Have you made the necessary preparations for Christmas? The countdown is underway, the pressure is on. I have watched the preparations of decorating take place this week in my neighborhood as garlands now adorn the exterior windows, doors, and mailboxes of my neighbors. The lighted white and brownÂ deer have seemingly walked into yards, the wreaths are being hung, and at night the Christmas trees are brightly displayed in the windows of homes. It makes me a bit anxious as I have made no preparations.
My fall wreath of leaves remains hanging by my front door, small brightly orange pumpkins sit on the steps, and in the center of my kitchen table remains a glass container full of green, orange, and golden-yellow gourds. I would like to say this is unusual for me or that the shortened time this year has prompted my lack of preparation but I would not really be truthful. My ambitions of preparation logically arrived in November and I really wanted to ease into Christmas this year focusing on the advent season and I created grand schemes of celebrated design but nowÂ admittedly even that preparation somehow became sidetracked. Today as I write we are two weeks and four days from the first day of Christmas. Where did I go wrong was it in my preparation?
I mustÂ have email subscriptions for about ten plus writers of blogs and other publicationsÂ whoÂ for weeks have written what I need to be doing for proper Christmas preparations along with the cookie count downs and feasting recipes that insistÂ I simply must try to makeÂ my Christmas to beÂ the best that it can achieve for me to be right with the world.
Last night I saw a darling idea for chocolate mice with little almond ears, silver candied eyesÂ and red licorice tails. I am currently in the process of converting my family’s diet to one of whole and gluten-freeÂ foods so I am looking at these recipes and trying to determine how I can make these treats somewhat healthy which as you can guess takes even extra preparations.
If the food preparation isn’t enough pressure just add all of the decorations, table settings, tree lighting, and gifts to the mix. Oh no, the gifts, I forgot about those! They really are side placed. Every year about this time I decide I want to really make something special for everyone on my list and then theÂ problem becomes time or lack of preparation prior to this impending deadline.
All of this pressure and lack of peace can really send me spiraling down into aÂ lack of preparation despair,Â yesterday, however I received a newsletter that informed me that it was solving my problems of preparation for the holidays as it was graciously going to give me a list of tips and tricks that I needed to accomplish a spectacular Christmas celebration that would enchant me to my family. So I eagerly opened the link to discover the magic key they would offer through solutions for my last-minute lack of preparations.
First, I needed to purge my home and donate all the items we did not use. ThisÂ is nowÂ involving a major cleaning out which is a very lofty idea for two weeks before ChristmasÂ and sinceÂ I have made no preparations for the holiday itself this one is immediatelyÂ crossed out on my preparations list.
The second thing I needed to do was to plan out all of my meals. I do not necessarily disagree with this one as I have learned in the long run that this type of preparation really does save time but this siteÂ wants me to make a plethora of freezer meals that I can store away and pull out when my Christmas schedule is too busy to cook. This item also gets crossed out because I don’t have time to makeÂ freezer meals when I have not made necessary preparations for all the other Christmas necessities that need to be accomplished.
Moving to the third tip, IÂ discover they want me to clean my house for the guests that will be arriving and to do that I will need to make homemade cleaners and guest niceties. Are they kidding? When am I supposed to do that when I have not bought the first gift or put up a tree? Thankfully our only guest this year will be my mother and sorry mom, but you will just have to take us as you know we really are. So now I have crossed out the third listed trick and advance to the fourth.
Now they want me to prepare my budget by choosing not to go into debt and insteadÂ suggest that I stockpile gifts, consider providing services rather than gifts, making homemade gifts, and research deals. Well, all of that sounds grand and I certainly do not want to overspend but the tips and tricks they suggest should have involved earlier preparation for the most part so I slowly cross out the fourth item too and the magic of their suggestions are diminishing as I read lower on the page.
TheÂ fifth group of tips they suggest involves early preparation! Well isn’t that dandy, two weeks before Christmas they tell me to make preparations early. I think I missed the boat as according to themÂ I should have my Christmas card list organized and addressed, have made and froze homemade treats for neighbors, and have planned my holiday dinner menus. Well that just about takes me to the end of their suggestions as I cross out thisÂ section of necessary preparations too.
The final suggestion they offerÂ now is to plan aheadÂ for 2015. Well I just may leave this one onÂ the list as I mightÂ be able toÂ make preparations for next year’s Christmas early.Â It appears that this article is missing the magic solution for my lack of Christmas preparation.Â It seems this article withÂ all ofÂ its tips and tricks for proper preparation have left me feeling more anxious about my lack of Christmas preparations than before I began. I am not feeling at peace with my preparations or seeing that I will experience peace when the day finally arrives.
Why do I find myself in this lack of preparation this year and in the years past? Perhaps you also feel you have not made adequate preparation for all of the Christmas experiences you want to make sure your family has. Why do we not make preparations? Do we see no purpose for the preparations or do we make preparations and then do not fully use the preparations to find the peace we so desire?
I was speaking yesterday to someone and asking if they had put up their decorations and made other preparations for Christmas. I was quickly informed that they do not decorate, plan menus, or anything else. They will not be home for Christmas and just see no purpose in making preparations at home for an event they will not be celebrating there. They saw no purpose in the preparation. I read a story this week, by Pastor Scott Hippler, about what happens when we can see no purpose in the preparation.
One winter’s day whenÂ Scott was around seven years old,Â his grandmother tookÂ his cousin andÂ him to the grocery store. When the shopping was completed and the brown paper sacksÂ loaded in the car,Â they headed home. Along the way grandmother decided she needed to make another stop at a store and decided to leave the two children in the car as she would not be but just a few minutes. Well the few minutes took longer than she thought and the two children began to not see the purpose in their waiting.
Back during this time they put prizes in the laundry detergent boxes as incentives for people to buy the product. Grandmother had purchased two large boxes of soap because she liked to buy everything in bulk.
Scott had learned recently that you could pop the ashtrays out of the doors in the backseat and when you looked down in them there was a large black hole. The two boredÂ children spent their time popping out both ashtrays and when that task grew oldÂ they decided they would see what prizes they had won in the laundry detergent boxes but they did not see the purposeÂ in theÂ necessary preparation.
They carefully opened both boxes of soap but needed some place to store the soap as they certainly knew they could notÂ just pour it out in the floor. They came up with the grand idea to use the holes in the door where the ashtrays went. It seemedÂ like a great idea as they each carefully poured their box of soap into the black hole of the door. Before they knew it the boxes were empty and they had found a nice little coffee cup and a salad dish in the bottom of their boxes.
As the two childrenÂ traded the prizes between each other to look at their finds they realized what they had done andÂ that there was no way they were going to be able to make the soap boxes look and feel like they had never been opened. They also realized there was no way to get the laundry soap out of the black hole in the door where the ashtrays went.
We do not knowÂ Grandmother’s reaction to the children not being able to see the purposeÂ to the necessary preparations of a taskÂ as theÂ story ends here. It is safe however to say that they both lived to tell the story.
They likely blamed grandmother as it was all her fault that they had to wait. You can get into a lot of trouble while you wait especially if you see no purpose in your waiting.Â You canÂ also contributeÂ a lot of problems for others if you make no preparations to help them see their purpose too. As the Christmas season fullyÂ comes upon us to make the preparations we need to it is necessary that we see the purpose for all the fuss.
The purpose of the celebration is found in honoring the original coming of Christ, God joining us on earth, andÂ more importantly the ultimate purpose and necessary preparation is for the second coming of Christ. SoÂ as we establish the purpose of our preparation we must realize that preparationÂ holds noÂ meaning if we do not use what we have prepared for.
There is a story told about a peculiar fisherman from up north. The fisherman was very well prepared. He knew all about fish and how to catch them. He had all of the necessary equipment one needs to be a good fisherman. He had poles, nets, bait, and a very nice boat but he had one problem. For all of his preparation he never caught any fish, not even just one. The reason he never caught any fish was that for all the knowledge and all the equipment he had he never got in the boat, never left the dock, he never went fishing. His preparation was meaningless because he did not use what he had prepared for.
We can make all the preparations we feel are necessary but if we do not use the preparationsÂ of Christmas to honor Christ or bring us closer to His return or our return to Him the preparations are useless. Advent gives us the opportunity to clean up our preparations and direct our focus on Christ directly not just the “equipment” of the celebration. If we focus our preparations to the “reason for the season” we will certainlyÂ see the purpose and with that we will find and experience the peace that comes from a true relationship with Christ.
John the Baptist shouts for all of us to prepare the way and make the necessary preparations for Christ. The preparations that must be made will provide for us salvation whichÂ supplies an awesome consuming peace that will descend upon us if we will simply make the true and necessaryÂ preparations. This week’s focus verse is Luke 3:6;
“And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.” (NLT)
Perhaps we have become misguidedÂ in our preparations. It is not the preparations for Christmas on earth that we should be preparing for it is the preparations for eternity that we need toÂ focus upon. We can make these preparations not only during Advent, described by Edward Hays in A Pilgrim’s Almanac, as “a winter training camp for those who desire peace”, but year around. We can make “Christ Preparations” in several different ways.
- We should begin our preparations with reflection and prayer. This time should be spent thinking about our repentance to “clear the way” and clean up the dirt in our life. Making the path straight and the road smooth. (Luke 3: 5b)
- Preparation should include reading scripture and meditating upon what God is trying to tell us. We should be willing to share with others what we learn fromÂ our meditation and readings to help others make their own preparations.
- We should make preparations by examining how we treat others, ridding ourselves of superiority and resentment. Advent gives us time to make preparations for forgiveness to heal our own hearts helping to achieve peace. Archbishop Kirby Clements gives a great statement for defining forgiveness that is quite palatable;
Forgiveness is not memory loss it is memory without vengeance.
When we make these types of preparations during advent we are not just preparing to celebrate by honoring and remembering Christ’s birth we are making preparations for Christ’s second coming. We have to see the purpose of the preparationsÂ andÂ use the preparations we make.Â We are to be reminded during this time that these important preparations result in the salvationÂ for all people and as Christians it is important to not only remember this for ourselves but to offer help to others so they too can make their preparations. (Luke 2:30-31, Acts, 28:28, Titus 2:11)
When we properly make necessary preparations, peace will graciously be provided as an additional reward in several different ways. This is best illustrated in a long ago story about a farmer.
Many years ago a farmer owned land that was along the Atlantic seacoast. He was consistently advertising for hired hands however most people were reluctant to work on the farms along the Atlantic coastline. They were often concerned about the terrible storms thatÂ raged across the ocean and created much damage on both buildings and crops. Most of the interviews the farmer held resulted in a steady stream of refusals once they determined the farm’s location.
One day however a short, thin, man who was past middle age approached the farmer regarding a job. “Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him.
“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” the small man answered.
Although the answerÂ puzzledÂ the farmer, he was desperate for help and hired the man. The little man worked well around the farm and was busy from dawn to dusk and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work.
One night the wind howled loudly as a storm approached from the ocean. The farmer jumped out of bed in a panic, grabbed a lantern, and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the small man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! You must tie things down before they blow away!”
The small man said firmly, “No sir. I told you when you hired me that I can sleep when the wind blows”. The small man then rolled over and went back to sleep.
The response enraged the farmerÂ enough to fire him however he knew he needed to see about his farm first. So he hurried outside to make the necessary preparations for the storm. To the farmer’s amazement, he discoveredÂ all of the haystacks covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was firmly tied down so nothing could blow away.
The farmer now understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to sleep also while the wind blew. The farmer and the farm hand found peace in the preparations made before the storm.
If we make the necessary preparations spiritually, mentally, and physically for a relationship with Christ and eternal life, we too can find peace in the storms.WeÂ also will be able to sleep when the wind howls at our door as we will have secured ourselves by tying in to the Word of God. The preparations we make ahead of time do not require our understanding just our commitment.
As we continueÂ to move through Advent let us reflect upon the necessary preparations to find peace in the dark corners of our hearts. It is not inÂ the Christmas preparationsÂ that we need to focus upon, it is in the preparations for Christ.
I pray that you will be able to find both the purpose of your preparations and the necessities of using the preparations that you make this yearÂ for Christmas for when you achieve both, peace will descend upon you.
Love in Christ,
The coming of the Messiah didn’t happen like we thought it would 2000 years ago and it probably will not happen like we think it will whenÂ Christ returns again. We must make our preparations for such with this thought in mind because as Audrey Assad sings, He could have come like a mighty storm and a rushing wind but instead Christ came like a winter snow, quiet, soft, and slow. Expect the unexpected.
What are Your Thoughts? Join Us in Discussion.
Have you made preparations for Christmas this year? Have you made preparations for Christ’s second coming? Are you prepared to help others make preparations for Christ and in the mist find the peace that you long for?