Check your calendars. It’s December 16th. There are only eight days left to get ready for Christmas! Yes, eight days! Are you frantic now? Is your heart racing? Is your mind swirling with all the items on your holiday to do list? You are not alone. Me too…
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 – NIV
I have a confession to make. I tried so hard to avoid it. I told myself I wouldn’t. This year would be different. But alas, I failed miserably.
It happened Friday morning. The day started well enough with a good gym workout, although I did start mentally scrolling through my task list while I was on the elyptical machine. Still, I was calm, controlled, looking forward to the day ahead.
It happened an hour later after returning home. First on the agenda was the baking so I headed for my kitchen. Looking at the clock, I noted with alarm that it was later than I thought. That’s when the rush began.
No time to spare, I began dashing around my kitchen, whipping up two Pans of my signature caramel bars while I juggled household tasks and a few urgent phone calls in between my baking steps. The mental scroll through my to do list had switched into high gear. How would I get it all done?
The weekend ahead was full with three Christmas parties interspersed with placing the poinsettias at church and buying supplies for our backpack ministry at the school. The baking must be done for the parties. The shopping must be done so the bags can be packed for the kids. I haven’t written my annual Christmas letter nor have I addressed any envelopes. I still have a few gifts to buy too.
Standing there waiting for the bars to exit the oven, I felt my stomach churning as my anxiety level soared. And then I stopped.
Gripping the counter, I shook my head in disgust. Taking a deep breath, I initiated the much needed self-talk as questions began forming in my frazzled mind.
Is this really what Christmas is all about? Is this really what God had in mind when He laid Baby Jesus in the manger?
Did God intend for us to rush around in a frenzy, spending too much money, eating too many sweets, and getting irritable with one another? When God sent us the means for our salvation, did He really expect us to celebrate by shopping?
Please don’t get me wrong. I love all the traditions of Christmas, and I feel sure God is glad for the joy such traditions bring us. But when our holiday traditions monopolize our attention and absorb all our time and energy, I imagine God shakes His head in disappointment.
In this season of Christmas just as in all our seasons, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. We need to honor Him with our praise and thanksgiving, with our worship and witness. How can we praise and worship if our brains are so rattled we can’t think straight? How can we be a witness for Christ’s love if we are rushing past those in need or responding with irritation when our plans go awry?
These were the questions I asked myself standing at the kitchen window on a cold, rainy December day. I realized with a heavy sigh that despite my good intentions, I had done it once again. I had let the trimmings of the season consume me, obscuring the real meaning of this time of remembrance. It was time to get a grip on myself. I needed an attitude adjustment.
Instead of focusing on my task list, it was time to focus on the precious gift of Jesus Christ, to recall the miracle of the baby in the manger. It was time to allow my heart to be filled with wonder at the love it took to bring that baby to us.
So let’s you and I rework our to do lists. Let’s add an item at the top. We’ll call it, “Celebrate Jesus!” Let’s make a new rule. Before we can check off another item on our list, we have to return to item #1 and find a way to celebrate Jesus. Perhaps it’s a prayer of thanksgiving. Perhaps we could quote a scripture or sing a favorite carol. Perhaps we could offer a genuine smile and a warm greeting as we pass our neighbor in the grocery store. Whatever you choose to do, let us leave the rushing behind and prepare our hearts for Christmas by first and foremost celebrating Jesus.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:6-7 – NIV
O Lord God Almighty, thank You for the precious gift of Jesus Christ. Thank You for the baby in the manger and the reason He came. O Lord, forgive us our earthly distractions, our frailties and failures. Help us celebrate Jesus this day, and every day to come.