Give Yourself A Gift This Christmas

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Psalm 16:8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 

As humans, we want God to see us and to know that he cares. When I was a young father, I would hear a cry or scream from one of the bedrooms where our children were sleeping. I would pretend not to hear and hope that my wife’s superpower hearing would kick in, and she would leap tall buildings, speed like a shooting bullet and dash into their bedroom to save the little ones from their nightmare. The reality was, though, that she would typically nudge me to go check on the children. As I walked into the room, the sobs coming from the bed drew me closer, and then I would kneel by the bed to put my face next to his and say, “It’s okay. Daddy is here, right by your face.”

One of our greatest needs is to know we are personally in the sight of God’s care.

Psychologists and counselors are trained in classes to increase their empathy and to improve their social connection skills with their clients by understanding what is needed or wanted by the person right now. Those in the helping profession use the acronym ATTUNE to help them reorient themselves to build trust with their clients; it’s a very good tool to build and increase trust with your spouse, children and business partnerships when facing difficult times.

  • Awareness of the emotion;
  • Turning toward the emotion;
  • Tolerance of two different viewpoints;
  • trying to Understand
  • Non-defensive responses
  • and responding with Empathy

We can take that word, attunement, and apply it to our relationship with Father God. It helps us understand what the Father is doing when He comes close to us in our time of need: He is turning towards us.

These words encapsulate the psalmist’s faith. Many times we readily acknowledge that He is the Creator of the world, but we also need to know that He cares about our world. We are more to Him than a little cog in the workings of this world. We are more than just one Christmas light bulb in the million-light display of the Griswold Christmas light show. God can look at all of humanity, yet see that one little bulb that is burned out and needs care. This is the message of Christmas: God sees and enters our need.

Yet, we have a role as well. If the burned-out Christmas light bulb could talk, it would need to say, “Hey, I’m here. I need some help over here.” God sees the issue, but God also wants us to call out for Him.

The psalmist writes, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord.” Another translation says, “I have set the Lord before me.” It’s a strong action where we are reorienting ourselves. In setting the Lord before me, I am giving myself a gift, and it is hope. It is peace. It is joy. It is love. It’s a gift we can open every day of our lives, and we can live the abundant life from that gift.

Here are a few ways of reminding yourself God’s face is near to your own.

Set some time apart to “set the Lord before you.” This setting time can be a long period or a short one. Don’t worry about being a spiritual giant and say in a very deep pious voice, “I spent two hours reading God’s word.” God can give you a download of His presence in just a few minutes. If you have five or ten minutes while you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, use the props around you to set the Lord before you. Take those red Starbucks cups with stars on them, and turn it into a game of setting the Lord before you. You can pray this, “Father, just as you led the wise men by the signs in the sky, I thank you that you’re leading me today. I’m setting you as the leader of my life.”

Use trigger moments to reset your perspective. I was sitting in Starbucks this morning, reading and trying not to hear this obnoxious conversation going on between two people about money. Then in the background, “Joy to the World” came on. I closed my eyes and focused on the nearness of God: “The Lord has come!” Worship can happen anywhere, not just in the four walls of a sanctuary.

When life shakes you, let it awake you. That’s the story of Christmas. You see the glory of Christmas but also the suffering of Christmas. It’s good news, for sure, but there are tension points in the story: a young virgin girl carrying the Son of God, a righteous man dealing with interesting news, and the pursuit of a wicked king against the promised Messiah leading to innocent bloodshed. Let’s not overlook the suffering in the Christmas story. When situations don’t end up well, let them move you towards God and not away from His presence. In fact, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, look at that difficulty as an invitation to experience more of God’s presence.

Awareness of His nearness is a crucial step of setting the Lord before me.

Here’s the gift of His presence. The psalmist wrote earlier, Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

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