It’s the “Out with the Old, In with the New” holiday, my favorite time of year. Before the Christmas cookies had cooled, I was already dreaming about all the purging and planning I was going to do this week. I could hardly wait to make a new schedule, find new recipes, and buy new packs of multi-colored gel pens.
But I’ve come to believe that the best New Year’s resolutions are to keep the old ones. The most important resolve is to maintain the most important habit. “One thing is necessary”Jesus told the frenetic, distracted, Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Mary had resolved to sit at Jesus’ feet.
For most of us, sitting at Jesus’ feet only happens if we wake up early enough to make time to sit. Which is why, every New Year, I come back to this same, old, resolution: rise early so I might sit at Jesus’ feet.
Rising early is an ancient habit, indeed, explains Charles Spurgeon:
Early rising has the example of Old Testament saints to recommend it, and many modern saints having conscientiously practiced it, have been loud in its praise. It is an economy of time, and an assistance to health, and thus it doubly lengthens life. Late rising is too often the token of indolence, and the cause of disorder throughout the whole day.
Too many “disorderly days” have driven me back to this old resolution for the New Year. Last January, some of you may remember, I set an alarm clock outside of my children’s bedroom—a drastic measure by a tired mom. But when my cunning, lazy, self figured out a way to beat that system, I had to ask Mom to call me each morning and stay on the phone until I had coffee in hand. This new plan is working, I’m happy to report.
We started The 5 O’Clock Club for this reason: because we all need accountability and encouragement to keep this most important habit. What new, dramatic measures do you need to take in order to faithfully seek the Savior through his Word and prayer this year?
If it would help to join our 5 O’Clock Club on Facebook, or our Twitter feed (re-tweet when you wake up), we’d love to have you. I suggest roping in a friend for more personal accountability. If necessary, ask them to call.
“The old proverb declares that they who would be rich must rise early” Spurgeon also said, “surely those who would be rich towards God must do so.” Let’s bring in the New Year with a prayer for new mercies to keep this old habit. May we all grow rich toward God in 2015!
2014 at 2:19 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
2015 is fast approaching so we are having a little year end sale on our new year calendars! Between now and midnight on the 31st take 20% off our 2015 52home calendars. Just use the code “2015” at check-out. Happy New Year!
Christmas is about expectations. “Come thou long expected Jesus” was the prayer of God’s chosen people as they waited for the Messiah. In celebrating Advent, we enter into those expectations and rejoice in their fulfillment.
This side of the incarnation, we often load Christmas down with other expectations. I could give examples, but it is probably whatever you are thinking about right now. And when people or presents don’t meet our holiday expectations it leads to all kinds of emotional turmoil.
Unrealistic Expectations = Unruly Emotions
What should we expect this Christmas?
First, we should expect nothing. If we go into the holidays with zero expectations of how our husband will shop for us or how our children will behave or how our sister will treat us, our emotions will be unruffled by other people.
In other words, the best way to prepare our emotions for Christmas is to repent from idolatry. Remember, as John Calvin warned us, the evil of our desires is not so much in what we desire, but that we desire it too much. We often call these desires “expectations.” And where you have “disappointed expectations,” more often than not, you’ll find an idol lurking nearby.
When we do away with selfish expectations–or as the Bible likes to call them, “worthless idols”–we can expect peaceful emotions this Christmas.
Secondly, we should expect trouble. For the Christian, trouble around the holidays should not be unexpected. Our Lord has promised that, “in this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); and, to paraphrase my dad, “Sin doesn’t take a holiday.”
Expect that your children will be ungrateful or that your uncle will be rude. Expect trouble this Christmas and you will be better prepared to handle it emotionally.
Our secular culture tries to ignore the reality of trouble around the holidays, covering their eyes with sentimentality:
“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas,
May your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight…
From now on our troubles will be miles away…”
For the Christian, our troubles will be miles away and out of sight—one day. But that is the promise of heaven, not Christmas. Unless the Lord returns or calls us home, trouble is an ever-present reality, sometimes especially so at Christmas.
Christmas is about celebrating the fulfilled expectation of Christ come to earth, even as we wait in expectation of his glorious return. As we celebrate the “already” we must expect the “not yet.”
Not only must we expect trouble, but because of Christmas, we can also expect grace. Christ has come! God is with us! Hebrews 2 highlights the grace we can expect, because of the incarnation:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
In our Christmas troubles and temptations, we can expect the help of God-incarnate. God is with us and God is with us to help. He has made propitiation for every sin, and he is able to help us resist every emotional temptation.
When we set our Christmas expectations on Christ, we will not be disappointed.
“On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world.
Every Christmas is still a ‘turning of the page’ until Jesus returns. Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to . . . home.
When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longing, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to his glorious return to earth. When we see him as he is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be ‘Christmas’ indeed!”
I sat with my friend at the hospital this week while her son underwent a battery of tests. Thankfully, the tests did not reveal anything life threatening, but this is not my friend’s first time in the hospital at Christmastime—over the past few years she has lost her husband, her mother, and her sister, all around the holidays. Life is full of hardship and sadness and it doesn’t take time out for Christmas. In fact, the holidays usually throw our sadness into stark relief, making this a painful time for many.
How do we deal with grief and sadness at Christmastime? How do we celebrate when we feel only pain or fear? Our emotions feel trapped in a kind of no-mans-land where neither sadness nor happiness feel at home.
And yet as Christians living in a fallen world, we can learn what Peter means by “rejoicing in suffering” (2 Cor. 6:10).
These are, as Tim Keller points out, “two present tenses:”
Peter does not pit these things against each other. He does not say that we can either rejoice in Christ or wail and cry out in pain, but that we can do both. No, not only can we do both, we must do both if we are to grow through our suffering rather than be wrecked by it.
To ‘rejoice’ in God means to dwell on and remind ourselves of who God is, who we are, and what he has done for us. Sometimes our emotions respond and follow when we do this, and sometimes they do not. But therefore we must not define rejoicing as something that precludes feelings of grief, or doubt, weakness, and pain. Rejoicing in suffering happens within sorrow.
Rejoicing at Christmastime is not to deny the pain we feel, but to choose to remember, in the midst of the pain, what Christ has done for us. God sent his son into a pain-filled world to redeem us from our sins.
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them a light has shone…
For unto us a child is born,
To us a son is given…”
(Isaiah 9:2, 6)
Amidst the revelry of the season, we may be full of sorrow; and within our sorrow, we can rejoice.
“What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do. Look at it in a personal sense: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’—that is a promise—‘to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28, KJV). ‘But how can I know that is true for me?’ asks someone. The answer is the incarnation. God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you. Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Heb. 13:5, KJV)—and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises. He does not always do it immediately in the way that we think. No, no! But he does it! And he will never fail to do it.” ~Martyn Lloyd-Jones
It wasn’t until after dinner on December 1 that I finally went out to the garage in search of our large, wooden, Advent calendar. All I found was an old, used, cardboard calendar. My search for the traditional Advent candles was equally fruitless, so I grabbed a small, misshapen candle from my bedroom dresser. Let the Advent season begin.
As if the holidays aren’t crazy enough, this year my husband and I are fixing up an old farmhouse and moving in (God-willing) by the middle of December. Right now, we are living in between two houses, making packing lists, carpenter checklists, and Christmas lists all at the same time. Which is why I can’t find my Advent stuff, or anything else for that matter.
You don’t have to be moving to feel like the pressure of the holidays is putting the squeeze on your emotions. We all want to experience the peace and joy of this time of year, but things are so busy. And the busier we get, the more anxious and stressed we feel.
“Your life is so intense right now” my mom sympathized “and that’s just reality. The work isn’t going away. You are, as Paul describes the married woman in 1 Corinthians 7, ‘anxious about worldly things’ (v. 37).”
Then she asked me this question:
“How can you simplify your day so that you can carve out a couple of minutes to contemplate the incarnation?”
Each day, as you make your to-do list, ask yourself this question. What is one task you can eliminate or one tradition you can simplify? How can you turn that extra five minutes or half an hour into time well-spent, focusing on the truth of Immanuel, God with us.
“This is what will make you happy,” Mom reminded me, “contemplating the good news of the gospel.”
She followed her advice with this thought from Martin Luther:
“We must both read and meditate upon the nativity….There is such richness and goodness in this nativity that if we should see and deeply understand, we should be dissolved in perpetual joy.”
The other night, after I had collected our rather pathetic Advent supplies, we gathered our children around the table, turned off the lights (hiding all the dirt and boxes), and lit our solitary candle. Everyone was quiet as my husband helped our youngest, Sophie, read from Luke 2:11:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
One simple verse, packed with richness and goodness. One tired mom, dissolved in perpetual joy.
2014 at 10:13 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
The Cyber Monday sale is happening today over at the 52home store! Take 20% off all 52home prints, posters, and products and our most popular wood signs. Just enter the code “Christmas20” at checkout. The sale ends tonight at midnight.