Have a Real and Meaningful Christmas!


My prayer for this Advent season is quite simple: Jesus, please reveal more and more of your glory and grace to my heart. I want to bow quicker lower, and with more joy than ever before you, my majestic and merciful King. Open the eyes of my heart a bit wider to behold the great hope to which you’ve called us in the gospel. Deepen my adoration of you, Jesus, and loosen my grip on my so-called treasures…from Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith


She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21


‘Tis the season. It definitely comes earlier every year. I am pretty sure my mailbox has been jammed with Christmas catalogs since Labor Day. It gets harder and harder to sift through the distracting commercial chaos and modern holiday music that clogs the airwaves painting a most distorted picture of what began as a celebration of the Savior’s birth. It can seem like Christmas has been hijacked!


Hopefully, Mississippi Christian Living will move your heart just a little closer to quiet reflection on Jesus and kindle in your heart a desire to worship only Him this year. These pages are jam-packed with inspiring people and thoughtful guidance.


Our cover story on USM’s Coach Jay Hopson is a profile in leadership. One of the qualities that stands out most about Jay is his authentic humility—not a bad trait to contemplate this time of year. If you want a meaningful explanation of Advent, by all means read our Pastor’s Perspective by Father Jonathon Kell of St. Stephen’s Reformed Episcopal Church. This is a wonderful tutorial on preparing our hearts to receive God’s Christmas gift.


Pine Grove marriage and family therapist Benjamin Wood offers practical and priceless advice on “Maximizing Your Christmas.” You will find yourself taking a deep breath and even recovering your peace and joy!


In “Living My Call,” enjoy the timeless wisdom of Mrs. Peggy Dees, a lovely young 87-year-old who also happens to be Peyton and Eli’s great aunt. She has been working in the Williams Brothers General Merchandise store since she was about eight years old. Oh, the lives she has touched and the influence she is still wielding.


As a grandmother, I can get oh-so-teary at Christmas programs watching little ones sing the familiar words of the Christmas songs and carols that I remember singing as a little girl, the very same ones I watched my own children sing as little people. The words and the images have attached themselves to my heart. They bring back vivid memories of the certain way my towheaded son shouted his lines as “the little golden horn” or my very confident three-year-old daughter sang the second verse of “Away in a Manger” solo before a packed sanctuary. I don’t even need a photo to remind me. The images remain fresh as the years pass.


There is something about holidays—and especially Christmas—that frames significant moments of this fleeting life. It is true, too, that all of our Christmas memories don’t carry equal weight of such happiness. When something hurts at Christmas, like a relationship that is just not right, it hurts more than usual. Everything in our secular culture, from the TV commercials to slick print ads, and those blatant online temptations that pop up in our newsfeeds—they all shout deceptive messages of love, peace, and community. So this is what happiness is supposed to look like. They give us no clues on how to mend the gaping holes that separate us or how to fill up the empty places in our souls forever after.


Something about Christmas lays our hearts bare. We don’t much like to be so exposed. But whether we share our aches with another human being, or try to put on a happy face and power through, we recognize the dissonance between the “Joy to the World” and the pain inside.


Enter Jesus, the manger babe, Emmanuel, God with us, the Light of the world. The Bible says of Jesus, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). In a world where we worship beauty, youth, and “coolness,” Jesus can be easy to overlook. Nice story, we may nod, but we have shopping and other duties to perform if we are to script our perfect “holiday.” I can fall into the trap as easily as the next person.


Let us in this sophisticated age of technology, science, inflated egos, and divisive and diverse political views, turn off all the noise during this Advent season and seek as the shepherds and the magi did two thousand years ago to fall on our knees before our Savior and to let that precious vulnerable and magnanimous Prince of Peace become our personal Healer, Redeemer, and Unifier.


Merry Christmas. May you, dear reader, discover the wonder of Christmas in the heart of our Savior.