There are so many things that can do a number on our minds during the holiday season. Because our culture has converted the celebration of Christ's birth to a commercial and consumer bonanza the mind games that define the month of December are many, some of a more positive bent, some from the dark side. It's a month of multi-phasic thinking, that is, minds racing from one bullet of thought to another in constant rotation. In some ways this mind stuff is the reason we grow tired and weary during the period bracketed by Thanksgiving and the New Year. Our brain synapses can't seem to disengage enough for our neurons to find the "off" switch. And, tired and weary are sure broken Christmas recipe ingredients.
Pause a second. You know, everyday I hear somebody talking about control issues. A young dude at Starbucks the other day was bragging about how he has learned to control his time. What a crock! Time isn't his to control. What I wanted to do was go over, interrupt their conversation and teach them a thing or two about managing their time. OK, I know that's a random thought hardly connected to the mind games of the holidays. But, there's a control issue in the mind too. People who understand the workings of the human brain remind us that a great deal of our thought is actually subconscious beyond our control. About the only control we can exert on our mind is when we focus our attention on something, usually of relatively short duration. A good illustration is a game we used to play in a discipleship development session. Attendees were told on concentrate on seven people playing with a basketball. They were instructed to constantly keep their eyes on the ball. As the game moved back and forth someone in a gorilla suit would walk through the basketball game. Rarely did anyone notice the gorilla. Their mind was on the ball. They managed their minds for a brief moment.
Learning to focus our thought is the real deal right now. For me this focus involves the discipline of fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). What is more, thinking the right things is the spiritual discipline of having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Apostle Paul explained this process more completely in his letter to the Philippians, when he wrote---
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,
which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in
Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever
is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there
is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The
things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these
things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:6-9, ESV
What the ESV translates as "dwell on these things" is usually rendered "think on these things" in most other versions. It is a way to focus our thinking, even momentarily.
Do me a favor. Read the following Scripture passage right now and think about what the verses are saying. As an extension you may want to read these same verses tomorrow and Sunday, Christmas Day. It may be one small way to find the "off" switch on this multi-phasic thinking thing and rivet attention to the reason for the season.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all
things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether
thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through
him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn
from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the
fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all
things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has
now reconciled bin his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy
and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith,
stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard,
which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul,
became a minister.
Colossians 1:15-23, ESV
In my Bible this section of Scripture is subtitled The Preeminence of Christ. He is the central thought of our faith, and should be the thought that focuses our attention during this holiday.