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How To Keep Christ In Christmas & Joy In Your Life

Keep Christ In ChristmasA daycare teacher in Stone Mountain, GA was reading the story of Jesus’ birth to her children one morning. As usual, she stopped to see if they understood.
“What do we call the three wise men?” she asked.
“The three maggots,” replied one bright 5-year-old.
“What gift did the Magi bring baby Jesus?” she corrected.
“Gold, Frankensteins and smurfs!” the same 5-year-old replied.

Well, that little girl may have been a tad bit off in her understanding of the Christmas story…but let me ask you a question.

What do you think of when you hear the word Christmas? We’re talking “first thing that comes to your mind” type of thing.

For many it might be the modern customs of Christmas that include gift-giving, Christmas carols, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations like this one, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, and garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly.  In addition, many of our brains instantly conjure up images of that jolly old fat man in the red suit known by millions as Santa Claus.

But let me ask you this (and answer truthfully cause GOD knows if you’ve been bad or good)!  When I said the word Christmas, did any of your minds instantly think of worship?  I won’t ask for a show of hands, but I’m guessing most of you didn’t.

The word Christmas originated as a compound word meaning “Christ’s Mass”.  So as not to assume anything, let’s look at some definitions shall we?

Mass refers to celebration or adoration of God.  Adoration means an act of worship or profound love or regard.  And profound means “coming as if coming from the depths of one’s being” and also penetrating beyond what is superficial or obvious”.

So let’s look at Christmas in it’s literal meaning.  Based on the above meanings, the Koeppe abridged dictionary defines Christmas as a time when we should “celebrate and worship Christ by showing him love that comes from the depths of our soul or being and penetrates beyond what is superficial and obvious”.

How’s that for a definition of Christmas?  Does Christmas have any different meaning to you now?

As I asked God what I could leave you with in this post that might be lasting and meaningful, some of you may not be surprised that His response was to talk to you about authentic worship.

After all, what was the FIRST thing the Magi did after their long journey to find Jesus?  The worshiped Him.

Then they gave baby Jesus the Frankensteins and Smurfs!

But seriously, the Bible says that they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and “fell down and worshiped Him”.

We’ve all heard the well-meaning phrases that remind us where to focus our energy and attention during this season like “Jesus is the reason for the season” or “keep Christ in Christmas”.  These are great, simple reminders of what we ought to be doing during the Christmas season.  But after the guilt subsides, have you ever stopped and asked yourself HOW do we do this?

No doubt you’ve also heard some of the attempts at putting action to these ideas, such as:

  • donating toys as a family,
  • helping serve in a soup kitchen,
  • singing carols in a nursing home or
  • just reading the Christmas story from the bible in your home on Christmas eve or Christmas morning.

All of these are great suggestions but they all have one thing in common; they are all expressions of worship.

You see worship, as many of you know is much more than just the singing in church that happens before the message.  As many of you have heard me say several times, worship is a response to the love that God first showed us.  All of the above examples, when done in the right spirit are examples of God’s people worshiping Him.

So instead of JUST giving you more examples of things to DO during the Christmas season (although I will try to do that), I thought I’d share with you a passage of scripture that lays out a detailed blueprint of HOW to keep Christ in Christmas.  It’s a blueprint of how to worship God.  And as we see how to worship the Lord more authentically, I hope you’ll see that genuine worship is the only real way to keep Christ in Christmas and joy in your life!

Psalm 105 can be one of those passages that you read over quickly as I have done in the past and in doing so, miss most of the gold nuggets buried deep within it.

I don’t have nearly enough time to fully dig into and pull out all that you can from these simple, yet profound verses, so I encourage you to study these verses with a dictionary handy and really THINK about and meditate on their meaning in your quiet times with the Lord.  But I can at least get us started in the right direction here in this post.

So here we go:

Now there are a lot of verbs in this passage, so read it out loud if you’re able to right now.  If not, just read it silently and emphasize the verbs.  I’ve added emphasis on the verbs to make it easier for you, OK?  Here we go:

PSALM 105:1-5
1 GIVE THANKS to the LORD, CALL ON his name; MAKE KNOWN among the nations what he has done.
2 SING to him, SING PRAISE to him; TELL of all his wonderful acts.
3 GLORY in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD REJOICE.
4 LOOK to the LORD and his strength; SEEK his face always.
5 REMEMBER the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

Give Thanks

So let’s start with GIVE THANKS

Worship starts by saying “thank you” and so should Christmas.  Psalm 100:4   4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  As you thank God you begin to recognize who God is, not only in your life, but in all of Creation.

Thank Him for:

  1. Sending Jesus to be born into that lowly manger and stepping down from the light of heaven into the darkness of this world
  2. For humbly coming to the earth He created and becoming poor for love’s sake
  3. For paying the price we couldn’t pay by sending His perfect and only Son to die on that cross and loving us while we were still sinners
  4. For His mercy; for being naturally inclined or disposed toward mercy as we’re concerned.  For knowing us intimately and loving us anyway.
  5. For all the things He’s kept from you or kept you from.  Have you ever stopped to think about all the accidents and tragedy that He has kept from your life that you never even knew about?  In light of that, we ought to at least thank Him for the ones we DO know about!
  6. The list goes on and on…

ACTION STEPSThere’s a reason Thanksgiving comes before Christmas!  So the action step here is to:

  • Spend the month between the two holidays thanking God each and every day for something He’s done for you, to you, through you, in your life or in the life of others.

Call On His Name

Next we are to CALL ON HIS NAME.  What does it mean here to call on His name.  I found out it literally means to call forth; summon Him into your situation; call to mind by naming.  His name tells me who He is; his actions tell us what His character is and that reveals His name.  For example, God is a:

  1. Provider – you provided and now I call on you to provide for me
  2. Savior – you saved me and now I call on you now to save me
  3. Healer – physical, emotional and spiritual healing
  4. Comforter – peace that surpasses understanding

ACTION STEPS

  • So during Christmas (and really every day of your life but especially at Christmas get togethers and events) make sure you summon Him or call Him forth into your gathering, event or situation.
  • Bring Him into your family as you celebrate Christmas with all those traditions we spoke about.
  • Summon God into your family room when you put the tree up as a family (and don’t be a dork like me and let work or busyness keep you from doing this as a family…enough said on that one)
  • Call on His name as you gather with family for a special meal
  • Call Him forth as you read the Christmas story from the bible on Christmas morning BEFORE opening presents

MAKE KNOWN among the nations

Finishing up verse 1 it says to MAKE KNOWN among the nations what He has done.  This is simply your testimony; tell people what God has done for you.  And who should we be telling?  The nations, in other words this is not in the church, but the unsaved, the world, the nations.  I LOVE what 1 Peter 3:15 says…

1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
ACTION STEPS
Keeping Christ in Christmas is a heart thing.  It’s an attitude of the heart.  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Then it says ALWAYS be prepared to tell your story.  You can do this as you take some of the actions we mentioned before such as:

  • donating toys,
  • serving in the soup kitchen or
  • singing carols to the sick,

But you can also do this in your every day life.  Pray for more opportunities daily to share your hope, your story, your good news to someone who doesn’t know Christ!

SING to Him, SING PRAISE to Him

Verse 2 starts by telling us to SING to him, SING PRAISE to him;

Remember how I said to call on his name earlier meant to summon or call forth?  The word sing here means to sing forth; to send His praises into your situation.

There’s something powerful about singing into your situation that sends a weapon – think of it like an arrow or a bullet – directly into your situation and the just destroys the enemy.  I’m telling ya Satan hates this…

There are many examples we could give here, but when the people of Israel were facing a vast and overwhelming army, they sent the choir ahead of the army.  In 2 Chronicles 20 it says:

2 Chronicles 20
“the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” 22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies… to start fighting among themselves.”

The people never had to fight; enemy turned on themselves “at the very moment” they started to sing.

ACTION STEPS
So application here is easy. As those old familiar Christmas carols start popping up on your radio stations and in stores,

  • sing into your darkness,
  • sing into your sadness,
  • sing into your blessings
  • sing into your family
  • sing into your Christmas

NOTE: As a special note to anyone who might be suffering adversity during the holidays or has some painful memories that surface during this time of year, let me encourage you with this; praising God in times of adversity or great sadness makes the serpent swallow itself. You want to heap destruction and devastation on the enemy?

Praise God when you’re hurting.
Praise God when your sad.
Praise God when you’re at your lowest.
Praise God when you aren’t quite sure if you can take that next breath…take it and sing! God will give you another one.

Verse 2 ends by encouraging us to:

TELL of His wonderful acts

The word “tell” here means to talk with deep pondering.  Not just light conversation.  This is the kind of talk you have around the table with friends and family, or on long walks.

ACTION STEPS

  • Make it a part of your regular conversation
  • Write the word of God on the tablet of your heart and tell people of His amazing acts from the bible.
  • As you tell of His wonderful acts, it builds your faith and faith of those who hear it

Then look at verse 3 and how this next phrase starts…

GLORY in his holy name

What does it mean to glory in the lord?  I often read over “religious” sounding terms in the bible that I think I know the meaning of and then realize when I slow down that I have no idea what the true meaning of a passage is until I slow down and ask good questions. So what does it mean?

It means to boast; to boast in the name of the Lord.  Let your worth be found in who He is and who you are in Him.  Let’s look at what it says about this in Jeremiah 9.

Jeremiah 9:23, 24

23 Thus says the LORD: “ Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.

ACTION STEPS
So this Christmas when you’re boasting, make sure to always glory in the name of the Lord.  Real quick, let’s look at some names of the Lord.  You may have heard these, but I just want to give you an idea of their meanings.

  • Elohim – Creator (He is what all of nature is trying to describe), Ruler (King of Kings), Absolute force (all powerful), Sovereign – Ephesians 2:10
  • El Shaddai – The Almighty Provider – Psalm 77:15, Psalm 68:35
  • Adonai – Lord, Master – Psalm 123:2
  • Jehovah – God of Justice, Holiness and Love

LOOK to the Lord

Next we’re called to look to the Lord.  I love how Buddy Owens puts it in his book The Way Of A Worshiper, “Set the gaze of your soul on your saving God”.

We look at His strength; through him we can accomplish all things.

ACTION STEPS
Look on His strength not your own this Christmas.  Through Him you can endure tests and resist temptation.

  • Gaze upon God; think about the manger scene as you’ve seen it hundreds of times before, but add the human dimension…these are real people.  Now make it personal…place yourself in the scene.  If you’re a man, imagine yourself as Joseph or one of the Magi, if you’re a woman imagine being Mary and all that she had been through over the last 10 months.
  • Gaze upon God’s strength for help Enduring (tests, trials, persecution and hardship)
  • Gaze upon God’s strength for help Resisting tempation (to boast in what you have, spend too much)
  • Set the gaze of your soul on the saving God for all you need or lack this Christmas who sent his son to be born into this world for the sole purpose of paying the price we couldn’t pay

There is a big difference between looking at something and seeking after it as we see with the next phrase…

SEEK his face

So what’s it mean to seek.  Seek His face; seek His favor;

It means to pursue it, to go after it, to try to locate or discover; search for; to endeavor to obtain or reach; to go to or toward; to inquire for; to request.

ACTION STEPS

  • Don’t be satisfied with where you are with your relationship with Christ.  Ask him to enrich it and strengthen it this Christmas.
  • If you don’t know Christ as your savior receive the best gift anyone could ever give you, the gift of salvation.  It’s a free gift and it’s an amazing gift, but you have to seek after it.

REMEMBER the wonders he has done…

And finally the last verb in the passage calls us to remember the wonders he has done…his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. This goes back to where we started by making known the things he has done and telling of his wonderful acts.  Remember the miracles He has done and the judgments He pronounced.

Psalm 78 speaks to the power and importance of remembering and not forgetting in many places and starts by saying:

Psalm 78:3-7
3 I will utter hidden things, things from of old- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
5
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,

6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

ACTION STEPS

  • If you have kids, make sure to spend time this Christmas telling them of some of the amazing things God has done in your life and the lives of people you’ve known.
  • Also tell your family and friends of these things.
  • Remember this Christmas and don’t be like the men of Ephraim who forgot what he had done (Psalm 78 9-68).

Christmas.  What a wonderful time of year it truly is. It is a time when we should “celebrate and worship Christ by showing him love that comes from the depths of our soul or being and penetrates beyond what is superficial and obvious”.

It is a time filled with wonderful traditions and customs that bring families together and lift spirits.

But I pray that God shows each of us how to merge spirit and truth, authentic worship of Him into our Christmas this year and for all the years to come.

I pray that He will show you how he wants YOU to put it into action and that the things we’ve discussed here tonight are just the sparks that ignite your hearing from Him how He wants you to put it into action.

Most of all I pray that as you look for and seek Him that you find more of God in every day of your life…and what better time to start that seeking journey than Christmas 2009.