By Karen Pashley
We don’t need a calendar to tell us the holiday season is officially here. In the blink of an eye, merchants swapped the pumpkins and scarecrows for snowmen and glittering baubles. Announcements of sales we simply cannot miss are flooding our inboxes, and the race is on to create Christmas memories worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting.
The hustle and bustle is fun and festive for many. But for others, the holidays stir up more than a cup of hot cocoa can soothe. Painful memories, grief, financial worries and relational strains can take a toll on the mind, body and spirit. But there is good news!
2000 years ago in Bethlehem, an angel split the night sky with a proclamation that would change the world forever: “Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”.
Great joy?, you mutter. Apparently that angel didn’t get the memo that my life would turn out to be such a mess.
There have been seasons in my life when I wondered that, too. There’ve been times when I’ve felt so downcast during the holidays I stumbled along on auto-pilot just make it to New Years Day.
The holidays can be hard. But it is possible to experience joy and hope amidst the turmoil, the pressures and the hardships we face—because with God, all things are possible—because hope resides in the unchanging love of our savior Jesus Christ. His ways are higher than our ways, and at times, we don’t understand the whys and hows of our circumstances. But rest assured—He understands. And He cares.
God promises He will never leave us or forsake us, and that nothing can separate us from His love. Accepting this wonderful truth and getting to know the person of Jesus Christ is the key to shifting our focus from our problems to the peace that passes all understanding.
You may not have control over your circumstances, but you can control your responses to them!
Here are three ways you can pursue the hope and the abundant life God has for you this Christmas season:
1. Practice gratitude. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! You have so much more to be thankful for than to complain about. Instead of focusing on the endless list of things to do before December 25th, why not focus on a list of blessings? Thank God for life, for freedom, for fresh air and clean water and a million other things we take for granted.
2. Set your mind. Romans 12:2 tells us we can transform and renew our minds by making a conscious effort to meditate on the positive. Philippians 4:8 shows us a wonderful recipe for right thinking and a renewed mind: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
3. Cast all your cares. God knows you better than anyone. And He knows the struggles you endure. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. We don’t know the future. But we can trust the One who knows our past, present and future! We must not hang all our hopes and dreams on getting the answers, or the solutions we desire—rather, we can relieve ourselves of that heavy burden and hold tight to God’s promises to meet our needs, comfort us when we are hurting, and make a way where there seems to be no way out of our dilemmas. What a loving Father we have!
So, be encouraged, dear one! Lift your face to the night sky, and receive Christ’s wondrous gifts—
tidings of great joy, hope and peace. They are yours, this Christmas and always.