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Girlfriends in God - December 6, 2011

December 6, 2011
How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas Part 1
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16, NIV).

Friend to Friend
Christmas! My favorite time of the year!

·         Brightly wrapped presents
·         Houses draped in sparkling lights
·         The smell of cinnamon and pine
·         Secret shopping trips
·         Children whispering and giggling
·         Old movies that make me laugh and cry
·         Phone calls from old friends
·         Chocolate covered cherries
·         Carolers

It is obvious that somethingimportant is happening. The literal meaning of “Christmas” is “Christ’s Mass” and is the celebration of Christ. Oh, how far we have gotten from the wonder and awe of that first Christmas so long ago. I believe we all want a joy-filled Christmas that truly does celebrate Christ. Yet, so often, the holiday season leaves us with very little joy and an elusive emptiness we find hard to explain. Suicide rates soar during the Christmas holidays as depression and exhaustion become constant companions. Something is very wrong.  How can we experience a joy-filled Christmas? 

I believe the secret to a holy and joy-filled celebration of Christmas is found in giving. It always has been. Are we giving the wrong gifts to the wrong people? Maybe we are not receiving the right gifts with the right attitude. Over the next few days, we will examine several truths about Christmas that will lead us once again to the manger where we will worship the Christ child and experience a Christmas holiday filled with love, peace and joy.

First truth:  We must receive God’s gift to us.

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV) “There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them; and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

God gave the greatest gift of all when He gave Jesus. The very heart of Christmas can be found in a very familiar verse, a verse not often associated with the Christmas holidays. 

John 3:16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (NIV).

Christmas is not a date on the calendar. Christmas is a way of life. Like the innkeeper, we have posted a sign that reads, “No room!” No room in our schedules…no room in our homes…no room in our hearts and minds…no room in our lives for Jesus. We can participate in the festivities of the Christmas season but until we truly receive the gift of Jesus we will never truly experience Christmas. To have a joy-filled Christmas, we must not only recognize Him as the center of a season, but as the center of our lives. Jesus could have easily been born in a palace. His first home on earth could certainly have been a mansion. But He came to an ordinary manger and His birth was announced by commonplace shepherds instead of Kings - the greatest of all miracles in the midst of total simplicity. Today, He waits, longing to come to us in the midst of our ordinary, simplistic and commonplace lives. 

Hebrews 2:17 (NLT) “Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.” 

My friend, wherever you are today, He has been there and He understands. I truly believe that into the very heart of Christmas, God has tucked a unique longing. It is a longing for home, for something and someone eternal, a longing that can never be satisfied outside of a personal, vital and growing relationship with God.  That is why Jesus came, choosing to dwell in us. To have a joy-filled Christmas, we must receive God’s gift to us…the gift of His one and only son, Jesus.

Let’s Pray
Father, please help me truly celebrate Your birth this Christmas in a way that pleases and honors You. Right now, I choose to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. May the joy of knowing You direct every part of this Christmas season in the life of my family and friends. Be glorified in the way we celebrate Your birth.  
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
I encourage you to read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20. Pray and ask God to show you how to celebrate Christmas this year. Have a family meeting during which you determine what it means to have a joy-filled Christmas and then make a plan to do just that. 

More from the Girlfriends
No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you, girlfriend. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or through email.

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Originally published Tuesday, 06 December 2011.