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Christmas Challenge: Is Jesus on your Christmas list?

I realized this weekend, I already feel anxious about Christmas. Two words that should not be paired together – Anxiety & Christmas. We just emptied the Thanksgiving table and I already feel behind? Behind in one more thing since our family of 4 became 5. Silly, I know, but true.

I opened my email yesterday and tucked in between all the cyber Monday chaos was this email from my friend Jenny. A tiny gift bearing relief from anxiety and a reminder I desperately needed. I asked her permission to share her heart with you all, and always the encourager, she said, yes!

After reading Jenny’s challenge, I pulled my copy of The Greatest Gift and read what I had written one year ago today in the margins. Pregnant with baby Jonah, 12 weeks along I wrote my hopes for the season. “I’m yearning to live in the peace and miracle of the moment, without fear & anxiety.” Fear was robbing my joy of a healthy pregnancy. And now anxiety was stealing my peace.

I’m so grateful for God’s timing. I hope you find encouragement from Jenny’s words.

And, Thank you God for the answered prayer I sought a year ago — the one who’s sleeping soundly just down the hall.

by Jenny Imhoff

Loved Ones,

I want to share with you my journey this morning, and where I believe God is leading me.

In my bathroom there is a perpetual calendar where you flip a page each day.  Today I read:  “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Luke 1:49

And I pondered….”He’s done great things for me, what can I do for Him?

Then I checked my email and there was a note that talked about how we buy more to keep than to give away.  We refuse to give because we don’t trust that God will provide.  We hang on to things in case we might need them someday, when there’s someone right now today who could use these items but we’re not allowing them to be used.

And I pondered….”He’s given me all these things, what can I give to Him?

Before breakfast I prayed and thanked Him for providing my food, then before I could eat I was prompted to open my Bible.  I read this:  “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘increase our faith!'”  Luke 17:5

And I pondered….”what can I do to increase my faith?”  (Nothing on my own!  It is God who gives faith.  See Acts 3:16 & Romans 12:3.)

So I prayed….”Lord, increase my faith!

Then I realized….Christmas is coming!  

What more can I do for Him than everything He asks?

What more can I give to Him than everything I am?

What better way to increase my faith than to spend more time with Him?

Ok, but seriously, what does that look like in real everyday life?

What if…….. I said only yes to God from now till Christmas?  No more saying no.  What would that look like?

What if…….. I gave more than necessary and even gave when it’s not fair?  What would I be able to see?

While thinking about this, I went into the bathroom to grab the towels to put in the laundry….and I noticed I had flipped the calendar to the wrong page.  So I flipped to the page for today’s date and it read “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Romans 10:17  I almost laughed out loud!  How often I have turned to the wrong page, read the “wrong” scripture….yet God still leads me where He wants me to go.

And I wonder…..where is He leading you?

We can think and ponder and analyze and try to figure out where God is leading.  But on our own we will never figure it out.  Not outside of God’s Word.

God uses His Word to teach us, to guide us, to comfort us, to correct us, to be close to us, to refresh us.  (See 2 Timothy 3:16 and Psalm 19:8 and Psalm 119:50)

What if…….. you put Jesus on your Christmas list?

In all the hustle and bustle of shopping and decorating and baking and traveling (or whatever you do at Christmas), what if you also gave time to Him?

It’s so funny because in our “real” everyday lives, we can easily feel like taking time for Bible reading, prayer, or a devotional/reflection time is just one more thing to add to an already overbooked schedule.  It’s stressful just thinking about adding one more thing!  But there is no “real life” that is more real than being in the presence of the Giver of Life.

That time away from everything else—even if it’s just 5 minutes—is meant to refresh us and revive our souls.  Your soul is probably craving it, just like mine is.  (That’s probably why we’re stressed.)

So here is my challenge to you:  Whatever amount of time you currently spend reading the Word/praying/etc., spend a little bit more every day from now till Christmas.  If you give 0 minutes a day to God only, give 1 minute.  If you give 5 minutes a day to God only, increase it to 7 or 10 minutes.  If you give 20 minutes a day to God only, increase it to 25-30 minutes.  You can do this!  Just make the commitment, and set a timer.

What to do during this time?  If you aren’t sure how to spend it, here are some suggestions:

* If you are giving 1 minute, read 1 verse a day.  (Proverbs chapter 13 has 25 verses.  Read 1 per day.  Or try a different chapter in Proverbs.)

* If you are giving 5 minutes, read 1 passage (more than one verse but less than one chapter) every day.  (Psalm 119 is divided into 21 passages so that’s one idea.)

* If you are giving 20 minutes, read 1 chapter a day.  (I think I’m going to read Luke because there are 24 chapters.)

Regardless of how much time you are giving, spend half of it reading God’s Word, and half of it talking to Him.

Maybe you already have a Bible reading plan.  Maybe you already journal your prayers.  Maybe you’d rather draw your prayers or illustrate the scripture that you’re reading.  Maybe you’re meeting with a small group Bible study and the homework is your personal devotional time.  Or maybe you read a devotional every day on your own.  If you want to, you can still take the challenge, regardless of what you currently have in place.

Maybe none of this sounds feasible for you.  If that’s the case, you’ve read this far…don’t give up!!!!  God’s Word is alive and powerful and there is treasure for you if you will just open it and make space in your life for the Lord, especially this Christmas.  Give yourself a gift.

Start December 1st.

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