creations.   We sing carols with gladness in our hearts. Maybe we even make an extra effort to attend church activities and services.

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We hear phrases such as “keep Christmas in your heart year round” or “be as generous through all of the year as you are in the Christmas season”. It makes us wonder, “Why do we have difficulty transferring these feelings to other times of the year?”  If we are capable of sensing the love and joy for three or four weeks of the year, shouldn’t we be able to do so any week of the year? Or ALL weeks of the year? What happens after December that prevents Christians from loving in the same way during the other eleven months? Do our hearts just freeze up? Are our hearts hardened after Jan. 1?

Maybe it is because we stop paying attention to others; to strangers; to situations and circumstances. Instead, we focus back on our own small worlds, our work, our own immediate needs. We prioritize, schedule, and plan activities that are centered on our own wants and respond to imposed demands on our time and energy. We no longer feel we are in the driver’s seat. We begin to feel that we are just reacting to the other forces of our life. We lose the warmth and love we felt and extended to others during the holidays. We take our eye off God, off of Christ, and turn inward.

This year, with each gathering, with each service, with each warm encounter with others, imagine holding on to the feeling for weeks or months. Is it possible to internalize the warmth and love for others and keep it there? Jesus commanded that we love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Is it possible to memorize the emotion? To maintain the love toward others? To celebrate life and be thankful for blessings all of the year? Paul instructed the people of Corinth to do just that. He reminded these new believers that no matter what they did, it was all for the glory of God. He instructed the people of Philippi to always rejoice in the Lord. By rejoicing and living our lives to the glory of God and loving others as Jesus instructed us to do, we can move toward maintaining the Christmas spirit during all of the days of the year.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:31

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice Philippians 4:4

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