STOVER: This is the season for praising others

Published 9:50 pm Friday, November 24, 2017

By Larry Stover | Stover lives in Valley Grande and pastor at Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene

People throughout Dallas County are in a celebratory mood these days. Thanksgiving around the table with family and friends always evokes a festive mood. “Black Friday” sales generate an emotional rush for those daring to brave the elements and crowds of people who often have an agenda that is not always in keeping with “peace on earth.”

The “Iron Bowl” is here. It always makes “the day after” one of the “less spiritual times” of worship in area churches.

With Thanksgiving in our rear-view mirror and Christmas arriving in a month much of our attention will be tuned into those shopping lists of presents to celebrate this season of giving.

In contrast, I have always enjoyed the Advent season as a pastor. That month long celebration centers on the coming of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. It begins with a look at the prophetic voices mentioned for centuries prior to His coming. Celebrations include recognizing the shepherds, angels, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. It concludes with the lighting of the “Christ” candle reminding us that the “Light of the World” came to save us from our sins and despair.

In the bounty of our material blessings as a nation, this time of year has been elevated to the most iconic obsession of things we have all year long. We all know that material things are important.  Many are almost absolutely essential. For many businesses this is a “make it or break it” time of year that sometimes determines if that particular institution will stay open past the first of the year. For some shoppers the stress of the season supersedes the “joy” of the month due to frantically searching for those elusive presents or stressing out over the credit card statement when it arrives in January.

It would be a pleasant change if we could all put more emphasis on the spiritual and less on the material aspects of this season. I’m not advocating that we forget the presents.

Our grandchildren would not understand. Maybe, we just need to find a better balance.

Jesus had some great wisdom and advice on this subject. We read in Luke 12 these words, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

We’ve all heard sermons preached from this passage downplaying the need of materialistic things. A cursory view of the context gives a far more important understanding than that. The real emphasis is on the spiritual needs we possess rather than the material.

Our problem today as Christians is not simply our interest in material things, it is our lack of attentiveness to spiritual realities. The above passage points me to some elements of a “good life.”

The foremost element of a good life is our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we are in a right relationship with Him, the foundation is laid for us to be in a great relationship with everyone and everything else as well.

One of our greatest needs throughout this holiday season is to be loved by others.  This is an essential ingredient for our spiritual and emotional health. From my observation, a primary reasons for the rise of depressed people today is that they are trying to withdraw from everyone thinking that they can survive without other people.  They are wrong!  God did not create us that way.

We really do need each other.  Even with everyone’s peculiarities, I am so thankful for the people in my life. We are all a little weird, even if we don’t think so. Remember to celebrate friends and family.

It is easy for us to shift our priorities this time of year. Don’t allow yourself to go through this season investing only in material things while missing out on the permanency of the blessings that come from a strong relationship with Jesus Christ and with those loved ones who make our lives worth living.  Real wealth comes out of those relationships.

Together they make life  “Simply Beautiful.”