I know of an elderly widow who decided it was too much trouble to get all of her kids and grandkids Christmas presents, so she decided to send them a check inside of a card. A few days after she mailed all the cards, she discovered she forgot to include the checks in the cards. Imagine all those kids opening a card from grandma that said, “Buy your own presents.”
It pays to take a little more time to be prepared, especially at Christmas. But I wonder, with all the preparation that’s been going on the past several weeks, will you take time to prepare your heart for Christmas this year? So often Christmas becomes a bother instead of a blessing, full of headaches instead of hallelujahs – all because we fail to heed the words spoken by a prophet:
Isaiah 40:3 (MSG), “Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.”
This verse encourages a preparation of the heart to welcome the Lord Jesus. I want to apply this to our need to prepare our hearts for Christmas. I want to offer you 3 ways you can prepare your heart for Christmas.
1. BECOME A CHILD AGAIN.
It’s been said that Christmas is for kids. I often hear people say that and I wonder what they mean by it. Do they mean they’ve gotten too old to enjoy celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ? I sometimes detect a little sadness, a little disappointment, maybe a little longing for the days when they enjoyed Christmas as a child? Yet, Jesus seems to think even grown-ups need to become like children.
Jesus said something important when his disciples thought that he was too busy and important to take time for children. Luke 18:15-17 (NLT), One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
He seems to be saying that children are our model for how to enter and live in God’s Kingdom. Unless you become a child again, there is no way you will ever get to heaven! What did Jesus mean? First of all, let me tell you what He did not mean. He didn’t mean there’s something wrong with growing up. There is a big difference between being child-like and childish.
But despite all of the negative things you lay aside as you grow up, there are some things you need to hold on to, no matter how old you get. Let me give you two childlike qualities that can help prepare your heart for Christmas:
Children need somebody to take care of them. They do some things for themselves, but they depend on adults to do many things they can’t. Most kids don’t mind this arrangement. Children are a model for our trust in our Heavenly Father. Jesus tells us that we should become like children who depend on their Father. Not to depend on Him to do what they can, but to depend on Him to do what they cannot. Becoming childlike is simply learning to depend on God.
Children see the world differently. They are amazed at simple things—a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, a falling star. They see beauty in things grown-ups take for granted. We hurry about and miss the living God who is waiting to dazzle us with His glory. That’s why Christmas is just another day to so many adults —they don’t really take time to look at the Baby in the Manger, to think about Who He is, and why He came. They’ve stopped wondering, and as a result, started wandering.
Jesus calls us to become children again—to look at the world around us, to look deep into the Word He gave us, and let Him amaze us, let Him astound us, let Him dazzle us with His greatness and goodness.
Let me challenge you to prepare your heart this Christmas by becoming a child again. No, don’t regress back to childish ways. But what if you practiced depending on God a little more instead of worrying and fretting about everything? What if you took time to stop and look around at the wonders of God’s world and the wonders of God’s Word.
2. REDISCOVER THE BLESSING OF GIVING.
Louisa May Alcott wrote in Little Women, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” That’s what’s wrong with Christmas, Grinches gripe. It is all about giving and receiving presents. But, that’s not what’s wrong with Christmas—in fact, in a certain way, I say Mrs. Alcott is right. But, here’s the key: if you want to prepare your heart for Christmas, you’ve got to rediscover the blessing of giving. The apostle Paul quoted Jesus in Acts 20:35 as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Giving brings more blessing to the giver than the receiver. The trouble is, many of us are not convinced.
Our culture is a lot more into getting than giving. Kids make a list of what they want to get for Christmas— not what they want to give. We don’t mind buying presents for people—but they better buy me a present, too. And if I spend $20.00 on their present, I better not unwrap something from the Dollar Tree. The sad truth is, many of us don’t give gifts—we exchange gifts.
I’m not telling you it’s wrong to get presents or exchange Christmas gifts. I like getting presents as much as the next person. What I am telling you—what Jesus and Paul are telling us—is that the pleasure of receiving a gift cannot compare to the pleasure of giving a gift.
Think about it: how many times do you unwrap a gift, get all excited, and two months later have to strain to remember what you got for Christmas. A week later, the dog chews it up and it’s headed for the dumpster. But, let me tell you a joy that will never fade away:
- When you give a toy to a child who has no parents.
- When you bring food to somebody who would go hungry.
- When you share with the person everybody else forgets.
- When you give of your time to visit a shut-in.
- When you send a card and/or package to a soldier stationed overseas.
That is a blessing beyond any gift you could ever receive. When you give, you are doing what God did at Christmas. Let me challenge you to prepare your heart for Christmas this year by rediscovering the blessing of giving.
3. TURN THE LIGHTS ON.
I like lights. Lots of lights. Lots of lights of different colors. Lots of lights of different colors that blink, shimmer, do the wave—whatever else you can get them to do. Nancy and I like to go riding around our neighborhood and admire the lights.
The Lord Jesus called Himself the Light of the World. But he also calls His people the light of the world, and Paul echoes that same idea in Philippians 2:14-15:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
He pictures the world without Christ in deep darkness, and children of God as lights in that darkness. He wants us to live differently. When everybody else is griping and fussing, we practice being content, thankful, and loving.
Perhaps at no other time in the year do Christians have a better chance to shine in the darkness more clearly and beautifully. There are people where you go to school, work, where you live, who don’t really understand what Christmas is all about. They may connect Christmas with Jesus’ birth, but they don’t connect what happened then to what’s happening now. Christmas is your time to shine. By “shine” I don’t mean it’s your time to show off how good you think you are, or how bad you think they are. It’s not a time to get self-righteous. On the other hand, it is a time to show people the Baby born in Bethlehem came to change our lives. He came to give us peace with God, and peace with one another. He came to give us purpose in life, and hope after death. Your job as a light for the world is to show them why He came, and to lead them to the Light of the World that can illuminate their darkness.
That won’t happen by accident. You’ve got to prepare yourself to shine for Jesus. You’ve got to pray, and ask Him for opportunities to share His love with others. You’ve got to take time to think about how you will answer them when they ask you what makes your life so different.
Let me challenge you this Christmas to shine bright and beautiful as a Light for the Lord. There are folks living in darkness who need somebody to shine the light of the Gospel of God’s love into their lives. You could be that light, if you will prepare your heart. Become a child again, rediscover the blessing of giving, and turn the lights on.