Can you feel it? When I walk into Target, when I see the commercials or hear the music, I can feel it – Christmas spirit. It’s so funny how tangible the energy and momentum of the holidays can be. And that energy stirs up a wide range of emotions and memories in each of us: some good, some hard.
SOMETIMES THE NOSTALGIA AND THE MEDIA AROUND US CREATE EXPECTATIONS WE CAN’T ATTAIN.
And sometimes the holidays are the most difficult time of the year because we face loneliness or pain in our families.
WHETHER ITS HALLMARK EXPECTATIONS OR HARSH REALITIES, HOW CAN WE FIND CONTENTMENT THIS CHRISTMAS?
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice.” – Philippians 4:4
Again and again, Paul’s advice in his letter to the Philippians is to rejoice. It’s ironic that he would use this word so much in his letter because he is writing to the church amid great struggle and some acute relational conflict. Paul himself writes this letter from prison, not knowing if he will live. Yet, repeatedly, he takes time to rejoice! He seems to realize that contentment doesn’t end in rejoicing.
REJOICING ENDS IN CONTENTMENT.
Contentment is Reasonable
In Philippians 4, Paul is writing to two women at odds with each other. Apparently the conflict is so severe, Paul feels the need to weigh in. He tells the others in the church to help these women reconcile and then moves directly into his encouragement, “Rejoice in the Lord” in verse four. Then in verse five, Paul encourages the church to, “let your reasonableness/ gentleness be known to all. The Lord is near.”
Each of us have different dynamics at play in our families when we are home for the holidays. Some of us routinely face conflict or tension. Paul’s instruction amid relational drama is to rejoice and be reasonable (also translated to gentle or moderate). Paul is encouraging the people to avoid the emotional extremes that our relationships and circumstances can pull us into. We want to rejoice and be reasonable, NOT overwhelmed and swept away in our relationships this holiday season.
We do this by zooming out and aligning our expectations:
- Zoom Out // If you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed this season, take time to zoom out from your current circumstance by rejoicing at how God is working in the big picture and in other ways in your life. When you can look back or look ahead and see how God is at work, it will give you faith for how He can move in your current situation.
- Align your Expectations // Notice I said align and not lower your expectations. It’s amazing how our imagination and our expectations of what will or won’t happen over the holidays can run wild without realizing it. Take time to sit down and pray, “God, what do You want to do in my family and in my life this Christmas?” Write down what the Holy Sprit says and let that drive your expectations and faith.
Contentment is Not Neutral
“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will be with you always” – Philippians 4:6-7
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:9
The promise of Scripture is that the peace of God beyond all logic and God Himself will be with us. Yet the Bible is clear that there are things we DO as believers to access the peace He wants to give. Don’t sit back and wait for contentment to find you this season. To walk in peace we need to be proactive in praying and rejoicing.
- Take time to pray this holiday season // You aren’t too busy to find Him, and you’ll find Him in your prayer life. Spend quality, if not quantity, time rejoicing out loud for what God has done in your life. Pray specific prayers and ask for specific answers in areas your worried about this season. You’ll be amazed at what God can do!
- Practice// Paul encourages the church to keep doing what they’ve learned. The holidays are a time for rest and celebration. But too often we push pause on the disciplines of prayer and time with God that actually give us the peace, hope, joy and strength we need. Keep practicing the things you’ve learned in your walk with God.
Contentment is an Atmosphere
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…I have learned the secret of facing abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” – Philippians 4:11b-13
We often see that last verse on the wall of a weight room or maybe scrawled on the sweatband of some famous athlete. Ironically, this verse isn’t about victories and overcoming. This verse is about having the strength and character to face both victories AND defeat. Paul is expressing that he’s learned something about walking with God in good times and in bad times. Sometimes we have to walk through difficult circumstances to truly learn the contentment that Paul is talking about. Contentment doesn’t look like the ideal place or scenario you might imagine. Rather, it is the atmosphere you live in everywhere you go!
My final encouragement this season is to embrace the situation God has placed you in. Learn and get all that God has for you!
- Embrace, don’t escape // Press into your relationships this season, press into that family Christmas or that difficult, even painful situation. Leave your phone in the car when you go inside, get good rest and don’t stay up late watching endless media.
What is one thing you can do to embrace the season that God has put you in this Christmas? If nothing else, God wants to give you His contentment, His peace and Himself this holiday season!
By Chase Moore – Associate Young Adult Pastor