Making This Christmas Count
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 7, 2008
Play Song – Silver Bells
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.
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?
Survive the Holiday Rush…
Don’t try to do everything
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”.
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.
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)
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.”
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.”
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…
Keep God first in your schedule
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?
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Carve out margins in your life
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.
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.”
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
It’s good for us. It’s good for us spiritual, emotionally, 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.
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.
Infuse your activities with soul-enriching content
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.
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?
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?
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
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
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…
iTunes Store – “Chapter a Day” podcast by Ryan Haack using NLT (free)
iTunes Store – “The Listener’s Bible NIV” audiobook ($20.95)
Go to “BibleOnRadio.com” to buy and download mp3s for the “One Year
Bible (NLT)” for 49.95 US
“Max Lucado Daily Devotional”
“Insight for Living” by Chuck Swindoll
“Lighten Up” with Ken Davis
“Our Daily Bread” from RBC Ministries
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.
Plan to take it easy following the holidays
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
And then we get to what I want us to notice this morning… We’re told…
Matthew 14:22-23 (NLT)
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.
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.