NOTE: THIS post is Part Two of my last post, “When God Says ‘I’ve Got This!’ – you may want to read that one first! THIS is the presentation I prepared for the recent Christmas Brunch.

Recently, I spoke at a women’s retreat. A committee member I’ve known for years introduced me to one of the guests. “Have you ever met?” she asked. “I don’t think so but you look sooooo familiar,” I said, as we greeted one another.

I knew why as soon as I heard her name. I’ve known her family for years. Her cousins. Her aunts. I saw THEM in her features, her expressions, and her mannerisms. “Ahhhh…now I get it,” I said. “I can tell you are part of that family!”

Families DO have similar attributes – not just physical features, but speech patterns, interests, talents, and even the way they carry themselves. Why? Because families spend time together and know each other well.

I was able to identify my new friend because of a strong family resemblance – perhaps unintentional, but evident. It reminds me of the frazzled, young mom with a look of pure shock on her face as she says “OMGoodness, I opened my mouth, and my mom came out!” Been there, done that!

My mom was passionate about family history and story-telling. My brother and I are, too. He’s the genealogy expert and keeper of our family’s facts. I’m the storyteller and the keeper of our family’s pictures. Some things are familial. Some, not so much! (He’s 6’4”; I’m 5’3”!)

I have been speaking and writing a lot about families, grandparenting, and storytelling across generations lately. I believe families are important, and should be celebrated – every day.

As believers, we are part of a much larger family – the family of God and Genesis 1:27 reminds us we are created in the image of God. We are to become more and more like God – to resemble Him, to reflect Him, and (as with earthly families) the more time we spend together, the more alike we become.

As I’ve been preparing for today, I’ve been wondering if – in this season of celebrating the birth of Jesus – others identify us as being part of the family of God? Did they see God in us as we’re shopping on Black Friday? Are we showing his patience in the consumer-based frenzy of this season? Is His love evident in our day to day lives?

We’ve come to expect lavish celebrations. We busy ourselves with finding just the right gifts for everyone, and end up spending more than we planned – often more than we can afford. The stress of the season just accumulates. Right?

According to U S News & World Reports, 44% of Americans think they spend too much during the holidays. 75% of women are stressed (54% of men, too).

Sometimes we blame the kids but – trust me – they’re not born expecting dozens of presents under a perfectly-decorated tree even if we’ve been duped into believing it. Shouldn’t we focus more on WHY we celebrate Christmas, instead of planning perfect meals, buying perfect gifts, and displaying perfect décor?

Perhaps we owe it to the younger generation to simplify Christmas – but how?

Some families fight the urge to overindulge by implementing the “4-gift Christmas” (highlighted in CG, #29 – something they want, need, wear, and read). Others plan Christmas adventures/trips rather than buying more stuff! Memories vs. stuff.

Think of your most memorable Christmases. What do we remember? Sights? Sounds? Smells? Tastes? Feelings? Do we even remember the gifts we got last year?

My childhood memories include celebrating Jesus’ birthday, Christmas programs at school and church, music, and reading Luke 2 together. Memories also include driving “home” to Iowa every year, being snowbound for 24 hours one year in NE KS, Aunt Sharon’s peanut brittle, Grandma’s orange cake, jigsaw puzzles, card games, and conversations in every corner of the house. Family time.

As an adult, Christmas 1990 was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I’d just lost my last two grandparents. My dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. My son had been diagnosed with a muscle disease and we were leaving for UCSD Medical Center for testing shortly after Christmas. My only brother was deployed to “parts unknown” (we later learned he was in Kuwait setting up communications for Dessert Storm – a war I saw unfolding from that 9th floor hospital room).

I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit in 1990 and probably wasn’t reflecting God very well either. December 9th was my brother’s 40th birthday, and I decided I HAD to get my act together and put up the tree (for the sake of the kids – right?) so I ordered 40 bud vase ribbons from a florist and decorated our tree with blue lights, white pearls, and yellow ribbons – it was absolutely beautiful, and memorable.

Christmas is all about memories and families and Jesus, but have you ever thought about how to reflect God at Christmas? Focus on who He is and His plan for His people. Remember, the better we know Him, the easier it is to reflect Him – at Christmas as well as every day.

What do we know about His story? Here’s an easy start…on December 1st, read one chapter of the book of Luke. On December 2nd, read chapter 2. There are 24, so by Christmas Eve, you will have revisited the life and ministry of our Savior (birth, death, resurrection, etc.) according to Luke. This year, I challenged my grands to join me in this creative journey.

What do we know about God’s character? God is love. He is patient. He gives grace and mercy when undeserved. If we are to be like Him, we are to love others. Do we? Do we show grace? And mercy? And patience? Are we compassionate? If I’m to be a reflection of God, people around me should see His love (His character) in how I treat and serve them and others.

Here’s a fun way to show some love in your small group, or neighborhood…Create what I call a Boomerang Basket filled with whatever your heart desires – hot chocolate packets, marshmallows, ornaments, a gift card, a Christmas DVD or book, fruit, nuts, a coupon for shoveling snow, whatever! Put instructions on the basket telling recipients to enjoy the contents before refilling it to bless the next person on the list. With your name at the bottom, the basket should boomerang back to you by Christmas morning. It’s a great and tangible way to share God’s love with others. And, it’s fun for the whole family.

We know God is powerful and faithful. God has the power to restore lives, heal the broken-hearted, and sustain us through all difficulties. It’s through OUR prayers that we can best SEE that faithfulness and power. So, pray little! And, pray BIG! Then watch for answers.

Become a person of prayer. Encourage family members and friends to share prayer requests with you. Let them know you believe in the power of prayer. Kids may share about an upcoming test or a game with cross-town rivals. Adults may have health concerns, or job struggles, or relationship issues. Let God reveal His power in and through your prayer life so others see. Don’t forget to celebrate all of the answers – yes, no, or wait!

I have friends who have built a monument of rocks commemorating answered prayers at their family cabin. Four generations of answered prayers and family miracles make up this ever-growing monument to God’s faithfulness to their family. When a prayer is answered, it’s recorded on a rock with the date, then built into this monument – a testimony to generations!

[Readers, since this blog post is a reprint of a presentation I gave at a live event, I hope you’ll understand it’s not easy to explain in print. It was a craft with praying hands to remind us to pray! Sorry I can’t share it here, too!]

God is wise. Want wisdom? Just ask. Read his word. Study his scriptures. Learn from him. James 1:5 says if we lack wisdom, we are to ask. Again, the better we know God, the easier it is to reflect him; to really shine for him. Daniel 12:3 says “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens.” God made his light to shine in our hearts according to 2nd Corinthians 4:6, so SHINE ON!

What fun ways can we shine this Christmas? As a reminder to shine for God, make a stained glass votive. You’ll need: a votive candle, tissue paper, scissors, white glue, and a paint brush. Apply glue to the glass votive, a section at a time, then cover it with tissue paper, overlapping until all areas are covered. Let dry, then cover the entire surface with glue to seal. It’ll dry clear and when you light the candle, it’ll shine brilliantly through the multicolored tissue paper.

I encourage you between now and Christmas to pause and reflect about Christmas. Think (and perhaps write) about your favorite Christmas memories. Don’t get caught up in the chaos, but intentionally reflect God this Christmas. As you’re remembering, though, there are a few things you should work hard to forget:

Forget comparisons: Make what your family enjoys rather than thinking you have to compete with Ree Drummond! It’s okay!

Forget expectations: Don’t stress trying to meet the expectations of others; and lessen your own expectations for yourself. It’s okay!

Forget guilt: If you have ‘less-than-Pinterest-worthy’ décor this year, don’t fret! Even if you don’t get everything out of storage. It’s no big deal. Okay?

Remember…we serve a loving, powerful, and wise God, and we are encouraged to become more like Him every day, so watch for actionable ways to reflect God to others. My hope is that we are recognized as belonging to God by how we live every day. By how well we reflect Him.

May others KNOW to whom we belong because of the strong family resemblance.

Merry Christmas!

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