Shame tried to creep in. All around me talk was buzzing about the different Advent activities everyone was doing. Excitement and accomplishment filled the air. And I just sat there as negative thoughts trickled in. What kind of mother am I? Do I dare admit I have yet to start any advent activities? Gulp! Didn’t I just write about kiddos needing traditions?
Trying to measure up. Even in Christian circles, there are expectations and peer pressure to look and act a certain way. Peer pressure can be a good thing, like accountability to church and small group, honoring your marriage vows and raising your children in the ways of the Lord.
Then there is the peer pressure in the extracurricular (which aren’t bad in themselves, yet they aren’t biblical mandates, either.) Popular Bible studies, books, music, and, yes, even Advent activities abound. It’s almost as if there is a spiritual litmus test depending on what you are currently doing. And for a people pleaser like me, it can suck the joy out of living.
But I have learned that I need to check my heart motive. It's important to ask myself if I am doing the extracurricular because everyone else is doing it or because I feel the Spirit impressing upon me to do it. Because, in all honesty, sometimes it feels like I’m just checking off a box for these extra activities. I’m trying to please man, rather than God.
While our final destination is the glory of all things eternal, God calls us each on a different journey to get there. My journey should look a bit different than yours. It’s what makes this kaleidoscope of human existence so beautiful. The visitors following Christ’s birth provide a snapshot of the diversity of the human race.
Two separate visits to one King. Both different. Both right. Both recorded for all of eternity. A perfect picture of celebrating Christmas in our own unique ways, while keeping Christ the focus.
In Hebrews 12:1&2, Paul gives the analogy of this life as a race. He gives us two directions on how to run well:
1. throw off sin (including comparison, jealousy, lack of self-respect)
2. and fix our eyes on Jesus (not others)
When we throw off sinful tendencies and fix our eyes on Jesus, we become more like Him: kind, compassionate, and encouraging. We realize that we are on the same team with other Jesus girls, fighting the same enemy, running for the same amazing goal; the ultimate prize of hearing the Lord say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
When it comes to December traditions, some faithfully dive into the rich heritage of the
Jesse Tree, while others choose to focus on a Scripture and an act of kindness with the WiseMen, while others find joy in moving an elf around their house each night. We’re all going to celebrate differently. And that’s ok. As long as we're pointing to and longing for the ultimate gift, Jesus.
The best present we can gift ourselves is grace, instead of grief. After all, isn’t that what this season is really about?
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
The word grace is from the Greek word charis meaning that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. Re-read that definition. Isn't it beautiful?! No material gift can match these! Grace, we’ve been given grace, sweet friend! We need to receive it and live like Jesus girls basking in God’s grace!
What does it look like to bask in God's grace? Here are some questions I ask myself:
- Am I running hard in my lane of this race? Hebrews 12:1-2
- Am I pointing others to victory and joy in Christ by following His commands rather than the world's? Romans 8:6
- Am I loving each of my kiddos well, despite their sinful ways? Ephesians 6:4
- Am I showing respect to my children’s father, whether he deserves it or not? Ephesians 5:33
- Am I cheering on my other sisters in whatever God has called them to do, instead of comparing myself to them? 1 Thessalonians 5:11
This is living up to the standards of the only One who really matters, Jesus Christ.
Because of the crazy schedules of 2 teens and 1 tween, I will dabble in, but not complete an advent journey with my family this year. It makes me sad, but it just isn't realistic. The Spirit is gently reminding me of my K.I.S.S. post, Keep it Serene, Sweetheart and choosing to do what is life-giving for my family in this season of life.
So, instead of shame, I will choose to cheer on my sisters, encouraging them in whatever Advent adventure the Lord has invited them to enjoy. And I will gift myself with grace. Grace to know that even if my life doesn’t measure up to other people’s standards, if I’m striving to please God in every area of my life, that’s all that matters. That’s grace, the best gift we can give ourselves this Christmas.
So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death,
now God’s wonderful grace rules instead,
giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
How about you, my friend? What are your thoughts about grace? How are you choosing to thrive in the grace the Lord so freely gives us? What do you need to step away from this season to slow down and reflect on the wonder of God's ultimate gift, Jesus?
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.