Ah, the Christmas season is upon us once again. Since Christmas often has a way of sneaking up on us, I thought it might help to shoot out a few suggestions on slowing it down, savoring it and wringing it for all its worth. I hope you have a great Christmas season and a wonderful New Year. Here are some fast tips on how you can get the most out of this Christmas season:
1. Reconnect, personally, to the Christmas story found in Luke's Gospel. The opening chapters of Luke's Gospel are especially detailed, rich and insightful. But don't just whisk through the chapters. Soak them in. Take some time to be in a quiet place, and read them slowly. If you want to add an extra measure of depth to your time, pray before you start reading. Ask God to open your eyes to things you've never seen before, so you can appreciate the Christmas story more deeply. (As a special treat to readers, if you'd like to receive a free copy of an audio message I gave on this part of the Bible, just contact me and we'll get it in the mail to you free of charge.)
2. Give, give, give. The Bible says it's better to give than receive because that's actually what Jesus said -- and who knows better how to give than Jesus? Acts 20:35 records this amazing statement. Check it out for yourself, along with the surrounding context. Pretty amazing stuff. The principle is that there is something deeply satisfying and rewarding when instead of receiving, we focus on giving. Are you a generous person? If you want the Christmas season to be rich and rewarding for you, don't focus on what you can get. Focus on what and how you can give to others.
3. Spend time this month with people who really want share the real meaning of Christmas. For some of us, this means finding a spiritual community of people who want to keep the meaning and focus of the Christmas season at the forefront. This means finding a solid church community where you can make friends who share your perspective of Christmas. (We even have a Christmas party you can enjoy if you're interested. Just write me and we'll shoot you details.)
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4. Take time to relax. There are loads of local places you can go to have time by yourself with a cup of hot chocolate, a latte or whatever you wish. The Steele Creek and Lake Wylie areas have some great coffee shops and restaurants that you can visit by yourself or with that person or people you've been meaning to connect with but haven't just yet. Here's the perfect excuse to invite someone else to join you for a break that could really prove meaningful. Go for it.
5. Think about one thing you've always dreamed of doing during this Christmas season, or perhaps for Christmas itself, and do it. Make it happen. There's no better time than the present to turn the dream into reality. Don't just do something, do something significant, something you've dreamed of doing for a while. Get out your calendar, revisit your dream and turn it into reality.
Merry Christmas to you, and may 2009 be a great year for you, the people you love and for our country.
Mike Paolicelli is the founding pastor of Renew Church, a new church in the Lake Wylie/Steele Creek area, and founder and president of Godfactor Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.