The Joy of Giving (The Hope of Christmas Part 2)

December 12, 2016

The Joy of Giving
(The Hope of Christmas Part 2)

What is joy? Where does it come from, and how in the world do we get it?! We hear of Christmas joy and Christmas cheer, but it’s not really something we can buy in a store, wrap up in a box and stick under the tree. But it is something that’s on everyone’s Christmas wish list whether they realize it or not. And sorry folks, Santa can’t bring it…only Jesus.

Have you ever had one of those days (maybe even weeks, months, or maybe years) where you feel like the joy has been sucked out of you? Like every once of energy you have in you has been drained dry. Sometimes life knocks you down. Sometimes you just have a moment. We all have those days. Other days (some of us), are just so full of extraordinary joy on an ordinary day that we bubble over like a shaken can of soda! Bubble ooze and fling all over the place! We’ve all met those people who are just sometimes “too perky” or “just extra bubbly” (guilty as charged) especially if everyone else maybe just a tad bit grumpy! Don’t be a Scrooge or Grinch all year or at Christmas!

Sometimes we feel like we have so much time, effort, love, sacrifice, and joy to spread and share with others, other days we have nothing left but an empty tank. Have you ever been caught up in the business of being busy? Of course there’s all the day-to-day necessary tasks of life and then all the fun stuff that keeps us busy too. We (especially us productive multitasking women) too often spread ourselves too thin. Warning: Avoid burnout! There’s a simple saying I’ve remembered throughout all my years of ministry and now teaching, and it goes like this “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Meaning you have to be filled, poured into, and taken care of in order to pour into, take care of, and fill up others with love and joy! A car can’t run on an empty gas tank now can it?!

When we seek, pray, worship the One who fills us, it’s so much easier to fill up others because it’s a surplus, an abundance, and excess! Joy is one of those things that will always be more than enough! A song I learned as a little girl in Sunday School (and the kids still sing it at church today) is J-O-Y, Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.

Jesus first. Jesus is the giver of joy. Nothing or no one comes to the Father but through Jesus. (John 14:6) Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above. (James 1:17). The true source of joy is Jesus, it doesn’t come from any earthly thing that we think can fill our voids, that happiness we’ve searched for. No other person, no job, car, house, money, or material thing can give that kind of joy that the heart and soul need and long for.

Others second, when we put others before ourselves we are showing the greatest example yet most simple way that Jesus taught us. Love Thy Neighbor as yourself. The world is not just about you and what you need/want in this life. There are other people who need to know the love of Jesus. To give, to be a servant-hearted follower of Christ maybe the best Christmas gift you can give this year. Too much, we get wrapped up in the giving and receiving of gifts, what to buy for so and so, and what’s on his or her list, and what’s on sale here and there. We know it is better to give than receive…but we get too worked up about trying to get everyone something that we lose the purpose of giving, “the thought that counts”. I, myself am more of a sentimental person who would rather receive a small thoughtful gift packed with meaningful memories and sentimental value than an expensive gift. We don’t always have to give a physical gift to give someone, we can offer our help, or do something nice for something, give them our time, or be a listening ear when someone needs talk, to bake cookies or offer a meal, to make memories, and the best gift is to give them our prayers.

Yourself last, such an uncommon sentiment and concept is a world that is so self-centered. In fact, there’s a new book by Karen Ehman called “Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living In a Self-Centered World” (which is in the December She Matters Box by the way!) that talks about “listening for a heartdrop” and “random acts of kindness” that brighten others days and impact lives. Jesus taught and lived this, He is and was the most selfless man to walk the earth. He taught love and peace. He suffered and was persecuted. He gave the world the most sacrificial act of love when He gave up His life on the cross. We are to follow His example in putting others before our own needs and motives. John 15:13 says “No greater has no man than he (or she) that would lay down his (or her) life for his friends.” Giving truly is an easy thing to do when done in love.

So in the spirit of giving, remember this THE GIFT & THE GIVER. God the Father, was the Giver on that first Christmas. Jesus was the gift, but Jesus also became the Giver as He grew into a man-the gift of eternal life through the cross (John 3:16). There are many stories and parables throughout the New Testament (especially the four gospels) that Jesus speaks about “taking care of the least of these”, “it is better to give than receive”, and the parable of the rich young fool. It doesn’t take much effort to brighten someone’s day, something as simple as a smile or kind gesture. There are many ways to give: donate clothes, shoes, toys, or any other items to a family homeless shelter or orphan’s home, bake cookies for the children’s hospital or nursing home, give your time or skills and talents to teach others, make a card to cheer someone up. Donate to charities here at Christmastime and throughout the year. Below are some links to some great charities to give to. Tis the season y’all!

With Christmas love and cheer,

Heather

Here’s a list of  some great charities to give to!

St. Jude Children’s Research

Samaritan’s Purse

American Red Cross

Lighthouse For Life

She Matters

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A Time for Thankfulness in a Season of Hope (The Hope of Christmas Part 1)

A Time for Thankfulness in a Season of Hope
(The Hope of Christmas Part 1)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” we hear it and see it everywhere but do you feel it? This is the time of year we all get extra sentimental and remember to be “grateful”, “thankful”, and full of “Christmas cheer” as if we should be reminded. I’m a sappy and sentimental gal on the regular anyway, so when Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all roll around cue the Hallmark movies, old traditions and memories and here come the waterworks! I just can’t help it!

As we just passed Thanksgiving last Thursday, a time for plenty of food, family time trimmed with the fixings of the Macy’s Parade, football, and Black Friday shopping game plan. Thanksgiving is a special time we recognize as a national holiday to be extra thankful. But yet should we have to be reminded to be grateful for things we take for granted? A full feast: thankful for the food we have to put on our table and in our stomachs. A place to call home and gather with family and make memories.

Each day whether it’s November or not, THANKSGIVING should be a day-to-day celebration of gratitude. Do you have groceries in your fridge and pantry? Check. Do you have clothes and shoes to wear? Check. Do you have a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in? Check. Running water to shower, cook, clean and electricity to use? Be thankful to have bills to pay, as hard as it may be to make ends meet, you have the basics. Do you have a family to come home to, or loved ones to gather together with? Check. Do you have a job to make a living? Check. Do you have a vehicle or some sort of transportation? Check. Did you wake up this morning with breath in your lungs and a heartbeat in your chest? If you are reading this, then YES you have so much to be thankful for. Even though there are days, weeks, and months that are really difficult in your year and in your life, every given moment is actually a gift. It IS called the present.

As we go into the Christmas season, let us not get “wrapped up” in the busyness of it all that we forget why we do all these things. Yes, Christmas is fun and magical and usually brings out the kid in all of us, unless your like the Grinch or Mr. Scrooge….then we need to pray and sprinkle a little on cheer on you! Let’s be honest we know the holidays can bring out the best of the stress in all of us at times! But no matter how much house cleaning, decorating and food preparation, gift buying and wrapping, parties, plays, and gatherings there are; there is still something special about this time of year. No matter what kind of year you’ve had, hopeless suddenly becomes a little more hopeful. Lights on the trees and in people’s eyes seem to shine a little brighter. People are generally alot nicer this time of year too! There’s something about Christmas that brings out the inner child in all of us. That child-like faith Jesus spoke of.

As we go into the season, remember that HOPE does exist. The people of Israel were waiting for a Messiah, this promise they had heard of for many years. Some still believed, while others had lost hope. Hope came to a dark, captive world in the form of a tiny baby born in a stable in a small town on a quiet night. This is why we restore our joy at CHRISTmas, a renewed hope that a Savior would one day come. That love came down from heaven to earth when Jesus was born. Let Christmas remind you that hope is never far away.

With that being said, over the next 4 weeks leading up to Christmas…I’m starting a short series of Christmas blogs….we’re calling it “The Hope of Christmas”. So read, reflect, and share the hope with others! Next blog coming at ya next Friday!

 

Tis the season y’all!

your sister, Heather