Lighten the Load this New Year

My boys love “hiking”…“hiking” in apostrophes because my boys like the idea of “hiking” but not the amount of walking it entails.

On one particular “hike” a couple years ago…my youngest Bryce was intrigued by the rocks along the path. He frequently stopped to examine rocks in all shapes and sizes…consequently slowing us down quite a bit.

And soon enough…as expected…he complained of being tired stating that he couldn’t walk anymore.

I really didn’t want to pick up my 30lb Bryce…but thank goodness we were already on the way back.

So I lifted him up and to my surprise I was immediately confronted with an extreme weight change…Bryce was much heavier than usual. And that’s when I realized he had placed some rocks…many rocks! …in his pockets…every pocket!

No wonder he was so tired of walking! If only he knew how much these rocks weighed him down making it difficult for him to continue walking.

With the New Year approaching….many of us are looking to set new goals…begin new resolutions…start new beginnings.

I know we are quick to begin fresh each New Year but what about what we left behind the previous year? As much as we would like to forget the struggles…the challenges…the pain from the previous year…they just don’t really disappear or go away. Do they?

What burdens are you carrying into this New Year? Like Bryce…are you carrying some heavy “rocks” that are weighing you down?

Maybe you experienced difficulties in your family relationships this past year whether it be with your spouse or children…

Maybe you received a diagnosis that had you so worried you haven’t been able to function on a daily basis…

Maybe you are emotionally drained from suffering a painful loss of a loved one…

Maybe after having tried and tried, you can’t seem to find a job and you are now struggling to pay your monthly bills…

Maybe you have been carrying multiple challenges in your life that have weighed you down leaving you feeling tired…weary…flat out exhausted!

What about the by-product of these life challenges such as unforgiveness…or anger…or bitterness…or worry…or anxiety…or fear?

These burdens…whether we realize them or not…weighed us down this past year and will continue to weigh us down in the New Year…because a New Year doesn’t just erase our problems.

These life challenges are real and can be very stressful…I am certainly not denying that.

But how can we lighten the load so these burdens don’t continue to weigh us down in the New Year?

We just celebrated the birth of our Savior Jesus on Christmas…Did you catch that?

Our Savior…Jesus…who just so happens to be our Deliverer…our Restorer…our Healer…our Comforter…our Provider! And our so much more!

The very Jesus that the Bible says to cast our burdens upon…so that He will sustain us!

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you… Psalm 55:22a NASB

There are so many burdens that we are just not meant to carry…and Jesus wants us to cast them upon Him…Why?

Because His shoulders are broader and stronger than ours…Because He can carry much more weight than we can…because He can handle our burdens much better than we can…because He is meant to carry a greater load…our load!

So how exactly can we lighten our load…especially as we head into this New Year?

Psalm 55:22 says to “cast” our burdens upon the Lord.

The word “cast” comes from the Hebrew shalak and is translated “to throw out, down or away; hurl, pluck, throw.”

This means that we need to intentionally “cast”…“throw”…“hurl” our burdens upon the Lord.

Interestingly, doesn’t the word “throw” imply a more forceful connotation? …I mean it’s not saying to merely “give” our burdens to the Lord. Think about “giving” something to someone versus “throwing” something to someone. There is a difference…right?!

Furthermore…when we cast our burdens upon the Lord…it doesn’t mean that instead of carrying them with 2 arms that now we continue to carry them under one arm.

It’s like with anything that you would throw out or throw away…you don’t go back, grab it and continue to hold onto it…do you?

I absolutely love this quote…

To those who have had no agony Jesus says, “I have nothing for you; stand on your own feet, square your own shoulders. I have come for the man who knows he has a bigger handful than he can cope with, who knows there are forces he cannot touch; I will do everything for him if he will let Me. Only let a man grant he needs it, and I will do it for him.” Oswald Chambers

When we do our part…God will do His!

When we cast our burdens upon Him…He will sustain us!

The word “sustain” is defined “to provide what is needed for (something or someone) to exist, continue, etc; to hold up the weight of (something); to give support or relief to”

Casting our burdens upon the Lord doesn’t necessarily mean our challenges are over or our problems are solved.

To cast our burden upon God, is to rest upon his providence and promise. And if we do so, he will carry us in the arms of his power, as a nurse carries a child; and will strengthen our spirits by his Spirit, so that they shall sustain the trial. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

Casting our burdens upon the Lord does mean that Jesus will sustain us…It does mean that Jesus will strengthen us so that we can have hope…peace…even joy…as we face our challenges.

And the key to experiencing this peace and joy is…Trust. Trust Jesus.

Many times we place our trust in everything else…everything but Jesus. Think about that for a minute…

We place trust in people…

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8 KJV

We place trust in things…

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! Isaiah 31:1 NASB

We place trust in money…

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17 NLT

We place trust in understanding…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverb 3:5 NIV

When place our trust in Jesus…Jesus alone… and cast our burdens upon Him…we will get through life’s challenges with less stress…greater hope…greater peace…greater joy! And we will experience God’s greater care and love for each of us.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1Peter 5:7 NIV

This New Year…let’s begin afresh trusting Jesus more than ever and believing that when we intentionally cast our burdens upon him that He will sustain us.

So that we may enter the New Year free of the heavy burdens that we were never meant to carry! And free to move forward and ahead into the plans and purposes that God has for each of us!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NLT

 

Reflection Points:

  1. What burdens are you carrying into this New Year?
  2. Are you burdened by the by-product of life challenges such as unforgiveness…or anger…or bitterness…or worry…or fear?
  3. How can we lighten the load so these burdens don’t continue to weigh us down in the New Year?
  4. Do you trust Jesus…or everything else to get through life’s challenges?

Action Points:

  1. Life’s challenges can be heavy burdens to carry. And the by-products of life challenges such as unforgiveness…or anger…or bitterness…or worry…or fear…can weigh us down more than we know.
  2. We can lighten our load as we enter the New Year by casting our burdens upon Jesus because His shoulders are broader and stronger than ours…because He can carry much more weight than we can…because He can handle our burdens much better than we can…because He is meant to carry a greater load…our load!
  3. The key to casting our burdens upon the Lord is Trust. Trust Jesus. Let’s not place trust in people…things…money…understanding. These things are unreliable. Jesus is fully reliable…fully trustworthy! Let’s trust Him more this New Year and experience greater hope…greater peace…and greater joy knowing He is in control!

 

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The Advent Tradition

Traditions. Traditions are those little rituals passed down from generation to generation that help shape our families by creating a sense of unity…warmth…and closeness. They create memories that fill our minds with peace…love…joy…and security.

Do you remember any family traditions while growing up? What are some of your current family traditions?

Maybe you grew up with certain family traditions that you have now passed down to your children and grandchildren….Or maybe you grew up in a difficult and challenging family environment and traditions were non-existent.

Whether we grew up with traditions or not…we can still create traditions for us and our families…at any time!

And Christmas is a certainly a great time of year to create family traditions.

The word “tradition” is defined as “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.”

One of our Christmas family traditions began with the birth of my first child Connor…and we have continued it with the birth of my second child Bryce. Every Christmas we set out a small lighted Christmas tree for each of our boys. And each year they pick an ornament…or make an ornament…to place on their own tree.

Well as you can imagine…the first few years the trees were quite bare with only a few ornaments. But now with the boys 7 and 5 years old the trees are beginning to fill up!

Now if I can just keep my youngest son Bryce from taking the ornaments off his brother’s tree to make his tree look more full and prevent this situation from escalating into a common brotherly fight…I am off to a successful start preparing for this Christmas season!

This year my husband Billy and I decided to create another tradition to help our children in understanding the true meaning of Christmas. We began the tradition of celebrating Advent and lighting the candles in the Advent wreath.

Many have grown up in churches who practice the Advent services…while others may not have had similar…or any…Advent season experiences. Whether you have experienced this Advent season in your life or not…there are many Christians who haven’t fully grasped what Advent represents and the relevance of this tradition.

Advent is one great way for us and our families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas and provides another perfect opportunity for us to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas.

Advent is the season 4 weeks before Christmas in which we prepare for the coming of Christ. It begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30th. (So as you are reading this today…we are actually approaching the 3rd Sunday…but it’s never too late to begin a new tradition…or to learn something new! Right?!)

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus which means “arrival” or “coming”

Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first “arrival” or “coming” to Earth as a baby…but also for His presence among us today through the Holy Spirit…and in preparation and anticipation of His final coming at the end of time.

This Christmas, we introduced the Advent season tradition to our boys through the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath has much symbolism and by the Middle Ages, Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.

The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity…the eternity of God which has no beginning or end…and the everlasting life found in Christ.

On this Advent wreath…5 candles are typically arranged.

During the season of Advent…one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Set on the actual branches of the wreath are 4 candles: typically 3 purple candles and 1 pink candle. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.

A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior.

In my research, there is varying symbolism in the 4 candles between different denominations such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Protestants, you name it!

I have selected to discuss the interpretation that the 4 candles represent the virtues that Jesus brings us…Hope…Love…Joy…Peace. The order of lighting each candle representing a specific virtue on each Sunday can vary slightly according to different religious denominations but there is agreement that the pink candle symbolizes Joy and is lit on the 3rd Sunday.

HOPE

On the 1st Sunday of Advent, the 1st purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” or “Candle of Hope” in remembrance of the prophets…primarily Isaiah…who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents HOPE or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:12-13

We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us. Our hope comes from God.

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. Psalm 62:5 HCSB

LOVE

On the 2nd Sunday of Advent, the 2nd purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Bethlehem Candle” and represents LOVE. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” because it symbolizes Christ’s manger.

The angels announced the good news of a Savior. God sent his only Son to earth to save us… because He loves us!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

JOY

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” or the “Candle of Joy” and it represents JOY.

The angels sang a message of JOY!

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:7-11 NASB

We can have joy today because we can rely on our Savior and receive strength from Him in every circumstance!

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

PEACE

The 4th and last purple candle, oftentimes called the “Angels Candle” represents PEACE and is lit on the 4th Sunday of Advent. This candle reminds us of the message of the angels…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14 KJ

We can have peace knowing that God is in control of every circumstance and that even though we may have some battles to face on this earth…the war has already been won!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

LIFE OF CHRIST

The 5th candle…the white center candle…is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the LIFE OF CHRIST that has come into the world.

The white candle reminds us that Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God…sent to wash away our sins! Those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

His birth was for His death…His death was for our birth!

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29)

The Advent tradition has given me and my family a great opportunity to keep Christ at the center of our Christmas.

Whether you celebrate Advent as a family tradition or not…it’s never too late to begin a tradition!

Traditions help shape our families…develop greater family unity…and create beautiful memories to pass on to our next generation…and the next generation!

Reflection Points:

  1. Do you remember any family traditions while growing up? What are some of your current family traditions?
  2. Did you grow up learning about the Advent season?
  3. Do you have any Christmas traditions to keep Christ at the center of Christmas for you and your family?

Action Points:

  1. Whether you grew up with traditions or not…you can still create traditions for yourself and your family…at any time!
  2. Traditions are those little rituals passed down from generation to generation that help shape our families by creating a sense of unity…warmth…and closeness. They create memories that fill our minds with peace…love…joy…and security.