I read about a Pew Research poll where people were asked what were some of the things that they disliked about the Christmas holiday season. One thing people mentioned was “the hectic pace and bad moods of people.”
That shouldn’t surprise any of us. One trip to the mall for Christmas gift shopping will provide immediate incentive to do all of one’s Christmas shopping online. Add to that gift planning, purchasing, wrapping, travel plans and anticipated dynamics of when the extended family gets together and you have a recipe for stress.
But Christmas shouldn’t be that way. All the “doing” during the holiday season needs to be balanced with “being.” And really, that is the tension Jesus wants us to feel in our every day walk with Him.
We read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:58,“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – and think, “I want to abound.” And that’s good. God wants us to follow the passions He’s placed in our hearts, to develop whatever gifts He’s given us to the fullest.
But the Christian life isn’t just about abounding; it’s also about abiding.
In John 15:4 Jesus said,
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
I want that - I want to be a person whose roots go down deep. I don’t want to be a person who just rushes through my life. I want to be fully present and fully able to experience what God has for me.
But is it possible to both abide and abound during this holiday season? Yes, it is. Here are three practices that can help put us on the path of abiding and abounding:
Find a place where you can be alone. Pull away from the noise and hectic rhythm that so often defines December and find a place where you can spend extended time with God.
Once you find a solitary place, resist the temptation to bring the noise of your favorite music, or even your own speech, into your place of solitude. Use this time to practice silence in the presence of the Lord.
Being alone and silent before the Lord doesn’t automatically mean you’re instantly “abiding” but it does put you in a much better frame of mind to abide in Him.
Now that you’re abiding in Christ – now that His Spirit is filling your spirit – you can pour out from your life into the life of others. And there’s no better way to do that then by serving. Ask the Spirit to point you toward someone who needs to be reminded of God’s love and extend that love to them in an encouraging way.
Ok, so now that you’re ready to abide and abound, let me give you three practical suggestions for what your sabbathing can look like on Sunday, December 28. Remember, that’s the day CITYLIGHTS will not be having Sunday services. We want to help you create space and time to put into practice some of the things I just mentioned.
First, here are two ideas for places you can pull away and be alone with God.
1. The Potters Place provides an environment of quiet solitude. It is an ideal place that is designed for you to pull away from the noise of life and spent time alone with God. To find out more, visit their website at http://thepottersplace.net
2. Paris Mountain State Park is one of my favorite places for spending time alone with God. There are many places to take a walk or just sit on a park bench to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation while you commune with Him. Probably my favorite spot for prayer walks is to hike on the Sulphur Springs Trail.
As you are abiding in Christ, a good place to abound in God’s work is by practicing the spiritual discipline of service.
3. Secret Service is a way of serving that allows you to bless someone while inviting God to do a unique work your own heart. And the great thing is, you don’t even need to leave home to practice this spiritual discipline. For instance, try to set aside some time on Sunday, December 28th – or some other day in the holiday season - and make that a day a “day of secret service.” Plan to make yourself available to your family and have no agenda of projects or tasks of your own. The goal of the day is to allow the Spirit to guide you toward simply serving those He’s placed in your life.
And one more thing: Let me know what God is doing in your heart as you seek to abide and abound in Him this holiday season. Write me at email@example.com and share with me your experience of abiding and abounding in Him.
Grace and Peace,
-- Mike Thomas, Community Life Pastor at CITYLIGHTS