Turn to the Scriptures to celebrate Christmas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--For many people, the Christmas season is filled with anything but peace. Too much rushing around. Too much traffic. Too many activities, crowded stores and long lines. Too much stress. Not enough spiritual reflection and drawing closer to God.

If your disillusionment with Christmas has been growing, one way to resurrect the holiday spirit is to practice the time-honored observance of 12 days of Christmas.

According to most church calendars, the Christmas season actually begins Dec. 25 and ends on Jan. 5. The 13th day, Epiphany, commemorates the wise men's arrival and the revelation of Jesus as Savior to the gentiles.

If you feel spiritually frazzled during December, celebrate these observances, individually or as a family, to reconnect with our Savior and reclaim the holidays:

1. Give meaningful gifts. "They opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11). Take time to reflect on the meaning of gift giving. With each gift exchange, you're re-enacting the scene of the wise men bestowing their treasures on Jesus.

2. Forgive and reconcile. "You are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). As Christ came to forgive us, we're called to forgive others. Who has sinned against you? Whom have you offended? While reconciliation takes time, it can begin on this day with the first thought or act of forgiveness.

3. Watch for God. "They will name Him Immanuel, which is translated 'God is with us'" (Matthew 1:23). Search for God this day. You can see His hands in everything -- the shining sun, laughter, the warm glow of the fire, and your heart. Take time to be still and listen to God's voice. What is He saying to you?

4. Show hospitality. "In those days, Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, where she entered Zechariah's house" (Luke 1:39). When Mary was pregnant and unmarried, she sought refuge in the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Welcome someone into your home who is grieving a lost loved one, going through a divorce or simply feeling lonely during Christmas.

5. Honor your mother. "Then [Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your offspring!" (Luke 1:42). Honor your mother on this day. Spend time with her or call her. If she has passed away, reflect on her gift of life. Perhaps you can help an overwhelmed mother in your church or neighborhood.

6. Serve the homeless. "And she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a manger -- because there was no room for them at the inn" (Luke 2:7). Mother Teresa once said that to serve the homeless was to serve the living Christ. (See Matthew 25:40.) Serve the homeless this day by helping out in a shelter or soup kitchen.

7. Get back to nature. "We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). God used nature to guide the wise men. After days of gluttony and sofa sitting, spend time in God's playground. Soak in the divine creativity and presence of God.

8. Honor children. "You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). Look for Jesus in the faces of children around you. Spend quality time with little ones, absorbing their playful spirits. If children don't live with you, visit a family with children or volunteer to baby-sit for a friend.

9. Reflect on the past. "Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them" (Luke 2:19). Reflect on the things God has taught you or the ways He has worked in your life during the past year.

10. Worship and celebrate the Sabbath. The wise men "saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him" (Matthew 2:11). Go to church and focus on worshiping God. Praise Him throughout the service. After church, enjoy God's gift of the Sabbath with family or friends.

11. Experience one hour of prayer. Anna "did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers" (Luke 2:37-38). Go to a peaceful place and dedicate an hour to communicating with God. Savor God's presence and rejoice in His love for you.

12. Count your blessings. "For we have all received grace after grace from His fullness" (John 1:16). Set aside time to name the ways God has blessed you. Write them down. Be specific. The list will provide a reminder of God's grace throughout the year.

The holiday season doesn't have to be stressful and empty. God intends for it to be intimate and peaceful. By celebrating 12 days of Christmas, we can focus on -- and connect with -- our Savior during the holiday that commemorates His birth.


Adapted from the article, " Resurrecting Christmas: 12 Days of Celebrating God's Way" in the December issue HomeLife, a magazine published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Subscription information can be obtained by sending an e-mail to subscribe@lifeway.com or calling customer service at 1-800-458-2772.

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