Like a contestant on the 1980s TV show American Gladiator, you’re about to enter the holiday gauntlet. However, rather than attempting to plow through the modern-day equivalent of a gladiator, you have to contend with turkey, logistics and emotions.
Maybe you look forward to the rush of the holiday season—your face lights up with the warm, amber glow of an oven slow cooking a holiday fowl. Or maybe the holidays are hard for you because the turkey isn’t the only thing that promises indigestion.
Either way, you can’t escape the inevitable festivities because they are upon us.
As you make your way into the gauntlet this year, I want to encourage you to maximize this holiday season for your joy and the enjoyment of God.
Our Party Planning God
In Leviticus 23, God commands His people to party, prescribing seven annual festivals for Israel.
These festivals caused Israel to look back on redemptive history and to look forward to God’s promised provision.
This was essential because Israel was forgetful. The period between the Red Sea rescue and setting up camp at Mt. Sinai was roughly seven weeks. Yet in that short period, Israel pouted and grumbled.
Exodus 16:3 summarizes Israel’s attitude, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Israel models a gross cycle of unbelief that we struggle with too. They forgot the Lord’s goodness, revised history and then blamed God.
How did God respond to this blatant attack on His character? He planned parties to help Israel remember His goodness.
Our Distracting Pace
A life of haste is not conducive for a life of enjoyment because enjoyment takes time. This is especially true when it comes to enjoying God.
Busyness is counterproductive to a life of remembering God’s goodness because packing your schedule distracts you from what God is like—that He is happy to rescue and to provide for us.
Maybe you’re questioning God’s goodness right now because you have ordered your life in such a way where you have no holy spaces to remember.
I can relate. Every holiday season, the wife, kiddos and I meander down the interstate to the place of my birth where the tea is sweet and drawls like to linger. For us, the holidays look like squeezing in as much relational time with family as we can. But I’ve learned over the years that God did not make me to be a homebody. After a couple of days of sitting around, I become—how do I say this—grinchy. Creating space for stillness either through reading a book or taking a walk alone is essential to my enjoyment of God and others.
And stillness is exactly what God prescribed in Psalm 46:10—to “Be still, and know that I am God.”
This holiday season is an opportunity for that stillness. But stillness requires some changes.
Something’s about to happen on social media platforms. People are about to share what they are thankful for.
Some will begin before Thanksgiving with daily posts of gratitude. The majority of the population will offer up their thanks on Thanksgiving Day. And a brave few will dig deep a month or two after Thanksgiving because they see the need to be more thankful.
But here’s the irony—many folks work at being more thankful this time of year without being present to people they’re thankful for. Families prove this true when they are more connected to their smartphones than each other, even though they’re in the same room.
We add the busyness of the holiday on top of our normal busyness and are surprised when we need a vacation by January. Instead, God is inviting you to slow down and utilize this season.
Rather than be enslaved by your normal holiday routine, what would it look like to take full advantage of this season in order to create space to enjoy God and others?
This may look like doing less, turning off your phone while with family or scheduling alone time with God. I don’t know what you need, but I do know our God is a celebratory God who wants you to enjoy His good gifts.
Our Happy God
God is the happiest person in the universe, and when we forget that, we suffer.
John Piper writes in Desiring God, “Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? What if God were given to grumbling and pouting and depression like some Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant in the sky? We would all relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try not to bother him, and maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor.”
Sadly, Piper describes the way many Christians relate to God. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With a little thought and effort, this holiday is a natural time to disconnect from our busyness so that we can reconnect afresh with the goodness of God. As we do, we will enjoy Him and be thankful.
Rusty is the founding and lead pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Chattanooga, TN where he has the joy of serving people he loves with leaders he loves. He is married to Rachel who is out of his league, has a spirited son named Justus and a beautiful newborn daughter named Haven. Rusty can be found on Twitter here: @RustyMcKie