The Holy in our Holi-days. Christmas, 2016
11/29/2016 11:52:42 PM
Something to think about.
The Holy in our Holi-days. Christmas, 2016.
Even as I typed the word, I thought ‘wait a second … holiday? What’s the etymology of that word?’ I looked it up, and of course, the word holiday came from the 1500s, earlier haliday (c.1200), from Old English haligdæg, "holy day, consecrated day, religious anniversary; Sabbath."1 Now isn’t that interesting? Even the greeting, “Happy Holidays” has its origins in holiness, a set-apart day for God. Hmmm. Just consider that for a moment.
The challenge for you and me is to keep the holiness in our hearts and minds as the busy-ness of work, travel, houseguests, and Christmas to-do lists beat us about the head and shoulders. This will take intention on our part.
Paying attention to the words of our dearest Christmas carols is a good and simple way to start. Like Joy to the World. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!? Let earth receive her King . . .” The songwriter captured the sentiments of the gospel writer, Luke: “the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, 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 the Messiah, the Lord.”2
Read the passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A1-14%5D&version=NKJV&interface=print
Disappointed that we were unable to travel down into Bethlehem last week because of safety concerns, we took time out on a rocky hillside overlooking the little town. It was a similar place where the shepherds might have been that night when the angelic choir made their announcement about the birth of Jesus.
“Let every heart prepare Him room,?and Heaven and nature sing.”
While Heaven and nature will sing about the birth of the Lord, we do well to prepare our hearts in anticipation of the celebration of our King. If not, Christmas day will arrive and we will feel we just somehow missed it.
Just a few days ago, our thoughts were filled with giving thanks. We took time to count our blessings, whether or not we spoke them aloud. And then, just like that, we were launched into ‘the season’. Our pace quickened. There is the Tree to put up, the presents to buy, work to close out the year, baking to be done, cards to be written and sent… who has time to make room for Jesus? O Friends, we must!
There is a practical reason Thanksgiving always precedes Christmas--it sets in motion the ideal mental attitude to carry us through the weeks in between. See, when we sustain a spirit of gratitude in these weeks, Christmas truly is a celebration, and not just a marathon!3 As we anticipate our Lord’s birth, let’s purpose to maintain hearts and minds filled with gratitude. [It is my aim to continue writing out seven things for which I am thankful each day … would you join me?]
I love the prayers of believers of years gone by:
Eternal God, my sovereign Lord, I acknowledge all I am, all I have is yours. Give me such a sense of your infinite goodness that I may return to you all possible love and obedience. John Wesley.4
And from his mama: I thank you, O God, for the relief and satisfaction of mind that come with the firm assurance that you govern the world; for the patience and resignation to your providence that are afforded as I reflect that even the tumultuous and irregular actions of the sinful are, nevertheless, under your direction, who are wise, good, and omnipotent, and have promised to make all things work together for good to those who love you.5
And I close with a prayer of my own, "Across the world now, we lock arms and pray to you, O Lord, maker of Heaven and earth. While much is uncertain on a daily basis, we know who holds the future, and we know who holds our hand.
We look to You, O God, and lift our hearts in thankfulness before you.
Daily, we underestimate your power, and we often fail to note how you are working around us ... yet we thank you, Lord, that you would choose to involve us in your work; we thank you that indeed you cause all to work together for good to those who love you.6
Thank you for life and breath and strength--we offer ourselves to you this day, and indeed this holiday season. May we be about your purposes, to make this a holiday filled with holiness – may we be holy even as you are holy!7 May we choose to maintain thankfulness in our hearts, even as our hearts and minds get busy with holiday ‘doings’. O God, thank you that it was in your plan from the beginning to give us Jesus." Amen and Amen.
1 – Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=holiday
2 – Luke 2.10-11
3 - a thought from Charles Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
4 - John Wesley, 1703-1791, founder of the Methodist Church
5 - Susanna Wesley, 1669-1742, Mother of 19 children, including John
6 – Romans 8.28
7 – 1 Peter 1.16