Have you ever celebrated a holiday named Memas?
Some people observe it every December 25. For them, the Christ of Christmas has been replaced by a Me-centered worldview. This is a celebrity generation in which everyone wants little flashes of fame and fortune. One of the reasons the average wedding costs $25,000 is because so many couples want to experience for at least a day the kind of endless glamour enjoyed by celebs.
Even Christmas has been affected; and if we aren’t careful, it becomes all about us—our schedules, our diets, our budgets, our wish lists, our time off, our vacation, our parking spaces, our gifts to enjoy or return.
I love the trappings of Christmas as much as anyone; but the truths of Christmas trump the trappings of Christmas, and too many people get trapped in the trappings and forget the truth. How can we enjoy Christmas if we’re the reason for the season?
In a sense, of course, Christmas is all about us. God loved us, became flesh for us, died to forgive us our sins, and rose to give us everlasting life. Christmas is the celebration of what Jesus did for us. But in return, we should make it all about Him: loving Him, serving Him, praising Him, and emulating His attitude of humility.
Here are three words to remember during December. You might write them on a piece of paper to keep in your pocket or purse through the holidays.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted with impatience more in December than any other time. As our schedules accelerate, our emotions are drained like gasoline in an SUV. We fly from event to event, battle crowds at the shopping centers, endure delays at the airports, run back and forth to church, and have family members invading our houses. Sometimes all it takes is a momentary flash of anger or an irritable expression on our faces—and we’ve ruined someone’s day.
Dr. F. B. Meyer told of a schoolteacher who, when provoked by a group of unruly kids, prayed: “Your patience, Lord!” Instantly such a calm entered him that he realized he had made a great discovery. It’s not enough to tell ourselves to be patient, or even to ask God for patience. We need to claim His very own patience and appropriate His own indwelling resources at the very moment of irritation.
A word that isn’t mentioned in many of our carols is sacrifice. Jesus didn’t just give eternal life, wonderful as that is. He gave us himself. He died sacrificially for the sins of the world, and He rose to live on our behalf.
A natural question arises from His sacrifice: In what way can I sacrifice something of myself for someone else this season? I’m not going to suggest any answers for you, but I’m mulling it over for me. All service requires sacrifice, and we shouldn’t offer the Lord that which costs us nothing.
The third word is others. Remember the old acronym for joy—Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last? There are two kinds of people in the world—those who come into a room saying, “Here I am!” And others who enter a room saying, “Ah, there you are!”
This season, build up others and make them feel special—and not just people at home or church. What about that woman at the shopping mall who might need a parking space more than you do? What about the harried clerk at the discount store who could use a smile? What about the man in line behind you?
Patience, Sacrifice, and Joy—that’s the way to display humility, and that’s the way to celebrate Christmas instead of Memas.
You know the feeling well. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. You get goose bumps on your arms. Your mouth feels like it’s full of cotton. Your palms are as damp as wet sponges. That’s what FEAR does!
You certainly felt it as a child. Fear and childhood go hand-in-hand, especially at night—monsters under the bed, strange noises in creaky houses, branches scraping against window screens. We’ve all been there and remember those feelings. But, as you and I know, fears don’t disappear when we grow older—they just change shapes and names. Adults wrestle with fears like heights, the dentist, and identity theft. Those fears keep adults up at night and even make people ask their doctors for something to “calm their nerves.” Fear is real and powerful.
Here’s what happens in a nanosecond: Our five senses send a message (“Danger!”) to the brain’s thalamus, which sends the message to the amygdala. The amygdala does two things: One, it sends a message to the prefrontal cortex (“Help!”), which initiates the “flight or fight” response. And two, the amygdala sends messages to glands to start releasing chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol (the STRESS hormone). Those chemicals raise our heartbeat and blood pressure so we’re ready for the choice: Flight or fight?Fall, Family, and Friends
I can’t prove this, of course, but I think God made fall just for family and friends. Anytime is a great time for being with those we love and appreciate, but fall seems special. Think about the reasons why this time of year is a great time for relationships and reunions:
•School. This is a huge one. As much as kids imply that they don’t like school, most kids love the social reunion that returning to school brings. But it’s not just the kids—parents enjoy seeing each other again at school and sporting events.
•Church. Because of travel and vacations, some churches make adjustments to their regularly scheduled programs during the summer. But after summer is over, everything gets back to normal. Suddenly, you’re seeing friends at church and in small groups that you’ve not seen consistently during the summer.
•Thanksgiving. If there’s one event where families and friends connect, it has to be Thanksgiving. It seems people like to celebrate Christmas—at least Christmas morning—with just family. (It’s hard to travel with all those presents, right?) But in America, Thanksgiving is the day we fling open the doors, tell people to bring a dish, spread it all out, and thank God for the blessings we enjoy.
•Christmas. If Thanksgiving is the holiday of food and fun, Christmas is the holiday of love. In spite of the commercialization of Christmas, we can choose to focus on making memories year after year that remind us of God’s amazing gift of love to us. As we attend special events and celebrate the Lord’s birth, we are inevitably drawn closer to those we love as family and friends.
Lump those four dynamics together—school, church, and the two holidays—and fall arrives with more reasons to celebrate than any other season of the year.Caring for Your Environment
Do you feel like our world is becoming overrun with pollutants? There are local and federal agencies that watch out for pollutants affecting our environment, but we should also be concerned about our spiritual environment. We need to watch for toxins in three areas of life—people, places, and practices.
It begins with the people we’re with. When baseball great Lou Gehrig was starting his career, the Yankees sent him to Hartford to get some practice in the minor leagues. Until then, Lou had lived at home. Now for the first time in his life, he was living with a rough crowd of minor league ballplayers who cursed, drank heavily, and spent their time in bars and speakeasies. Gehrig began experimenting with alcohol and consorting with the wilder men on the team. Consequently his game went into a slump.
If someone asked you to describe Jesus, how would you answer? Would you find it easy or challenging? Today, Dr. David Jeremiah considers several different descriptions of Jesus provided by Christ Himself.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah