Countdown to Christmas

Did the title of this post make your stomach flutter with excitement or twist with anxiety?  The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas crawled by when we were kids, but now they fly past us.  Now that we are adults, we often think of Christmas as an endless “to do” list, piled on top of our regular duties.  Sometimes it seems like our only goal is to check off the last item before the drop dead due date!

Of course, we know what Christmas is really about.  Jesus came!  After 400 years of silence from heaven, he came!  After generations of waiting and looking for the promises to be fulfilled, he came!  It is his first Coming or Advent that we are celebrating.  The weeks leading up to December 25 mimic the waiting.  We get to role play the anticipation of the ages, even though we know that he has already come.

How does this tie in with our next section of Philippians?  Because Philippians 3:20 reminds us that we are still waiting:  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Even though he has already come once to save us, he will come again to complete the work in us.  That’s what we’re waiting for, full salvation.  What’s more, his ultimate victory is guaranteed.  That’s the force of the next verse, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. What are we supposed to do while we wait?  Decorate a tree and buy some gifts?

That’s the question the next section answers.  Philippians 4:1-9 starts by referring back to this thought.  Therefore…stand firm thus in the Lord. Therefore, because you are already a citizen of heaven, because he already came for you, wait for him by standing firm in him.  Some of our favorite verses follow, rejoice in the Lord…be anxious for nothing….the peace of God will guard your heart. How do these verses equip us to wait for a Savior? How do they equip us to navigate the Christmas season?

Discussion question of the week? Since we have completed the 7 questions on our study sheet, use the questions in the last paragraph to stir your thinking and our discussion.  How do these verses equip us to wait for a Savior? Our waiting comes down to very practical things that are part of living as if we are already citizens of heaven.  How do these verses help me to navigate the Christmas season? God wants to help you and me wait for a Savior today, November 29, 2010.  He knows we have certain pressures and temptations.  This word was sent to help you and me stand firm in him today.

Verse of the week: At the bottom of the study sheet I have a place for you to write a verse of the week.  I haven’t been doing this recently, but want to start again.  Let’s each pick a verse to memorize and carry with us during the week.  Memorizing itself is a chance to chew on the meaning.  I find I often leave little words out or put a word in there that doesn’t belong at all.  Memorizing helps me pay attention to the word choice of the Divine and human authors (and the translators, of course).  Even my mistakes in memorizing can teach me something.  Sometimes my understanding of a truth can grow when I get the words right.

So share your verse…and anything else you’d like to share.  Let’s wait for him together.

7 comments on “Countdown to Christmas

  1. Charissa McElroy says:

    I did this devotional with my mom this morning, as I am staying at her house while she awaits her imminent departure to heaven through liver cancer. In answer to question #1, it’s great that we are not left without specific instructions of just how to wait, but we are told to not be anxious, to pray, we will have peace, and to think on what is true, honorable, just, lovely, pure, commendable, exellence, praise.

    There’s never much for me to “navigate” with the Christmas season, and even less this year, but I am so grateful to have this time with my mom to get in the habit of being in the word in the morning.

    Mom says: “the more we practice these things the more we prepare for the real world of eternity. Like school gets you ready for the work world, the more we practice these things now in this life, the better preparation we will have for heaven. We are busy all the time, Christmas just gives you a “harder” deadline! Just following your regular pattern, such as getting up early for devotions, will sustain you in this season. If you’ve had good habits all year, now is not the time to minimize those good habits! Just trust in God that there will be enough time in the day to do all we need to do! It’s amazing how all things fall in place when you just spend time with the Lord in the beginning of the day.

    Verse 3:21 is all the more poignant for me as I await the transforming of my lowly body to be like his glorious body!”

    We would like to commmit 3:20-21 and 4:8-9 to memory. We will practice them in the waiting room to get radiation treatments!!!

    • Chris says:

      Thank you, Charissa, for sharing how you and your mom are coping with such a weighty thing in the midst of this cheery, hectic season. Likewise, my heart has turned often during this holiday to friends and family who have lost loved ones, imagining how difficult it is for them. Grief seems out of place during the holidays and folks who are grieving tend to feel more isolated. But you have helped me see how passing from this life to the next is at the center of Christmas. That is why Jesus came, and why He is coming again….to invite us to eternity! Waiting for a Saviour to transform our lowly bodies to be like His heavenly body. What a way to put our physical sufferings into perspective right now.

      In this week’s study I was struck by Paul’s bold confidence that we WILL recieve promised peace: “Peace WILL guard your hearts and minds” (verse 4:7) and “The God of peace
      WILL be with you” (verse 4:9). When things get difficult and our faith is challenged it is good to believe and live in the truth of these words! His peace is real and it WILL come.

      So…for my memory verse I started with the end of verse 3:8 “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Then I realized that sentence isn’t finished until the end of verse 11! Don’t know if I can memorize all that, but I am slowly processing all the good truth in that sentence. Like a high fiber bar. 🙂

  2. rondi says:

    Wow. What a perspective. I’m so glad you are together at this time, sharing the Lord as you wait. Charissa, thinking about how these commands relate to your life right now shows me how powerfully relevant God’s word is. May his peace guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus…and may the God of peace himself be your peace.

    Your mom’s words are wise counsel to all of us. What a great thought. That this preparation will stand us in good stead when we enter Life. These are words to steady us during holiday pressures. And coming from her as she waits to see Jesus, they come with the authority of a sister who has proven her Lord to be true and good. Thank you.

    I also am memorizing Philippians 3:20-21. Let me know what you get from it as you meditate.

  3. Nichole says:

    Thanks Charissa, Your post was really helpful. For us the holidays are a concentrated time of year when potential tensions can arise with our family, including our extended family. Since most of my side of the family aren’t believers and live close by I can get got caught up in the mentality of a Christ-less Christmas. The tension and stress of other family members can easily rub off on me, so i really need to be awaiting Christ by focusing on Him daily, and not allowing my mind to conform. Also, I need to be ready to serve as many opportunities arise around my family to reflect the attitude of Christ or to be selfish. I am also learning to trust God with the way things turn out around the holidays, because I have a picture perfect idea in my mind of what it should look like and it rarely turns out that way. My husband and I had very different upbringings and traditions when it come to the holidays, and I get frustrated when he doesn’t think certain things are important that I do. But, I need to remember that God is in control of all of that and my kids will not be scared for life just because my mother on law does not own a Christmas decoration. I can still appreciate that they are believers, and we can enjoy fellowship with them on Christmas. Lord help me not be conformed in my mind, but at the same time help me go with flow 🙂 My memory verse will be Philippians 3:3 “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”

    • Charissa McElroy says:

      Thank you for your insights, Nichole! We will be praying that you can quietly and graciously bring Christ into your relatives’ Christmas experience, and that you can prefer your husband and other family members when it comes to doing what you want on the holidays!

      Mom adds: Any person who just has the flesh can’t really experience joy; if people are legalistic, (eg — legalistic about x-mas decorations, etc.) they’re not gonna have joy. The Greek word for glory means to boast with exultant joy. the true Christian gives all the credit Christ alone. No confidence in the flesh. If you can keep your spirits high and joyful and happy in God the whole time, maybe try to turn whatever you read in your daily scripture into prayer, maybe ask your kids at the end of the day “were you joyful today? Was mommy joyful today?” Maybe ask them if they’ve noticed that mommy was more joyful than usual… 🙂 We’ll pray for ya!

  4. Lissa says:

    Thank you so much Nicole and Charissa for sharing. It is truly helpful to hear just what everyone is experiencing in this crazy time of the year and how Christ is leading you to trust him, what encouragement.
    God has been leading me this week and I feel it will be used through the whole month Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ANd the peace of God which surpasses all undrestanding will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.”
    There are so many reasons why my circumstances make me anxious, unbelieving family members that are difficult to love, getting caught up in the “worldly” Christmas where it is all about presents and not having money for gifts, wanting to create a “perfect” Christmas memory for my family, and even with the tea on friday: will my friend come, will she think it is “cool”…..AAAAA so many things for my little mind to wrap around and turn into such huge things.
    But God has been really faithful in showing me that it is all about him, and when I am anxious, I am not trusting him, I am sinning. How could I not trust him? He came and loved me before I even knew him and his word is true that he gives life to those whom he has chosen. He did give us the greatest gift ever and that gift, Jesus, gave us the greatest gift ever, repentance and forgiveness and grace and mercy and his life…. there is no reason that I should be anxious about anything and I am hopeful in him that in trusting in him he will give me the peace that surpasses all understanding and that he will be the one to guard my heart. Not my circumstances, but him.
    Oh, how I must abide him at every moment if Iam to not get carried away.
    And if I am really to ponder the gift of life that he gave us on the cross, wow, I imagine its Christmas morning, and there is a package still left under the tree, not a fancy looking one, but a simple wrapped package that might be missed. But it wasn’t, it caught my eye and I open it as it was addressed to me and there it is the gift of life, forgiveness, and grace and all other gifts now seem as rubbish to this amazing gift!

    It is in that gift that gives me hope to cast all my anxieties on him.

  5. rondi says:

    I have been nourished by the morsels of Scripture you have passed around this week. The word of God is dwelling richly among us! Thank you, Charissa, Mom (what’s your name?), Nichole, and Lissa for showing God’s great goodness by sharing what you are receiving from Scripture!

    I’ve been busy preparing for tonight, so haven’t had much chance to reply, but hope to write the end of week post soon to show off God’s faithfulness to me this week. He has supplied everything I needed. And even things I didn’t know I needed.