Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When is it Time to Think About Christmas?

The debate is inevitable. The question is unavoidable. When is it time to think about Christmas? The most notable answer is: After Thanksgiving. For me, that is unacceptable for many reasons, but the main reason is that a month is not long enough to be thankful. There are many reason that thinking about Christmas as early as October reminds me over and over to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place: Jesus. 

Many things help me put Jesus in the for front of my mind. 

Don’t you love light? It’s way more than flipping a switch so you won’t bump your toe. Light sets a mood. Sometimes light is magical like the grand finale of 4th of July. Sometimes light is romantic soft candle flickers at dinner or surrounding a bubble bath. Light can grab your attention, show you the way or warn you of danger. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” 

I love Christmas because lights multiply and begin to shine brighter. They can light your path…to a Savior like the light of a star. I always play a game to see how long Christmas light stay on in our neighborhood and town. As they go out slowly, so does my awe for the season and one of the reminders that Jesus is the Light of the world. 

Who wouldn’t want light to remind them of their Savior?

People Think of Others:
Thinking of others does not come natural. We start our  tiny little lives so very selfish for our survival and have to be taught to deny selfishness. Some learn it sooner and faster than others. Some never fully grow out of selfishness. When is the last time you bought something for someone just because? There are so many ways to think of others. We can volunteer. We can let someone in line in front of us. We can pay for the person behind us. We can let cars go first. It says a lot when we can help perfect strangers. It means even more when we do something nice for someone who hurt us. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.“ 

I love the holiday season because people volunteer more and give money and time more than any other time of the year. People give to perfect strangers. I know some who attribute reconciling with the holidays. But, I also know people are as happy as they want to be and it mostly depends on what is focused on. 

Who wouldn’t want goodwill to flow all year round to show the hands and feet of Jesus?

Music touches my soul. It makes me cry, it gives me hope, it makes me feel like dancing. Every season of my life, I can remember a song to go with it. Songs can express my feelings like I could never write into words. Some songs resonate with me because they tell my story. Every time the National Anthem plays, I cry. Every time a certain song comes on, I remember rocking Maddie as an infant in the middle of the night. Certain songs go with old boyfriends. And I remember all three songs played at my wedding. Music touches my soul and heart. Psalm 98:4-5 says, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King.”

I love music around the holidays because it is full of my Savior. It is full of bells and cheer. It seems a little easier to smile and be happy and focus on blessings than when it is 105℉ outside. Christmas music lifts my spirit like no other music at any time of the year. I am totally in love with Michael Buble Christmas music and Polar Express Radio on Pandora.

This time of the year, I love the lyrics in music. It is a time to ‘throw your cares away’, the ‘stars are brightly shining’, ‘it’s a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight’, ‘all is calm, all is bright’, ‘never ever let it cool’.

Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of cool weather, homecomings and the birth of our Savior?

Getting Off Work:
People always need a break from work. So many people equate work with security and think they have to work overtime and weekends and holidays to ‘climb the ladder’ while their families and their health is falling apart around them. Focusing on something besides work is important and for some, the only way to do it is when the office is closed. Hebrews 4:10 says, “…for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their work, just as God did from his.”  
I love my family getting off work and school for November, December and January. I love the time to focus on family, cooking special food, decorating, travel and getting ready for a party at my house. I love my kids being home. I love my husband being home often. My favorite time of the year is October 1st to January 9th (the day my kids go back to school this year). 

Who doesn’t need some mandatory time away from work to focus on family?

There are some foods that bring me back to my grandmother’s house. Homemade bread. Spice bars. Fried chicken. Homemade guacamole. I love cinnamon rolls from one Sis-in-Law. I love a chicken dip from the other. There are specific foods I love in each season of the year. They are just not the same in a different month. Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.”  

I love the special food we make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the only time I have my grandmother’s broccoli and rice casserole. It is the only time I get pumpkin pie. It is the only time of year I get to share all the goodies with family. Hot chocolate tastes better in the cold weather of the season.

Some odors also bring me back to my childhood. There was a certain baby lotion I used that smelled just like my grandfather’s aftershave; heavenly! A pipe takes me way back to before my grandfather quit. Now, those pipes are tree ornaments. Don’t you just love how the earth smells when it starts to rain? Ephesians 5:2 says, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  
I love the special smells at this time of year, too. There is a distinct cinnamon smell in some stores. I diffuse Thieves and Orange Essential Oil and it smells just like Fall to me. I love the way everyone’s house smells preparing food for gatherings.

Clean House:
Don’t you love a clean house? I have to be pretty motivated to really clean, thought. Besides having company, when I get mad, I clean. Getting my house clutter-free helps my focus change a little and I am more at peace in my spirit. Everyone in the family benefits from that. 

I hate to admit it, but my house rarely gets really clean unless I have company. So, when I have Christmas with the family at my house, I clean really well. It would be like Spring cleaning for some. For me, it is Christmas cleaning. And, please call before you come see me!!

When the weather is cool and crisp, I love it. When it is time for fires, I love it. The smell, the light that flickers, the warmth. I get to wear my favorite sweaters.

Bill Murry said it best in Scrooged (1999), “It is Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!” Why restrict it to only one day or one month of the year. I wish the spirit of Christmas, the volunteering, the giving, the food and smells lingered all year.

I love the hint of Christmas starting in October because the party celebrating death is really not my thing. So, I look for the trees in Home Depot and Garden Ridge before Halloween. I have lit pumpkins that last during October and November.

I admit I hate to be cold, but I love the cold. I have a favorite gray sweater and fuzzy brown blanket I covet. Cold weather means all the above to me: more lights, good foods, wonderful smells, a clean house, festive music and (most important) family time in the mountains of Red River. Cold weather means a fire in the stove. Some people can watch the water at the beach, I am mesmerized by fire. (Just ask me about my childhood and fire.) 

What I don’t understand is why some would NOT want this cheerful, bright, heartwarming, peaceful, joyful, magical experience ALL year round? Like I mentioned before, it is where and how you focus. 

If you are having trouble focusing on something wonderful this time of the year, here are some ideas:
  1. Write Christmas cards with  a personal note in each to family. Cards are better than emails or texts, trust me. 
  2.  Put aside work and count your blessings. If you are not a blessing to others, think about Why Not? 
  3. Go to a Christmas concert or  tree lighting or Fall Festival. 
  4. Watch the awe on children’s faces.
  5. Make an old dish you remember only during the holidays.
  6. Remember the wonder you once had.

In The Polar Express, when kids stopped believing in the spirit of Christmas, they also stopped hearing the bell ring. I pray you always hear the bell ring, you always find awe, you always think of others…all year round. Don’t be a Scrooge. Fill your heart with Christ. Find Him all year in all things and show others that He lives in your heart with your actions…all year. Let's be the people we always wanted to be and want others to be, too. 

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