How do you follow up Christmas?
That’s the question I asked myself as I prepared to give a message at church on Sunday. During Advent and all of December we build towards that pinnacle moment as we celebrate on December 25th. And then what? How do you follow Christmas?
As I penned the words, “How do you follow Christmas?” it gave me pause. This question is bigger than just informing what I would speak on at church on December 30th. The answer to that question was powerful enough to inform how I approached that day, the new year and each day to follow…
Let’s think on it practically for a moment, in your life: How do you follow up Christmas?
For many the days following Christmas are filled with rest, cleaning, packing up decorations, getting back to routine… Right in time to look to the new year and say: how do I want to be different?
Most of us, well, we follow up Christmas by moving on…. moving on from the busy season, the mess, the decor, the frenzy of the holiday season. As much as we welcomed the interruption, the intentionality, the intensity… we’re glad to get on with things. New Year’s Eve swooped in quickly and before you know it the meaning and message of Christmas fade into memory.
Before we lose it (or before we get much farther away) stop and ponder what it was all about in the first place.
In the background right now I hear my girls chattering away as they play together. A very timely reminder: there is a lot we could learn from our children. Kids give us the insight we need to the question: how do you follow up Christmas?
What are they doing right now?
My little ladies are using their gifts. They spent all weekend playing with toy after toy, opening more new boxes, wearing new clothes, making crafts, watching movies… they enjoyed their presents by using their gifts.
That is quite straight forward, so simple it seems obvious… and yet- we adults struggle to use the gift of Christmas.
No, I’m not talking the funny gifts you weren’t sure you ever wanted that some relative put in pretty paper for you… and I mean so much more than the gift cards you’d better redeem before you’ve lost them.
I mean: the gift of Christmas
Emmanuel- God with us… Jesus- who saved us from our sins
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[a] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
What an amazing gift that Christmas brings! Advent leads us to prepare for the coming, year after year we look with anticipation for that wonderful, celebration of Jesus’ birth. That gift isn’t one that we use but a gift we live.
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We live loved so we can live love.
Over and over the message speaks loud and clear through the scriptures: God loves us. That love wasn’t dependent upon us, that we be “good” enough to earn it. 1 John 4: 9-10 reminds us again, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The gift of Christmas is the one of security in God’s love. Probably one of the first verses most people memorize is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God love us.
We know it.
But, do we live it?
Do we live loved?
Think of it this way: What does it look like when someone lives looking to earn love in comparison to living in the security of love? From attention seeking behaviors, to jealousy, anger, risky behaviors, to apathy… when we don’t feel security of love it changes how we live.
Love, as a word, is often misunderstood, poorly used, and easy to misconstrue. There are times we find we’ve fallen victim to or chosen to believe lies about God’s love over the truth in Christ:
“You are a beloved child of the King, lavished with His mercy, filled with His grace, loved beyond imagining.”
When we live with the security of this love based on God then we live changed, not by our ever changing circumstances but changed by the truth of God at work in us.
When we live loved we are changed, equipped and motivated to live love.
After 1 John 4 tells us what love really is, verses 11-12 show us how love compels us, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Live it… that is what God’s love compels us to do.
1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter,” may be most often quoted on wedding days but it is needed everyday we live as the Bride and the body of Christ.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails
Break that down, phrase by phrase and ask, “Do I live this kind of love?” We come face-to-face with a self-sacrificial, putting others first, vulnerable, risky kind of love… it can be a bit overwhelming to think of living love like that…
But we come back to that early question: how do you follow Christmas? Live loved my friends and let that love change, equip and motivate you to live love.
It won’t be easy. You’ll fail, find yourself too selfish, lose your temper, refuse to humble yourself, deny someone love…
And you’ll turn to God in repentance, whose love never fails, and you’ll try again.
Looking to live loved to live love in 2019? Start by studying what these scriptures teach about God, how His love transforms, and how that love compels us to live:
- 1 Corinthians 13
- Galatians 5
- Ephesians 5