Focusing on the Right ThingsDecember 5, 2018
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
— Colossians 3:2
It is so easy to be distracted at Christmastime by the anticipation of gifts and holiday festivities. That is why it is so important that you follow Paul’s instruction in Colossians 3:2 and purposefully “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” during the Christmas season. I’ll elaborate a bit more on this verse in just a moment, but first I want to tell you how my mother helped me as a young boy to focus my attention on the true meaning of Christmas.
Each year at Christmastime, my parents loaded my sisters and me into the car, and we drove to one of many Christmas tree “lots” in our city. We walked back and forth among the rows of trees, trying to select the tree that was just “perfect” for our family. Once we chose a tree, Dad purchased it, tied it to the top of the car, drove it home, and set it in our living room. Then we gleefully decorated it with silver tinsel, lights, strings of popcorn, Christmas bulbs of all sorts, and then we topped it off by putting a red and silver aluminum lighted star on the very peak of the tree. Doing this every year was a major event in the Renner household.
I’d sit and look at the lights and decorations literally for hours at a time. So to keep my focus fixed on Christ and not fixated on the Christmas tree, my mother came up with a brilliant idea — she encouraged me each year to make a manger scene out of construction paper. First, I pulled out my big box of crayons and colorfully drew a little barn, filled with animals, shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and an angel sitting on top of the roof of the barn. Then using my little scissors, I carefully cut it out. Right where “hoped-for” gifts would eventually sit under the tree, I’d use dried ice cream sticks and glue to concoct a support structure that would make my little Christmas scene stand upright under the tree.
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For me, this was the most important element of our Christmas tree. Instead of focusing on the bulbs and lights, I’d lie on my stomach in front of the tree and look at my “work of art” that displayed the scene of that miraculous night when Jesus was born. By encouraging me to do this, my mother purposely helped me to keep the right focus at Christmastime and not dwell on Christmas tree ornaments or gifts. With her encouragement, Jesus’ birth — and the characters and scene around His birth — became the “center” for my little heart and imagination, and the tree became secondary. My focus shifted to the scene that sat right under the Christmas tree, where I could lie on the floor and imagine what Jesus’ birth must have been like.
I learned a big lesson from my mother at that early age. She taught me to do whatever is necessary to set my thoughts on things above and not on things of the earth (see Colossians 3:2). The word “set” in this verse is the present imperative active form of the Greek word phroneo, which means to think. However, the tense used here conveys a commandment to actively, purposefully, and deliberately think about something. In this case, we are commanded to actively think about things above, not on things of the earth.
Rather than focus on that Christmas tree, I needed to lift my thoughts and purposefully think about Jesus and what His birth meant to me. The word phroneo in Colossians 3:2 depicts a practical pursuit of lifting one’s thinking from things below — from being fixated on things below to becoming fixated on things above, or those things that are more connected with Heaven and the divine.
So I want to ask you: What are you purposefully doing this year to make Christ the “center” of your Christmas season for yourself and those around you? Are you focused and fixated more on the natural part of the season, or have you purposefully lifted your thoughts to Christ and the real message of the season? Today I want to encourage you to think of ways to elevate your thoughts — to set your mind on Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father. After all, He is the real reason for the season. You can do it, and you can help others do it too!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I ask You to help me purposefully and deliberately lift my thoughts to a higher realm than where they’ve been in past holidays. Yes, the season is joyful and full of festivities, but help me remember that it is Your commandment that my thoughts go to a higher place than shortlived, seasonal experiences. I will meditate on what really matters at this time of the year, and I will grow spiritually as a result!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am not fixated on low-level, temporal concerns that won’t even matter a year from now. I refuse to allow myself to become swamped in festivities, holiday events, and the giving and receiving of gifts. Instead, I choose to meditate on the real reason for the season. This year I lift my thoughts to a higher realm, and as a result, this will be the best Christmas season I’ve experienced in my life thus far!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- People often get so caught up in the purchasing and giving of gifts or in holiday activities that the real message of Christmas gets sidetracked in the midst of it all. What are you purposefully doing this year to make sure that Jesus remains the very center of your Christmas experience?
- If you have children, grandchildren, or other children who are close to you, what can you do to help them focus on the real story of Christmas this year?
- Christmas is a time when we celebrate God’s gift of love — Jesus Christ — by giving gifts to others. Some of life’s most precious gifts don’t cost any money at all; they cost only the sacrifice of ourselv In what ways can you give to others that will represent the true meaning of Christmas in their lives? Do you give to people who don’t know you or who can’t reciprocate by giving back to you?