Christmas

The Search of the Wise

As the world enters a period of festivities and holidays, for many it is a busy time of shopping, travelling, hosting and celebrating. And for the most part, that is all it is. They get together with family and friends because that’s what they’ve always done, it’s part of the tradition that’s been passed down from previous generations. Nothing more, nothing less.

While as Christians we know that there is more to the celebration of the birth of Christ than turkey dinners and exchanging of gifts, we too can fall into the trap of merely going thru our Christian tradition. Where our spiritual walk simply becomes religious custom. Now there is nothing wrong with having routine, and in fact discipline and consistency is commendable, but we must be cautious to not substitute relationship with religion.

I am reminded of the wise men from the East in Matthew 2 who came to see the King who was born, that they may worship him. These men were wealthy, powerful and, more importantly, they were wise. In all of their prestige, they were pressed to search for the great King even at the cost of their lives being threatened by Herod. What motivated them was their desire to see face to face the one who was promised and as such begin a relationship with him.

During this period, let me encourage you, that while you search for the best bargains, food and fellowship (and that’s great) don’t stop seeking that which is most important; God Almighty. Hunger and thirst after him again, even if you’ve been a Christian for a very long time, or especially if you’ve been one for a long time and perhaps your journey of faith has dwindled down to religious observance. Ask Him to restore the passion and appetite for Him. This is the search of the wise.

“Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth” Psalms 105:4-5

Gratitude

For many people the final month of the year is welcomed with a long awaited sigh and celebration as it signals holidays, food, festivities and summer. For others however the season is viewed with a sense of dread and weariness, due to the stress of expenses, events, deadlines and get togethers, or not.

Regardless of whether this month energises or depresses you, one thing is for certain, it represents an opportunity to look back over the last 12 months and assess our successes and failures. This is vital in seeing whether we have been effective or not but don’t let that be the only function. Let this month also serve as a time to look back and be truly grateful for all that has transpired, both good and not so good.

Gratitude is not only a virtue that our parents insisted that we show as children with good manners but it is an attitude that secular researchers are now discovering has tremendous health benefits. In 2007, Robert Emmons began researching gratitude through a psychological lens. He found that expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being. Being grateful also impacts the overall experience of happiness, and these effects tend to be long-lasting.

Little wonder that the Bible repeatedly commands us to give thanks. Col 2:7 tells us that we are to abound in thanksgiving. Luke 17 records the remarkable story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. After instructing them to confirm that their leprosy had ceased to the priests, one of them came back immediately praising God and throwing himself at Jesus feet out of sheer gratitude. Jesus marvelled at the absence of the other 9 who were also healed but did not demonstrate the same level of appreciation. Due to this man’s gratitude, Jesus made him whole, the implications of which are that his sins were forgiven and possibly any missing body parts as a result of the leprosy were restored.

Gratitude is an attitude that the child of God ought to embrace. We have so much to be thankful for, even when our lives are not ideally placed. Get into the habit of giving thanks always (1 Thes 1:2). Get into a habit of being grateful. Here are just a few tips:

  • Keep a journal where you can list 2-3 things to begin your day being thankful for and end it in the same way. (I recommend the Five Minute Journal).
  • Spend a significant part of your prayer time thanking God for every detail. Count your blessings everyday and name them one by one.
  • Practice thanking your loved ones for something at least once a day
  • Say ‘Thank you’ often
  • Write a letter or send a gift of thanks to someone who has made a difference in your life.

We don’t celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday like in North America but we can exercise this wonderful virtue that can literally transform our lives every single day. Remember that the word gratitude comes from the same root as Grace. Gratitude is the appropriate response to Gods’ amazing grace in our lives.

Have a blessed season!