I normally get really stressed out this time of year.
Do we buy gifts or not?
Do we buy extended family gifts or not?
Where are we going when?
How can I keep the kids focused on the real reason we celebrate?
Should we just take a trip and avoid the whole holiday?
How can we make everyone happy?
I hope my kids don't see those catalogs.
How can I teach my kids that it's not all about them?
We don't need more stuff...
*Deep breath* This is the first year in a long time that I can say that I don't feel stressed out. Yes, we're buying gifts. We're even buying gifts for extended family. For so long I have fought internally only to arrive back at square one. Several of my friends do different things for Christmas to keep the focus on Christ and off of self. I appreciate their thoughts and ideas. Each year I pray, I cry, I talk...
I have to confess, I naturally lean towards legalism. I love rules, laws, order... If someone tells me it should be so, then it needs to be just so. I've always struggled in the gray areas. I want Jesus himself to come down and tell me: "Don't let your kids watch T.V.", "Avoid all man designed holidays," "Dress like this," "Talk like this..." So when I don't hear from Jesus himself I start listening to others convictions and start putting them on myself. In reality this only makes me miserable. There are times where I have felt totally weighed down by my thoughts or "Rules" that I thought I should follow.
Galatians 5:1-4 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."
Why do I love this "Yoke of slavery?" Why do I enjoy the chains of sin? Is my comfort in the works of my flesh or the grace of my God?
I have to confess, I have been to comfortable with my deeds and not my faith. Galatians 5:16-18 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law."
Here I find myself, preaching the gospel to myself again. I cannot do anything to earn God's love for me. My "righteous" works are like filthy garments to Him. He is the potter and I am the clay. When and how did I get to the place in my life that I thought I actually had something to do with my salvation or my sanctification?
God made me! God loves me! Jesus (who is God) came to this earth (which He also created) to live a perfect life and then take the punishment that I deserve. He died a painful and horrible death so that I would not have to. Death was my consequence for every wrong thing I've ever done. He chose to take that for me! Three days after His death He was raised to life so that I could also be raised to life. By believing in Him, confessing and turning from the things in my life that do not please Him... I am saved! He is mine and I am His. I will one day live with Him forever. I am no longer a slave to sin.
Yes, my struggle is still real. My sin just looks differently. God is teaching me so much about myself. It is painful but I know it is for my good. This Christmas we are celebrating! We are celebrating a risen Lord! I am going to seek Him and let the Spirit lead my convictions.
Galatians 6:3-4 "For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another."