The Christmas season is strangely an intense time of year.
I can’t help but think that most of us are missing something in the hustle and the bustle of busily buying things, the ambitious arranging of awkward family events, or the creative cooking up of our annual Christmas concoctions without the benefit of the true meaning of Jesus’ advent sinking into our conscience. There is a kind of busyness that gives us an illusion of purpose that actually hinders our laying hold of the genuine hope and peace that Jesus’ coming gives.
On the other hand, it is also possible for us to become so relaxed in our annual routines and rooted in our seasonal habits that we become spiritually lethargic and inattentive to its wonder. We so easily miss the awesome message of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ and what it means for us today. Just think how we can become so focused on either our plans or our comforts that we forget that the living God Who invaded the darkness of our world with the subtle light of Jesus’ birth is the same God Who rules today, sovereign over all His creation, calling us to be living heralds of God’s holy love and power.
Ask yourself, if God were to interrupt my schedule this very day with a marvelous truth from His Word, the Bible, would I stop and savor it as if it were a freshly baked Christmas cookie? If He were to have my path cross that of someone whose heart is breaking or health is failing, would I notice and drink from Jesus’ compassion as I would a cup of hot, creamy cocoa on a cold winter night? Would Jesus light and love be present in me and my choices?
The true test of our Christianity is found not so much in our memorizing certain Scriptures, attending special services, or singing spiritual songs (even at Christmas), but in our handling of His intrusion into our affairs. What is your response when He opens the door for you to detour around mere mortal aspirations and beckons you to participate with Him in divine, heavenly moments. Do you share a word of hope with a down-trodden life, a morsel with a hungry tummy, or a prayer for a soul oppressed by the spiritual darkness of our age? Or do you fail to notice, or notice but fail to stop because you’re too busy with something else or too lazy to be bothered by someone else’s need?
The people that God uses most are those who are most available to His will. The folks who are most celebrated in the Kingdom of God are those who are the most ready to dump their own agendas for the sake of God’s agenda. This was true throughout the ages of the Bible and it is true today.
When God’s messenger, Gabriel, suddenly appeared to Mary to announce to her God’s incredible plan for her to conceive and carry God’s Son, although she was a virgin, her response was as what all our responses should be when God shows up “out of the blue”: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 ESV). Talk about inconvenient and awkward! Yet her attitude and corresponding actions were in line with God’s leading and she was used by God in an unthinkable and unexpected way!
Of course, the question arises, does God speak today? Yes, He does! His Spirit takes the words of the Bible and shepherds us though them into a true knowledge of Him, His purposes and His ways! So today, because we read (presumably) the Bible and see Jesus’ instructions to us on how to treat one another (as in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7), how to truly follow Him (as in Matthew 16:24-25), and how to love one another (as in John 13:34-35), we are actually hearing from God a special message meant for our ears and intended to be lived out in specific, real-life ways in our daily experience.
Therefore, Christmas becomes truly meaningful when you and I forgive as Jesus told us to. The holidays take on special meaning when we choose to follow Jesus’ pattern of living (sacrificially giving and serving). And this truly does become “the most wonderful time of the year” when we see ourselves as Jesus’ hands and feet and love others with tenderness and kindness when we have all sorts of reasons to begrudge them our time and talents.
December may indeed be the coldest and darkest month of the year (at least in the northern hemisphere), but it does not need to be the coldest and darkest month in our attitudes and actions. Instead, Christmas can be and should be both wonderfully warm and beautifully bright. It can be and should be a launch pad of renewal for Believers as we prayerfully reflect on how perfect and holy love condescended to put on human flesh and bear the burden our both our humanity and ultimately our sin. As the light of Jesus conquers by love the cold grip of hate, we can agree with the words of Phillips Brooks’ beloved Christmas carol, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.”
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:9-14 ESV).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.