Time is a weird thing. We only have it once and yet we have more each day. We can enjoy it, we can waste it, we can do a lot with it, we can feel guilty about it. We all have our own ideas about what is a good use of time and what is a frivolous use of time. Sometime time flies and sometimes time drags.
It’s hard to put your finger on time.
Yesterday is gone and today; this hour; this minute is now, and now is the time we need to live in.
Yesterday is gone and I can’t change anything about it. I can deal with the consequences of my yesterday. I can enjoy the memories of my yesterday. But, I cannot change my yesterday.
What about now? What can I do with my now? Today; this hour; this minute – now.
I can grab it.
I can savor it.
I can plan for it.
I can pray about it
I can pray through it.
I can enjoy it.
Yesterday’s gone, but now is here.
Now is a beautiful thing.
Now is a gift.
Don’t worry about it. Don’t stress about it. But don’t let it get away from you.
As for so many of you, Christmas music is an important part of my holiday celebrations. One of my very favorite Christmas songs is known as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. The song started out as a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow under circumstances that threatened to shake his faith.
In 1861, our country was plunged into a horribly bloody Civil War. For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tragedy was eclipsed by the loss of his wife in a fatal fire the same year. Later, Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow went off to join the Union army against his father’s wishes and on December 1, 1863, Longfellow received word that Charles had been severely wounded in the Mine Run Campaign. Longfellow brought Charles home to Cambridge unsure whether his son would live or die.
The poem Longfellow wrote during that time reminds me of the psalms which express doubt and despair, but come round to the truth that God is; that God cares for His creation – man; and that God’s love is steadfast and sure.
Read the words to his poem again and imagine yourself as a widower – grieving for a lost wife, fearful of losing a son, in a war-torn land at Christmastime.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The bellfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.’
Till, ringing singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
The good news? Charles did recover from his wounds – not enough to return to the army. He was discharged in February and went on to live an active life.
But the real good news? God is not dead! Wars will come and go – we are not promised that kind of peace on earth, but we are promised the peace of God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
So, read the words to the poem again or listen to your favorite recording of the song (mine is Casting Crowns’ version) and remember that our peace comes from the Lord God – our everlasting rock.
The Christmas Crazies are out! I’ve seen them all over the place and I bet you have too.
Christmas Crazies tell you things like:
Give the biggest gift under the tree
Find the perfect gift
Make your table Instagram-worthy
And Christmas Crazies tell you that you need:
Top-rated Christmas decorating ideas
Christmas light ideas that will top your neighbor’s house
Holiday essentials for the perfect party
You know what I mean, don’t you?
Christmas Crazies make you sigh when you look at your lopsided tree. Christmas Crazies keep you up at night figuring out how to top last year’s gift list and how to pay for it. Christmas Crazies send you into the craft store even when the lines are beyond unbelievable because you have to have just the right ribbon to finish off the presents. Christmas Crazies glue you to Pinterest to find the party ideas that will make you the Christmas party hostess of the century.
But even worse, Christmas Crazies wear you down from lack of sleep and too much multi-tasking. Christmas Crazies make you look at your husband and children as hurdles to jump on your way to the perfect Christmas. Christmas Crazies make you care more about impressing your guests than about enjoying time with your friends.
To sum it up, Christmas Crazies can either completely ruin your Christmas or come very close to it.
I know. I’ve been there. I’ve stayed up ridiculously late on Christmas Eve finishing up hand-crafted presents that my toddlers would soon forget. I’ve worried over Christmas Eve menus and Christmas morning brunch menus and Christmas Day dinner menus until there was so much food that half of it was wasted. I’ve worked very hard to decorate my house for people I didn’t have time to invite over.
I’ve had more than my fair share of run-ins with the Christmas Crazies.
And I’ve come to see that there are at least four ways to keep the Christmas Crazies out of my house – yours too.
Keep the whole thing in perspective. Is making yourself stressed out and irritable for the whole of December and probably part of November really worth a couple of hours on Christmas Eve and a couple more on Christmas Day? Yes, it is such a precious and holy time, but does that justify hours and days and weeks of shopping and cooking and list-making and driving and worrying? Would your Christmas really fall apart if it didn’t live up to your ideas of the perfect Christmas?
Know what is enough. One year my husband and I went totally out of our minds with the gift giving. We bought our four kids everything and anything. We charged those credit cards right up to the limit. There were piles of presents everywhere. I don’t know what was wrong with us that year but I can tell you that it wasn’t worth it. We needed to know what was enough and we needed to teach our kids what was enough. Now, years later, I love the idea of giving one thing to wear, one thing to play with, and one thing to read. Your enough may be something different, but find out what it is and stick with it – no matter what your friends may do, no matter what your sisters may do – stick with enough.
Take the Tenth Commandment seriously. I know – the Ten Commandments are not so popular nowadays. Everybody’s afraid of being labeled a legalist if they try to follow them and nobody wants to memorize them anymore, but if you are serious about warding off the Christmas Crazies, you need to know and follow number ten. And what is number ten? You shall not covet. In today’s language – don’t spend hours on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest drooling over what somebody else owns or has created. Stop it! Be content with what you have. Be content with what God has given you.
Remember the simplicity of the first Christmas. Get quiet and come back to the basics. What are we really doing at Christmas but celebrating a very simple, unassuming birth of a peasant child? Mary and Joseph probably would have liked a roof and four walls and some privacy. They probably would have liked to have a real bed for their baby. But the God of the universe had chosen a different way for the King of Kings to enter the world. No fuss was made. No decorations were put up. Pinterest was not consulted. Just a mom and a dad and a brand new baby in a dirty old stable with smelly animals. Now, do you really want to let the Christmas Crazies steal that simple story away from you and your family?
I know you don’t. So let’s keep it in perspective, let’s figure out what is enough, let’s be content, and above all, let’s remember that very first, very simple Christmas. And we’ll send those Christmas Crazies packing!