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A “Full” Christmas (for Better or Worse)

A “Full” Christmas (For Better or Worse)

The Christmas season is filled with opportunities to celebrate some of the greatest gifts of this life—the coming of Christ into our world, the treasure of time with friends and family, and the joy of giving to those we love. However, like precarious thorns on the stem of a beautiful rose, the fullness of the holidays can also threaten our spiritual, emotional and relational equilibrium in unique ways.

A “Full” Christmas (for Better or Worse)

The Apostle Paul’s timeless wisdom in Philippians 4:6-9 provides a clear path to help us survive and thrive through the craziness of Christmas. His advice can be summarized in four words: Careful, Prayerful, Thoughtful and Peaceful.

We Will Be “Careful”

The holiday season is full of “cares.” Our expectations are often high. Disappointment lurks. We tend to get overcommitted, overburdened with holiday shopping, tempted with overeating and overwhelmed with relentless commercialization. We are saddened by our inability to be with the people we love at Christmas or can even recoil at the thought of having to spend time with strangers or extended family that we don’t enjoy being around. Financial worries are at an all-time high for many during the holidays. The “season of light” can get very dark for some of us.

When Paul wrote “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6a) he recognized that we will struggle with anxiety. Yet he also reassured us that we do not have to be overwhelmed with the cares of this life, even during the holiday crazies.

We Should be Prayerful

Paul’s primary antidote for anxiety is clear: “But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (v. 6b). Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest provides a very literal and helpful translation: “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing, but in everything by prayer whose essence is that of worship and devotion and by supplication which is a cry for your personal needs, with thanksgiving let your requests for the things asked for be made known in the presence of God.”

Paul’s word for “prayer” is the most common word to refer to spiritual pursuit, often associated with the worshipful offering of the heart to God. “Supplication” involves our crying out to God, trusting Him for our needs and concerns. “Thanksgiving” recognizes God’s faithfulness in the past along with His good provision now and in the future. When Paul writes “let your requests be made known to God,” he is not implying that God does not know our need until we tell Him. Rather, we are looking to God and God alone for the solutions to our issues and the source of our well-being. Our satisfaction is in the presence and person of God, through Christ.

We Must Be Thoughtful

Our thoughts always drive our emotions. Our emotions prompt our reactions. Our reactions fuel conflict, confusion and deeper concern. Knowing this, Paul challenges us to control and focus our thoughts. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (v. 8).

In the disorder and disappointments of Christmas, the indwelling Christ literally gives us the grace to “fix our thoughts” on the God-honoring realities of the situation rather than the negative aspects of the moment. Instead of an obsession with complaining about circumstances and expressing criticism toward people, we can concentrate on the faithfulness and goodness of God, choosing to praise Him through it all.

We Can Be Peaceful

Paul then gives us this meaningful encouragement: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (v. 9). He calls the believers to look at these fruits in the model of his own life. Paul writes from prison. He has endured persecution, beatings, criticisms and conflicts beyond description. Yet, he has known the grace of a praying heart and the power of focused thoughts. He has shown them by example that peace is promised and possible.

Earlier, in verse 7, he explained, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In the midst of overwhelming cares, we can be prayerful and thoughtful, with the promise of a peaceful reality.

Paul teaches us that the peace of God, a reality beyond our human understanding or explanation, WILL “garrison and mount guard” or “stand sentinel” over our hearts and minds. He also says that God, whose very character is peace, will manifest His presence in our circumstances and hearts.

A Season of Fullness

So, this Christmas season will be full. No doubt, it will be full of care. However, if we access the provision of Christ, this celebration of His coming to earth can also be an experience of His coming and ruling in the daily reality of this busy month. The message of a “silent night” where “all is calm and all is bright” can be the experience of our hearts and homes. He gives us a peaceful “center” if, by His grace, we can be prayerful and thoughtful—for His glory and our good.

This article originally appeared here.

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Daniel Henderson is president and founder of Strategic Renewal which exists to ignite the heart of the church through personal renewal, congregational revival and leadership restoration for Christ’s glory. As a Senior Pastor for over two decades, Daniel Henderson brought prayer-based revitalization to several mega-churches. Along with Jim Cymbala and dozens of other pastors, he recently launched a national fellowship for pastors focused on the priorities of Acts 6:4, “prayer and the ministry of the word.”