We are about to do what I call, “The Tour of Texas.” This annual tour has become our Christmas tradition: We wake up on Christmas morning in our home in Houston, later that day we visit my wife’s parents where we stay for the next few days, and finally we end with a trip to my parents’ house to celebrate yet again.
It’s an interesting time of year because we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, a time when we can sit back and reflect on the goodness and provision of God, which hopefully has prepared our minds to focus on the birth of Christ. If you’re a believer, this holiday season is a good one-two punch — getting your mind in the right place before you head into the new year.
There have been many years when we are about to begin the holiday festivities and we ask our kids, “Can you tell me what you got for Christmas last year?” And you know what? Most of the times they can’t. No matter how cool the gift is that they received, it fades, but the things that stick in our minds are the memories of decorating the tree and gathering around the Christmas meal together — the things that are focused on relationships. It’s not about waking up and getting a bunch of toys, it’s about celebrating the gift of Christ by fellowshipping with our family and giving gifts to each other out of the love that Christ has given us. This reality really illustrates that the wrappings of Christmas are fleeting but the message of Christmas is eternal.
“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” —Isaiah 54:10
As we focus on the different themes of advent during this season, I’m reminded of the fact that our joy is not dependent on our circumstances. This is something that takes a lifetime to learn but it’s one of the greatest benefits of being a Christ-follower. We have access to a joy that is not determined by outside distractions.
The theme of love is also a great reminder for me. Loving others does not come naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy for me to love my family and friends, but having a general love and concern for others is not something that I can do on my own. However, if I want to be like-minded with Christ, having an awareness of others around me has to be part of my mental make-up. The only way that I can achieve this is to pray for it. So I pray that God would empower me through His Holy Spirit and give me the gift of loving others.
With the new year around the corner, I could make a new year’s resolution to love others more, but I know that wouldn’t change anything. In order for my actions and lifestyle to change, I first need a heart change, and that is something that only God can do. Recently, God has shown me how He’s answering that prayer in a specific way: Lately I’ve been more concerned about a certain one of my high school players that I coach. God keeps putting this kid on my heart and I want to reach out to him to show him God’s love. I know that I can do this because the Holy Spirit is inside of me strengthening and guiding me.
This is the time of year for many to sit back and contemplate their life — how they can improve or change their habits. But no matter how many resolutions we may make or how strong our resolve is to work hard at our goals, even if our actions do change for a time, nothing will stick if our hearts remain the same. The only hope we have is for God to intervene and change our hearts, but we need to ask for this. God has called us all to desire and pray for Christlikeness.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 3:12-14
It’s by prayer that we press on.
Lance Berkman is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.
Check out Lance’s Increase profile here: https://theincrease.com/author/lanceberkman/
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