For to us… by Greg Mattson

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”For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon  his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

I want to start this out by saying Merry Christmas! This is the time of year Christians and non-Christians gather together to celebrate Christmas but with very different centers of focus.

Christmas preparation for many starts in the big box stores quietly in August when the Christmas decorations are set out next to the grilling and charcoal areas. As the weather here in the Midwest begins to cool, the displays grow larger and more noticeable. The Salvation army pots show up around Thanksgiving and then comes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Green Monday (2nd Monday in December coined by eBay), Free Shipping Day Dec 15th and finally Super Saturday – which, if you didn’t know, is the last Saturday before Christmas. For 2017 the average family will spend $1,008 dollars with many going into debt to fund this.  It’s no wonder that in a recent poll 45% of Americans would rather skip Christmas all together and 65% of people state they feel significant stress during Christmas. Christmas makes the top 50 list of life stressors.

How then are we to deal with the stress of Stress-mas?  I went to the authority, Huffington Post, for advice on this matter and their recommendations are:  prioritizing activities so you aren’t rushed, practice breathing to help melt anxiety away, cutting back on caffeine (Tony), and not being afraid to delegate duties. If these are done then Stress-mas will be much better until it all starts again next August.

Even for Christians, Christmas can be clouded by the hustle and bustle of the season, gift giving, office parties etc.  Loneliness, financial burdens and health issues can cause worsening despair but I want to refocus our attention – as Tony preaches weekly – on the Cross. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given;” God gave us the ultimate gift in his Son.  It was given freely without strings attached. It doesn’t matter that we are mostly naughty not nice.  The gift doesn’t break or become old and obsolete but rather satisfies for eternity.  The gift supplies all our needs including comfort, protection, health and most importantly salvation, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder”.

Most of the world doesn’t believe a gift like this exists but, if it did, what would you name it?  “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor”.  Wonderful in this verse is the same word meaning “miracle.”  God came miraculously in a virgin birth as the perfect sacrifice offering perfect counsel for his bride the church and his children. He is “Mighty God, Everlasting Father,” all powerful, ever present and our all- knowing Father.  He has been present from the beginning to eternity.  He will never forsake us!

Lastly, He is our “Prince of Peace” in times of trial and persecution.  There is no amount of money or fame that can purchase this gift.  As noted it is undeserved and given freely.  It’s a gift like no other that has no earthly comparison, yet it’s one that many haven’t received.

I am hoping that, as the body of New Life gathers with family members, that prior to tearing into presents that will become old, broke and obsolete, we take time to meditate on this truth that God came to earth as man, the perfect sacrifice, and died and rose again for our sins so that we can spend eternity with our ultimate gift – God Himself.   This is the only cure for stress-mas.

Merry Christmas, Greg

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