How would you like to make this December exceptional? What will it take? Well, I have good news.
An exceptional December will not be a result of caving into every seasonal pressure. It won’t result from getting, but rather growing. It will not be a product of festive pleasures, but rather a festive heart oriented in a healthy place with Jesus—who, after all, is the reason for it all, right?
But here’s the problem—before it begins, December gets away from us. Shopping, baking, celebrating, work gatherings, church gatherings, family gatherings, travel… and you’re getting tired just reading this. (Me too.) Honestly, I love it all, and I know you do too. And to be truthful, there are many in difficult predicaments where they only wish they could do these things.
Whether running too fast or gripped in potentially depressing stillness, this season can be exceptional if we will make some basic, focused decisions. An exceptional December requires deliberateness.
Here are some deliberate decisions I’m making this December:
1. I will deliberately worship and pursue Jesus.
This month I’m going to be expressly studying ancient prophecies that pointed to Jesus. Already that study blessed me last week and this morning. Why not join me?
Log onto EBCNewington.com and follow “The Christmas Oracles” sermon series. I look forward to growing in my knowledge, understanding, and wonder of my Savior. Nothing will set your heart ablaze with delight and affection more powerfully than this.
2. I will deliberately do value-based scheduling.
There’s only so much time this month, so make strategic decisions. For me, of course, gathering with my church family is an essential (even if I weren’t a pastor). From there I will prioritize with Dana—how do we cultivate our souls, rest, walk with God, tend our marriage, nurture our family, enjoy our friends, and bless others this month without spreading ourselves too thin or without ending the month exhausted?
Open up the calendar, sit down with those you love, and map out the time commitments. Plan the downtime as much as the celebrating time. Plan the growth time as much as the shopping time. God will grant you wisdom to create a healthy pace and gracious balance to this happy season.
3. I will deliberately sit still with Jesus and rest in Him.
There’s this thing that happens to me, and it’s annoying. My mind and body will not sit still sometimes. Perhaps it’s just the pace of weeks or months, but there come these moments when I try to sit still, and my body and brain won’t “shush!” In a sort of frenetic preoccupation, I involuntarily start looking for things to keep me moving or listening—background TV, noise, fiddling with paperwork or petty things (like cleaning out a random drawer that fits nowhere in my priority structure!).
Sitting still in 2021 is hard. Sometimes God providentially sits us down. Other times we must discipline ourselves to sit still and listen to Him. This is precious time. It’s restful time. It’s time when your Savior tames your heart to His grace-pace. And in many ways, it sets you free from being overrun by December.
4. I will love intentionally and well.
The sin-gravity of my heart truly frustrates me! I feel Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 that he desires to do things that don’t actually materialize. I set out in life desiring to love well, then my heart turns in on itself, and without even thinking about it I discover my heart is more focused on being loved than on loving.
Lord, deliver me! I want to love my wife, my family, my friends, and my church well this month. Who has Jesus given you to love? Defy the gravity, ask for grace, and love well in Jesus’ name.
In closing, I confess—I’m not good at these things. I wish I were, and I want to be. I mean well, but I fail. It’s easy to write, hard to do.
Yet, I find that I hit more of the goals that I set than the ones that I don’t set. Rather than let the gravity of my life pull me naturally in the wrong direction, maybe if I deliberate—if I declare my intention and calendarize the action—maybe I can move the ball downfield more in these four areas than if I hadn’t considered them at all. We shall see. I guess I’ll need to ask Dana and my family somewhere around December 31 if I managed any success here.
Worship Jesus. Schedule wisely. Sit Still. Love well.
Whatever December holds in store for me experientially, materially, and nutritionally this year, I can’t imagine a better way to invest a month of my life with my Christian friends and family. This is truly a recipe for an exceptional Christmas season, wherever and however this blog post finds you.
Cary Schmidt is the author of Stop Trying: How to Receive—Not Achieve—Your Real Identity and the senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newington, CT. You can connect with him at caryschmidt.com