Making This Christmas Count part 2
Control Your Speed
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 7, 2008

Play Song – Silver Bells

“City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks.” Doesn’t that describe this season so well? We get so incredibly busy! This past week saw us move from November to December, and with that transition it seems as though life shifted into a brand new gear. Christmas trees and decorations started popping up everywhere, all the music changed, stores are aggressively advertising their merchandise, and parking lots at every shopping center in town suddenly are filled to capacity.

It’s like a gun went off and we found ourselves in the Indianapolis 500. I mean, it just all went up several levels overnight. The pace of life skyrocketed, and if we’re not careful, the RPMs will continue to creep upward until we hit 2009.

Now, truth be known, this upward trend started sometime around Halloween, didn’t it? If not before that. But now that we’re into December, it’s going to be an all out sprint to the finish.

So how do you and I enjoy the season and make this Christmas count despite all of the demands on our schedules?

To Survive the Holiday Rush…

1.    Don’t try to do everything

You know, there are all kinds of expectations placed on us and there are so many things we want to do and there are people that we don’t want to disappoint. But sometimes, we just have to say “no”.

Now, there are certain things that you just have to say “yes” to. But there are some things that you don’t have to do and you can say “no” to. You can’t eliminate the rush altogether, but you can reduce it some.

You know who understood this? Jesus. Jesus understood that even though there were lots of demands on His time and lots of expectation on Him, He didn’t have to do everything.

Mark 1:35-37 (NLT)
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

Okay, so there are lots of demands being placed on Jesus and demands on His time. There are people who want to see Him. All the people in the area had heard about Jesus and about His miracles, and so they wanted to see Him. And the disciples themselves just added to the pressure. They expected Jesus to accommodate all those demands. They encouraged Him to go and spend the day with the people. But do you know what Jesus said? He said, “No.” He said, “I have other things to do. I have other places I need to go.” Let me show you exactly what Jesus said…

Mark 1:38 (NLT)
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”

Jesus knew what was important and what wasn’t so important. He knew that there were lots of demands on His schedule and that there people who would be disappointed, but He also understood the importance of saying “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to other things and to not obsessively try to do everything.

If you want to survive the Christmas rush and actually make this Christmas count for something, you need to realize that you don’t need to do everything. The second thing is this… While you are saying “no” to some things…

2.    Keep God first in your schedule

You know something that concerns me? And it’s not just at Christmas time. It’s when life gets busy and you’re tired and maybe you’ve had company or you’re traveling or you’ve been working a lot or the kids are involved in sports… whatever it is… you’ve been busy and the first thing that goes is God.

I really don’t understand that. I mean, do people really think that God won’t mind? “If you’ve got to ignore someone and put someone off and disappoint someone, it may as well be God because, well, He’ll forgive you.” Why is it that people treat God so flippantly? Why do they show Him so little respect and give Him so little priority? Why is God always the first to go?

If you go back to that passage we just looked at in Mark chapter 1, what do you see Jesus doing right before He decides what He needs to say “no” to? You see Him praying, right? Jesus has been going around teaching people and healing people and casting out demons and coping with the crowds pressing in around Him. But He still makes the time to be with God the Father. Even though it meant He had to get up early in the morning, He did it.

But I see so many people who get so wrapped up in the busyness of life that they just can’t make room for God. They just push Him out. And that can happen at any time of the year, and it does. But it’s particularly easy to do at Christmas time, that we get so wrapped up in the celebration of His coming that we forget about Him. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But it happens.

John 1:10-11 (NLT)
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

I know that verse isn’t necessarily talking about our busy schedules, but doesn’t it describe what happens when we do get busy?

We’ve talked before about the time Jesus and his disciples went to have dinner in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha.

Now understand, Jesus is there with all his disciples, plus there’s Mary and Martha, and so there needs to be a meal for at least 15 people. Even by today’s standards, that’s a pretty big Christmas dinner. And if you’ve ever prepared one of those, you know there’s a lot of work that goes into it.

So Martha got right to work. And remember, she would have had to make everything from scratch… no pre-cooked meals from the store, nothing she’d be pulling out of the freezer, no microwave to heat things up in… she had a lot of work to do.

But as she was slaving away in the kitchen, her sister Mary went out in the living room and just sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to Him teach. She was in awe of Him and was just honoured to be in His presence.

Until finally, Martha couldn’t take it anymore. She had had enough. There she was, working hard to get the dinner ready for their guests, and Mary didn’t lift a finger to help. And so Martha tore into Mary right in front of Jesus, and complained about how unfair it was, and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. And how did Jesus respond?

Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus wasn’t nearly as concerned about the meal as He was about Mary and Martha. He was there to spend time with them, and He wanted them to spend time with Him. Yeah, a meal had to be prepared… after all, He was invited there to eat… So Martha wasn’t doing anything bad. But she was missing out on the best… spending time with Jesus.

Above everything else, He wants you to spend time with Him. He wants you to know Him.

You know, when we plan the calendar for the Church, we try to keep in mind how busy our lives are. And so we try not to plan something every weekend. We try not to occupy every day of the week. We understand that everyone has other commitments and family events and community involvement. And so we try not to burn you out.

In fact, this Christmas we have very few extra things on the calendar. We’ve had a Ladies’ Craft Night, we have our Christmas Potluck later today, and then we have our Christmas Eve Service. And I hope you’re able to take part in all of that. But I understand if you can’t. Sometimes you just have to say “no” to those extra things.

But can I encourage you to never say “no” to getting together once a week with other followers of Christ to worship Him and to just “be” the Body of Christ? If you’re in town or anyplace in the vicinity, you should be here on Sundays. If you’re off the Island traveling, then find a Church where you are that you can join with that Sunday. Never cut God out of your schedule. It may be the easiest thing to cut, but it’s also the most important thing on your schedule.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

3.    Carve out margins in your life

I’m talking about establishing boundaries. I’m talking about turning off the phone, spending a night at home, shutting down the computer, switching off the TV and just taking time to relax. While you’re driving, turn off the car stereo once in a while and just enjoy some silence. You don’t have to always have something going on. You can carve out margins when you can take a breath.

And don’t feel guilty about it. Because you need those margins. You need time to rest and refuel and reenergize. You can’t go all out from early November to the end of December. At least not without paying a price. So learn to carve out margins.

Hey, God thinks these margins are so important that He included it in the 10 Commandments. We’ve already talked about this kind of margin. The fourth commandment says…

Exodus 20:8 (NLT)
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

Now, that’s kind of a funny word… Sabbath. We don’t use that word a whole lot, but it literally means “Cease” or “Rest”. It means, “Knock it off.”

And basically it’s referring to taking a full day off from all our work and busyness and investing that time in being refreshed and renewed as we devote time to worshipping God and to God-honouring activities and just resting. For the Hebrews who were the first to receive this Commandment, their Sabbath day was from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night. For Christians, dating back all the way back to the apostles and their disciples, the Sabbath has traditionally been Sunday. Whatever the day is, I think the principle behind it is that we need to find one 24-hour period of time someplace in our week where we can set aside our work and spend time resting and worshipping our Creator.

It’s good for us. It’s good for us spiritual, emotionally, and physically.

And even beyond the “Sabbath”, we need to create margins everyday. Moving at high-speed from the time we get out of bed to the time we go to bed does no good to anybody.

Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

You need to carve out margins in your life when you’re not working so hard and you’re not racing around frantically and you’re not so preoccupied and stressed out by all the demands on your time and your energy. Just take some time every week, every day, to knock it off and rest.

4.    Infuse your activities with soul-enriching content

You’re going to be busy, and for the most part, you can’t do anything about it. I mean, you can say “no” to a few things and carve out some margin. But still, there’s going to be no shortage of activities to occupy your time. So if you’re going to be busy anyway, you might as well add meaning to your busyness. You may as well make the most of it.

What are some practices that enrich the soul? Well, there’s prayer, there’s spending time with the Bible, there’s worship, there’s serving, there’s gratitude… In all the things you’re doing that you have to do, what are some ways you can infuse those activities with soul-enriching content?

How about this: Say you’re cleaning the house, getting all set to have company over. Why not have some worship music playing that you can sing along to and enjoy just worshipping God even while you’re cleaning?

While you’re driving in the car, why not spend some time praying? Just keep your eyes open! You know, maybe you want to use every red light as a cue to stop and thank God for the ways He has blessed you this past year.

While you’re waiting at the garage for your winter tires to be put on, or wherever you have to wait, why not carry a devotional book that you can read to enrich your soul. That’s a good habit year-round.

Or while you’re walking through the mall, why not take your iPod or mp3 player and listen to some good soul-enriching audio. In your notes you see a few suggestions…

Bible Audio:
iTunes Store – “Chapter a Day” podcast by Ryan Haack using NLT (free)
iTunes Store – “The Listener’s Bible NIV” audiobook ($20.95)
Go to “” to buy and download mp3s for the “One Year Bible (NLT)” for 49.95 US

Devotional Podcasts:
“Max Lucado Daily Devotional”
“Insight for Living” by Chuck Swindoll
“Lighten Up” with Ken Davis
“Our Daily Bread” from RBC Ministries

The point is, make good use of the time available. For times when you’re otherwise engaged in mind-numbing activities, why not redeem that time and put it to good use?

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NLT)
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

That’s what we’re talking about, making the most of every opportunity.

5.    Plan to take it easy following the holidays

Even when you try to cut back, Christmas and New Year’s Day are still going to be busy. There’s still going to be some racing around. There’s still going you be stress. You can’t completely eliminate that, and you probably shouldn’t. But you do need to understand it and plan time to recover from it.

You know, Jesus had some pretty stressful days. Let me tell you about one day in particular. That morning, he heard that his relative John had been executed. And so Jesus tried to get alone so he could mourn. But as soon as people heard that Jesus was in the area, they came to him and brought people to be healed and wanted to hear Him teach.

And Jesus complied with all that, and He healed people and taught the people right into the evening. In fact, there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have a chance to eat.

At least 5000 people were there crowding around Jesus. Maybe upwards of 8000 or 10,000 all together. And let me tell you as a public speaker, no matter how much you enjoy it, it can be draining. So I can only imagine how exhausting all this would be for Jesus. And then, to cap it all off, Jesus performed a miracle… taking five loaves of bread and two fish and feeding everyone that was there! He had a busy day… He had a stressful day.

And then we get to what I want us to notice this morning… We’re told…

Matthew 14:22-23 (NLT)
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Jesus had had an incredibly busy, hectic day, and He finished it off by spending some time alone in prayer. Even Jesus, who is God, needed time to regroup and recover. And that’s a regular pattern you see in His life. He’d spend the day surrounded by all these people making all these demands, and then He’d spend some time alone.

And I think that’s a good example for you and for me. Even beyond carving out margins for everyday life, when life becomes especially stressful we need some down-time to recover.

So when Christmas is over, what are you going to do to recover? Why not take a couple days off work? Or at least make sure your workload will be lighter for a little while. Or send your kids on a sleepover. However you do it, make sure you have some down-time.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008