Clearing the Christmas Stage

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Right now much of the world is celebrating advent, especially in the United States, even if the people don’t know it. Advent, coming from the Latin word meaning “to come to,” is a season of waiting. Specifically, waiting for the coming of Christ. It is the season leading up to Christmas, a time of preparation.

As I write this, I am taking a break from doing my homework, part of my crazy, busy life. I have not posted a blog in a while, especially since I started my first job. This, on top of all my other activities and school, makes my life really busy. Isn’t everyone super busy during this time?

My new favorite song is “Clear the Stage,” by Jimmy Needham. The first line of the song is, “Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze if that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.” This line references the typical Sunday setup for “worship.” All the extra stuff is great, but it’s worthless, even an idol, if it distracts from its true purpose, to usher people into worship. The same could be said of the business in preparation for Christmas.

Christmas is the season of giving, hence all the rush for the endless list of Christmas presents and groceries for Christmas meals. What most of us forget, however, is how Christmas became the season of giving. It started with God, who gave his only son to ransom men from death. He did not come as he should have, a king demanding worship, but as a tiny baby, born to a poor Jewish girl of Nazareth. More than that, he was born in a stable, among the animals, and his first visitors were shepherds, the lowliest of all working men.

With all our shopping lists, planning, and parties, do we take time to stop and prepare our hearts for the savior? Jesus came two thousand years ago, yes, but during advent, Christians and everyone else should be preparing themselves for his second coming, when he will come as a triumphant king.

Can we each take a moment and reflect on God’s many gifts?  Can we remember that night when the most high God came into the world in the form of a helpless infant?  True, December 25 is not Jesus’ actual birthday, but it is the date on which we choose to celebrate it.

Can we replace our Martha attitude of crazy business in preparation for a holiday with a Mary Magdalene- like spirit which is content to sit for a while at the feet of our Savior, listening to His word?

I believe that the best thing I can do this Christmas season is to take some time to spend in quiet reflection over my Bible, journal, even this blog, and think about what God did.  I hope you take some time this season to clear what can become idols of business and stress out of your heart and replace them with the peace of the Savior, Jesus Christ as we wait to celebrate His coming.

Merry Christmas!

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A Lesson From the Smokies

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My family recently when on vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  While there, we went on a hike in Smoky Mountain National Park.  It was a beautiful hike, and on the way up, I thought about how similar the hike was to the spiritual walk of a Christian.  I am not the only one who has made this sort of comparison.  Paul did in Hebrews 12, when he says “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”(ESV).

The mountain itself could be considered time and life, so hiking up the mountain would be walking through life.  The steep upward trails represent the hard times and the trials, which make the level and downward paths so much sweeter.  Furthermore, with a backpack to carry, it makes the upward hike so much harder.  The backpack could represent a struggle or spiritual burden, weighing down the believer to the point of exhaustion.  When a friend carries that burden with you, through prayer and fellowship, it makes the climb so much easier.

One could be so focused on climbing up the trail and making it to the top, that he or she might not stop to see the beautiful view.  Just because we have to go through life, which takes work, does not mean we cannot stop for a minute and look at the big picture.  In fact, if one does not stop to see the big picture, the distant mountain which reflects the one which he is climbing, one would become frustrated by the difficulty of the climb and would be tempted to give up.

One might also be tempted to give up if one hikes up the mountain alone.  Without encouragement from others, a person would feel lonely and have no one to share struggles with, or to lean on when he gets tired.

The climb is tiring and difficult, but it is worth it.  At the top of the trail, our party sat at a beautiful waterfall, a place of rest.  From there, we could see the other mountains.  This place of peace could represent the end of life, as a believer slips from this life into the arms of Jesus.  He is the one who gives his children energy to climb the mountain and the perseverance to finish the hike.  Without the struggles, his people would not realize how sweet rest with him is.  This is why he lets them go through struggles and hard times, for it draws them closer to him.

This is the lesson that I learned while hiking in the mountains, to persevere through trouble, for at the end of this troublesome life is perfect rest.

Emma