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The real secret to December, I have concluded, is timing. You need to dovetail activities into their proper slots so you don’t get steam-rolled at the end. Most of us learn this the hard way – through trial and error and the inevitable crash-and-burn. If you’re not careful, you can get off on the wrong foot right from the get-go, and never recover. You’ll enjoy about as much control as a skier caught in an avalanche. Suddenly, you’re tumbling so quickly you don’t even know which end is up. No such thing as control. Nothing is worse than finding yourself in high-voltage relational situations or work-place social gatherings in an off-balance mind-set: cranky, run-down, on-edge and just generally distracted or overwhelmed. Talk about a recipe for disaster. It’s not silly to sit down early and plan your schedual, even if it’s only in your head.

My simple, single life is not consumed with the huge tasks of gift-buying, baking or hosting massive celebrations that inundate others, but I still find it quite complicated to navigate the flurry and fury of the season. To put it mildly, Christmas is an introverts’ nightmare. Emotionally brace yourself for the barrage of people, noise, fuss, conversations and tricky social navigation that characterize the season. To add insult to injury, my birthday also falls within the week before Christmas, as if it wasn’t challenging enough already. Between these two festivities, my calendar, emotional and spiritual, is full.

It’s hard to navigate in a blizzard, whether it be a tempest of snowfall or engagements. In the tempest of the season, we can lose track of the essentials. In our quest for perfection, we can sacrifice priority. We set all this time and attention on gifts, decorations, food, wrappings, and then ignore the individuals we have prepared them for. Attention and respect are actually the most precious gifts we can give anyone. The unholy tangle of Holiday resolves itself automatically, almost magically, when we get this one thing resolved. People are more important than activities. People are more important than possessions. People are more important than agendas. God loves people more than anything.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son... Not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16, 17

When Jesus was born, Israel was in a cyclone of Roman occupation. With the decreed census, common life was completely up-ended. Two weary pilgrims on the long road to Bethlehem didn’t even cause a blip in the radar, lost among the crowds. How could a simple inn-keeper know that the pregnant couple he turned away were the most important guests he would ever host, his stable the birth of a revolution? His harassed, over-worked wife was yelling at him from the kitchen!

In much the same manner, we can be close, but no cigar. We can be blinded the real gem of the moment, the opportunity to be an expression of grace, acceptance and unconditional love to someone who is desperately needing it. We can fail to honor those who truly deserve it. This year, when others disappoint or threaten to drive you crazy, take a beat. When your sister-in-law shows up with some dish other than the one the two of you discussed, breathe deeply. When choir members appear 45 minutes late to a final dress rehearsal, whisper a prayer on them. When you are waiting long in line for your turn at the check-out, bless the salesperson with patience and a kind word. When you’re caught, snarled and helpless in holiday traffic jams, think of the families represented around you. Get over yourself. “If you do it unto these, the least of my brethren, you do it unto me”. These are the words of the Messiah. It’s all about honor.

As a culture, we have hopelessly lost focus. Christmas has become about the fever pitch of excitement, rivalry of lights, presents, fashion, festivities. It’s a competitive scramble to achieve the most perfect, Instagram-worthy moment. Most of the time, the attention is certainly not on the Lord, and barely even on others. As believers, we’ve got to do better. Let’s not miss these priceless moments, like benefactions from heaven itself. Beloved, let us love one another.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:10-13 NKJV

Sweetest Christmas joys and blessings on you, my friends this season. See you again in 2020!

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