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Holiday Preview

"I will make them and the places surrounding My hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing."- Ezekiel 34:26

A few weeks ago I arrived home to a true gift and pleasant surprise that warmed my heart. It wasn't my kids running to the door to meet me with hugs and adulation; it wasn't the fact that Joanie had made my favorite meal for dinner; and it wasn't even a notice that our health insurance carrier had covered some of the most recent doctor visits/medical expenses. No, in fact it happened in a moment that was quite ordinary and utterly silent (especially as nobody was home). As I made my way to the kitchen to get a drink of water, sit down and collect my thoughts, I noticed that there was a new "Harvest" themed table-cover. It had the traditional colors (orange and brown) and icons (pumpkins and leaves) that you would envision coming on such a seasonal design. What I loved about this particular table cover is that it also included the words "Harvest Blessings".

These words caught my attention more than the vivid colors and familiar images that are associated with the fall and Thanksgiving season. As I continued to admire this beautiful new table-cover, I began to think about how much I love the holiday season. In that moment the day's activities, needs, and deadlines took a backseat to my choosing to get into holiday mode a bit earlier than normal. Despite it being just mid-September, I decided that I was going to spend more time thinking about my blessings and thanking God for the many gifts that He has poured out on my life.

This getting a "HEAD START" on the holidays really isn't anything new to us as we already see the spooky Halloween costume stores popping up all over town, as we will see malls and department stores in full Christmas decor before Thanksgiving, and heck, we all have a neighbor who keeps their Christmas lights up all year long. What I am suggesting is that each of us take time to get prepared to truly EXPERIENCE all that the holiday season represents. As we think about God's abundant provision, gracious gift, and loving sacrifice, we are reminded of how glorious our celebrations should be. This type of model is seen as Zechariah sang with joy to the Lord, in Luke 1:68, 77-79, for the unexpected and overwhelming miracle gift of a son (John the Baptist), "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising of the sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." This along with Mary's song (also in Luke 1) became the first Christmas carol/hymn, so make way Jingle Bells, Silent Night, O Holy Night, and Little Drummer Boy, for the very first Christmas album ever produced and distributed!

I would like to encourage you to have what I am calling a HOLIDAY PREVIEW. That we would not wait until the last week in November to give thanks and the month of December to get in the Christmas spirit. Today we can choose to lay aside our burdens in order to lift our hands in blessing; we can choose to not get buried by our daily schedules, but rather to break away for uplifting times with God; we can choose to exchange our anxious, negative, and depressing thoughts so that we can be clothed with joy and gladness; we can choose to not allow the world's top news story to phase us, but rather that heaven's Good News would amaze us; we can choose to believe that our problems are not bigger than God's answer!

Here are some ideas to get you in the holiday mood and in a holy mode a bit earlier this season:

1) Take the last 10 to 15 minutes of each day to recount ways God blessed you. Write them down and spend time offering prayers of thanksgiving for all the Lord covered, provided, and performed on your behalf.

2) Each week look for an opportunity to give a GIFT to someone else. Maybe paying for someone's Starbucks coffee in line behind you, sending an encouraging note to a friend, picking up trash in front of your neighbor's house, bringing your spouse flowers or their favorite snack.

3) Begin thinking about ways to share the God story during the holidays with others. It could be you start reading some Christmas books to your kids before bed; striking up a conversation with coworkers about their favorite holiday memories, traditions, or plans for this year; inviting a family member/friend to a special church service/event, or even a holiday dinner/party at your home.

Let's turn "Happy Holidays" into more than a traditional greeting, but a transformational way of living out our faith, love, joy, and hope!

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