“Too often, the Christmas story only impinges on the periphery of our lives.” ~ Ian Strachan, Today In a Manger
With so much Christmas to celebrate, the danger isn’t about cheer. It’s complicating it so much that we miss out on the story of Jesus, showing up in our today.
I start Christmas as early as I can.
It’s not because I’m a Martha Stewart, itching to hang up long closeted snow men and reindeer embroidered dish towels. It’s not even due to the brightly decked out Christmas tree glowing in my living room, which is considered one of the seven wonders in my world (remember I have two boys under six roaming freely, conducting experiments at whim).
I focus in on celebrating Christmas as soon as Thanksgiving turkey becomes leftover soup.
I do it because Christmas can get so complicated. So, I’ve got my game plan.
I’ve been waiting the whole year to start the season off simply.
Jockeying For Mindshare
Every one is jockeying for mindshare in my holiday. The competition starts the week before Thanksgiving —
* My email box gets crammed with spam, ads announcing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Go shop!
* Television shows get splattered with commercials going CGI with all varieties of animals donning santa hats and snow flakes dancing to the jingle of sleigh bells. Don’t miss out!
* People start talking about parties and concerts. Don’t be left to the side!
* The lines at Target get longer and carts get fuller. You deserve more!
* Planning on how, what, when, with whom to share the holidays gets played out, as another crank around the different scenarios gets turned. Everything must be picture perfect!
The season’s inertia sets off alarms in my inner, spiritual space.
Slow down. Keep Christmas simple for Christ.
Every year the dials are different. This year has carried so many highs and some deep lows, I want to dial everything down and make room for the story of Jesus’ birth.
My hope for Christmas this year is pretty simple.
I want to find myself in the Christmas story. Today.
I am hoping to find a character in the story that God can step me into. I’m wondering whose robes God will have me don this year. It won’t be for a church or school play.
I’m meditating on His story, reading it through the different Gospels, switching shoes, to feel what a walk is like wearing them. For a day or two.
I’m asking God to bring me to a place where I can experience Him simply and get ready for a new year.
So much has changed this year for me. I told my Going Off Script story for the first time to so many. The ripple effects of sharing it has forced me to let go of some things while freeing me to pursue others.
Whenever we step out in faith, our world shifts. We look in the mirror and we don’t quite recognize everything we see — in the world and ourselves. Ways we used to live by don’t fit us any more, while what’s up ahead is still unknown, as we’re still growing into it.
It’s the in-between time. It’s exciting to know things are changing, but it’s more exciting to know that God doesn’t change.
I don’t know what awaits me next year, but I need to make that journey to Bethlehem and return with something new.
I need the ripples to lead me back to where the story of Jesus first began.
There are still presents to buy, Christmas faves to enjoy, and friends to invite over (I don’t want to eat all those Christmas desserts myself!).
But, the underlying guideline on what I do and how I do Christmas this year is this: simplicity.
I’m not going to try to pretend or make Christmas happen.
I will unwrap each new day in faith that His story will hit me where I live today.
We can find Jesus in our everyday realities. He will show us the way.
How are the ripple effects of the year shaping your Christmas?
Remember Jesus can enter into the reality of your story. He is Immanuel today.
They will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).
*** NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN — FAITH BARISTA JAM! ***
Faith Barista Jam Thursdays — I serve up a topic of faith, you write the post. Keep faith fresh with a faith prompt and add your voice to this community.
Today’s topic: Your Hopes For Christmas
Share your post by clicking on the blue button below “Add Your Link”. You can also share directly by simply commenting below.
Next Thursday 12/9: Share your Unwrapping Jesus Discoveries —
Keep a lookout for:
*1. Ways to celebrate Christmas simply.
*2. Inspiring moments that fill you with God’s love, joy, peace, or hope.
*3. Encouragement to see Christmas in a new way.
*4. A Fresh Take on the Gift of Jesus.
Approach it any way you feel inspired! Only required ingredient: keep it real. Thanks for serving your personal brews!
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“I want to find myself in the Christmas story. Today.
I am hoping to find a character in the story that God can step me into.”
Me too, Bonnie, although I hadn’t thought of it that way. I appreciate your way of helping me think differently.
“I’m asking God to bring me to a place where I can experience Him simply and get ready for a new year.”
Ironically, experiencing Him “simply” seems to get harder at Christmas–for all the reasons you pointed out, but it is what I want to do. Thankfully he wants it too and with his help, all is possible.
Thanks for serving up your thoughts. I look forward to the things you’ll be sharing all month.
.-= Lisa notes…´s last blog ..Don’t try to predict him =-.
It is especially harder, because there is just so much going on. What matters is having the confidence and space to draw near to God, esp. in our imperfections.
It’s time to push ourselves out of the center of the Christmas story. Black Friday, cyber Monday, all the frenzy — it’s really about putting ourselves at the center.
Good post, Bonnie. And thanks for doing this ongoing jam.
.-= Glynn´s last blog ..My Hope for Christmas =-.
So true, Glynn. Thanks for sharing such a poignant post on childhood and present day hopes.
You hit me right between the eyes with this paragraph:
“Whenever we step out in faith, our world shifts. We look in the mirror and we don’t quite recognize everything we see — in the world and ourselves. Ways we used to live by don’t fit us any more, while what’s up ahead is still unknown, as we’re still growing into it.”
That’s me right now. I’m stepping out in faith and believe me, my world has shifted in a major way. I don’t know what’s up ahead for the first time in many years. You see, I’m a planner and I like to know what’s expected and make a plan to make that happen. And right now, I’m walking in unknown territory. I guess I’m learning to trust the Lord with my tomorrows as only He knows what’s up ahead.
I loved your thoughts Bonnie. Keeping it simple can be challenging especially if you have two young boys. I am now teaching full time and I have a roomful of three year olds in a private school (not Christian). I am actually enjoying this time of year through the eyes of the children though and that’s a blessing. My time has been limited for blogging but I love your topic for next week so I’ll prepare mine in advance so I can link up once again.
Hugs to you Bonnie,
.-= Debbie´s last blog ..New Bible Study Fellowship For 18-40 Year Olds in the Phoenix Area =-.
We all have different pressures that want to sway us away from simplicity. Thank you for taking the time to share where you’re journey is currently. No worries about blogging, dear friend. May God continue to bless your words, Debbie, as you pour them fresh to the little ones you teach, your family and friends. How special for them to be near your heart of encouragement!
The idea of following the ripples back is really intriguing. I think that if we look at the source of many things — creation, the church, fellowship, and yes, Christmas, we’ll shed ourselves of all that doesnt matter and avail ourselves of simple truth.
It’s true, David. Whenever I look deeper into what isn’t about me — like Glynn says — we take ourselves out of the center — and get swept up in a greater picture of God at work.
“I’m not going to try to pretend or make Christmas happen.”
I am so happy that Christmas has already happened!
Praise God for the Incarnation of our Lord!
.-= Becky@Daily On My Way To Heaven´s last blog ..The Holiness of God – Chapter Eight- =-.
Wonderful truth, Becky! Christmas has already happened!
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Glynn Young and Jay Cookingham, Alltop Christianity. Alltop Christianity said: The Dangers of Complicating Christmas: “Too often, the Christmas story only impinges on the periphery of our liv… http://bit.ly/eREWjW […]
[…] hearts with Faith Barista Bonnie Gray’s challenge today to unwrap Jesus and celebrate simplicity in […]
[…] Bonnie asked, “What are your hopes for Christmas?” Our sons get the same question, starting around early November and intensifying at the family Thanksgiving get-together. The question comes from grandparents and aunts and uncles: “What do you want for Christmas?” […]
Ooh, I’m going to be thinking about that “mindshare” for some time…
I love to read what you write. Thanks, Bonnie.
Appreciate you, Monica!
[…] Faith Barista, for the faith jam this week, has asked the question, “What is your hope for […]
I love that so many bloggers today are slowing down and enjoying the season. Pushing past the need to accumulate more stuff and simplify the stuff we already have.
I think the most important thing we can do is focus on the nativity. For without that ‘story’ we all would be just giving gifts because the calendar says we should.
Thank you for your encouraging words.
So true, Sharon! What a powerful story that has punctuated all people, from different ages, and now here today! It holds such power because the Author writes about a true beginning that an change our today and tomorrow.
Just reading the words “Dialing Down” somehow settled my soul, perhaps it is the Spirit within me saying, YES, do this! I want this too… “I don’t know what awaits me next year, but I need to make that journey to Bethlehem and return with something new.” God is so faithful to show us something new in scripture if we really want to see it! I like your idea of walking through the story in each gospel, great idea! Thanks Bonnie!
.-= Heidi Avery´s last blog ..Eagerly Anticipating Him =-.
“Settling my soul”… Yes, Heidi!
Christmas stopped shining bright for me many years ago, even before I married my husband, and became perfunctory. The decorations would come out. I would put on my best smile, but I also anticipated trouble.
In my haste to be the glue that binds, I forgot that Christ binds. Man can do nothing. I learned to make Christmas simple when I began to stand up for Christmas.
Now every year I am eager for Christmas. I shine beneath the light of Christ and embrace the small joys God gives to us.
Great blog post, Bonnie!
.-= Nikole Hahn´s last blog ..Capture The Light =-.
I sense a story there, Nikole, that has led you to Christmas today. Thanks for adding this thought. Things converge sometimes at Christmas and we learn to take a stand.
[…] post is part of Bonnie Gray’s weekly Faith Barista Jam where this week is all about Hopes for Christmas so go check out all the posts there. AKPC_IDS += […]
Isn’t it ironic how we talk about starting Christmas when it was started over two thousand years ago and continues in our hearts if we let it? When did we make it so busy and commercial when it should be a time to pause and reflect and quietly celebrate?
Awesome post, Bonnie!
.-= Sandra Heska King´s last blog ..If I’m Still Enough =-.
It is ironic. May God help us turn the tide in our families and with friends, passing on the joy and peace that comes out of celebrating God’s faithfulness to us 2000 yrs ago. We can be a light to others who don’t know the true Light we’re celebrating.
So true, Bonnie. Every year we need the reminder to take a step back and take in the simple joys and expectation that come with the Christmas season. I love your intentionality and purpose! Thanks for the great post and thoughts!
.-= jasonS´s last blog ..You’re an Answer to Prayer =-.
Thanks for your story, Jason!
I pray that we all take the time this year to reflect on where He desires us to be, and what He desires us to focus on. If we give Him the opportunity He will indeed speak into our lives.
I love jamming with y’all.
.-= HisFireFly´s last blog ..Imperfect Prose – Sugar Hearts =-.
We love you jammin’ togther. Your words refresh!
I think the tough thing about Christmas is that it’s important because we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, but Easter is the most important Christian holiday. It can be disconcerting because there’s more hype surrounding Christmas, but Christmas is really the first step toward the definitive work accomplished on Easter morning. So Christmas should be significant in our Christian lives, but I know that I at least expect too much from it because of all the hype and sentiment that I absorb from the culture around me.
I think I can fall into this trap too. There’s a line between Christmas hype, and celebrating the Advent Season. The difference is Jesus Christ our Lord.
.-= Lisa Colón DeLay´s last blog ..7 Reasons Why my Blog will make you cry LESS than Jon Acuff’s blog =-.
Awesome point, Ed. “Christmas’ apart from the Nativity Story is a lot of times “Hollywoodized” and shopping mall shrink wrapped. 😉 True Christmas, as you say, is a wonderful beginning of a beautiful love story!
“I will unwrap each new day in faith that His story will hit me where I live today.”
You state that so, so beautifully. This is what I want…this Christmas season and always!
Thank you, sweet friend, for letting us come alongside you in this “Unwrapping Jesus” journey. What a gift you are to all of us!
Loved your Unwrapping Jesus post, Kirsten! A gem of encouragement for us parents in this season.
Our life has been kind of upside down since this time last year. Not knowing much about life beyond *this* day has had the unanticipated result of simplifying things whether I wanted to or not. Who knew it took planning to get things so complicated?
The other benefit is living more expectantly. When everything isn’t all laid out and scheduled-in I find it’s easier and more natural to wait and listen and respond accordingly. Funny how, paradoxically, there’s more peace in the unknowing than there was in having everything all lined up.
Both of what you expressed here are true. Sometimes, it helps to have a plan. But, at the same time, plans don’t always go as we expect. 😉 Refreshing thoughts, Mary!
I’ve been wanting to participate in your Thursday Jam for a while now — finally I remembered on the right day…and your Advent Jesus Unwrapped series is so fitting. I am SO glad you are writing about this — it’s a topic near and dear to my heart right now as I struggle to embrace a real Advent. Thank you!
Smiled to see your post! Thanks for taking time out to jam, Michelle!
One things that has helped pull Christmas together is the spiritual practice of celebrating Advent (means “The coming”) This year it started on Nov 28th.
There are particular prayers to be found for this season at the “book of common prayer online” Do a search for those five words, if you’re interested. Highly recommended.
At super, the family can join together in a simple time of remember the Reason for the season with prayerful and peaceful hearts. Also, an Advent calendar can be useful/helpful too. We all enjoy the anticipation of the season.
I write about this idea of simplifying Christmas through spiritual traditions here: http://wp.me/pri9O-10b
I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas Season!
.-= Lisa Colón DeLay´s last blog ..7 Reasons Why my Blog will make you cry LESS than Jon Acuff’s blog =-.
Thanks for the pointer, Lisa!
I hope to find me this Christmas, the one God created and really loves, not the image of who I think He should love. One who will sit on His lap, and listen as He retells the Christmas story, over and over, always with a smile, always with love
An Abba Father Christmas. Love picturing that, Bev.
Thank you so much for asking your question and inviting us to your place to answer: What are your hopes for Christmas? It’s been good for me, just mulling that question over the past two weeks. Your piece about going off script has been a true blessing, reminding me to think about how good God is to pull me (control freak that I am) off the script I’m writing for my life, and show me where He’s taking me. Blessings to you, this advent season.
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..Christmas Surprises =-.
Thank you, Nancy! Such an encourager! Yes, God will take us off script… and hold us all the way through.
[…] This week’s Faith Jam at The Faith Barista is on our dreams for Christmas. […]
yes, to have a mary christmas at his feet. that is my desire. this year will be different, mired with loss, brokenness and division, but i rejoice because it is precisely why our savior came and he’s leading me to the cross and that place of surrender. it will be a precious, precious time i know.
.-= Melissa´s last blog ..GIFTED Day 2 – A Pair of Trees DIY Project =-.
A “Mary Christmas”. Love that Melissa!
This year meant so many new habits, traditions, relationships and ways of living – all to better my health. The challenges of it all has only brought us to “slow” and “ease”. We’re shaping into a a very relaxed and intimate Christmas. It’s allowing so much space for more of Jesus in my everyday.
.-= Jeri @godsdreamsforme´s last blog ..Slow Flowing the Holidays =-.
Looks like it from the yummy photos you shared, Jeri. Cooking takes time! 🙂
Thanks for this great post, it’s food for thought. In a way the time of Christ’s birth is a mirror of us today. Everyone was so busy with the census and their own business, they literally walk past Jesus in the manger. At this time of year we can so easily miss the opportunities to slow down encounter Christ.
Thanks quoting my Dad in your post, we’d love to send you a copy of our Christmas devotional book ‘Today in a a Manger’. Email me your address and I’ll get it out to you tomorrow. 🙂
.-= Bob Strachan´s last blog ..From sun to snow =-.
Thank you for your generosity, Bob! I updated the quote to link to your father’s book. So blessed you stopped by!
I really enjoyed your post. I always start Advent out with good intentions that somehow get muddled in the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the baking, and what’s left over for friends and Jesus.
I like the idea of “simplicity” as the hallmark for this Christmas. The Lord has directed our footsteps in such a way that we almost have no choice. But I want it to be the choice of my heart–not the choice of circumstances. My prayer–to focus on Him, to abide in Him, and to keep it simple.
.-= Janis @ Open My Ears Lord´s last blog ..Hope is the Theme =-.
Sounds like you are making the choice in the circumstances God has allowed you to be at. How you are drawn to Him, Janice!
I love this, Bonnie:
“I will unwrap each new day in faith that His story will hit me where I live today.”
You inspire me to do the same. Bless you.
.-= Laura´s last blog ..kindle- poem =-.
I know it will show up in your writing, which you always pour fresh and share so openly with us. Bless you too, Laura!
What a great post!
Bonnie – it’s been awhile since we last spoke but glad to see that you’re doing really well. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
.-= MJ Tam´s last blog ..Im having an October affair with the Tribune =-.
So happy to see an old friend, MJ! I still remember your encouraging talk with me. I hope you are keeping warm up north from me here in Silicon Valley! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family!
I didn’t get a post written in time for the faith jam, but I still wanted to share my heart. Actually, you’ve echoed everything I’ve been thinking these past couple of weeks. There is so much out there demanding our attention, when I want to pay attention to only one thing: a baby born all those years ago.
Which is why I’ve decided to not blog anymore this month. Yes, I’ll miss out on sharing in these jam sessions. I’ll miss out on other things, too. But I don’t want to miss out on experiencing Jesus.
.-= Rachel´s last blog ..Christmas break… =-.
Simplicity…. That is a wonderful word for me at this time of year as well. I so want to savor every minute of the Christmas season – truly reflecting on the meaning – Jesus – our Savior….
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