When Your Holly Jolly Most Wonderful Time of the Year Becomes Your Crazy, Irrational, Most Stressed-Out Time of the Year....
Confession: I feel like I'm losing my mind.
I honestly thought I wasn't going to go crazy this Christmas. Earlier in the fall I read this great blog about being done gift shopping by December 1...I loved it and decided to do that. And was mostly successful. But then, and then, and then...you know how it goes. Then earlier this week I realized I should maybe do some meal planning for these fabulous celebrations and the wonderful people we get to see. Yesterday in the grocery stores my boys ran in circles because, let's be honest, Mama has dragged them to a few too many stores in the last couples weeks and they are going bonkers, and the lines are getting longer, and Mama's head is getting closer and closer to imploding.
This morning I laid in bed in the quiet darkness and asked Jesus to help me keep Him my center today. To help me not go crazy like yesterday. But then I got out of bed.
All of a sudden I was crabby lady again with a million things to do and teacher gifts to pack. As one child was trying to talk to me, I snapped, "I don't have time to listen to you right now. Just eat. I have a thousand things to do." I hurried and rushed and failed to put a smile on my face the whole time I was getting kids ready for school. Then Paul came home work, looked at me, and says, "So...was this morning extra wild or something?" Me, exasperated, "Well not much different than usual, but I have been working my butt off getting this family ready for Christmas!" (Isn't that a nice way to greet a man who just came home from a 24-hour work shift?)
Then I went for a run to clear my mind...which is when God reminded me of my ridiculous comment (I love how God takes me running to straighten me out). Working your butt off to get ready for Christmas?? Really Rebecca?? As if "getting ready for Christmas" is all about groceries and lists and ribbons? As if all your running around like a crazy lady and slamming cupboard doors and snapping at children is really going to help your family welcome the Christ-child into their hearts?
Now...not for a second am I suggesting that the meals and the gifts are all in vain. Not a bit. I love it all. I really do. We ought to make much of Jesus' birthday, because it is in fact the biggest deal in the world. The manger, the cross, the empty tomb...we ought to make as much of all of it as we can...celebrations, feasts, gifts, music, decorations, yes and amen. I'm also not suggesting that every single moment has to be all holly jolly. But this morning while I was running God reminded me again that there is a real and certain enemy who has been trying to ruin Christmas ever since that very first one...and he still is.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him..."
...Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.
Matthew 2:1-2, 7-14
Did you see it? These wise men are making much of the Savior that's been born...even more than we are making in all of our celebrations. They are traveling (by camel!) further than most of us are going to drive in our cars. They have purchased gifts more valuable than anything under my tree. They are proof that our Christmas celebrations can and should be extravagant. But...not for the sake of extravagance...for the sake of Jesus. And when they found Jesus, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Oh. That humbles me. The lady who crabbily packed gifts for my girls' amazing and much-deserving teachers this morning. I failed at great joy this morning. I fail often. Yet the joy that Christmas deserves is exceeding joy. My kids are awesome at exceeding joy. We should rejoice like children at Christmas. Not slam cupboard doors.
But did you see the other thing too in the story? There's a culprit here who is seeking to kill the joy...and not only the joy, but the reason for the joy. Joseph and Mary become a man and woman on the run. They run for their lives to protect their baby. And do you notice what the wise men do? When they hear about the enemy, they turn the other direction. They turn their backs on the enemy, purposefully, intentionally, and choose another direction. I can learn much from that. Maybe you can too. Because the enemy is still here. It's no longer Herod...the real enemy then wasn't Herod either. The real enemy has always been the enemy of our souls. And perhaps, when we realize that the enemy is on the advance to eradicate joy from our hearts as we prepare for Christmas, maybe, just maybe, we could go a different direction. Choose a different gift. A different meal. A different store. A different plan. Or simply a different attitude. The reason for exceedingly great joy is here, my friends. Let's turn our backs on the enemy and our hearts toward the babe in the manger.
We don't actually need to make ourselves crazy to make Christmas happen for our families. Christmas will happen because Christmas did happen. Jesus was born. Jesus came. God came down, born as a baby boy, to rescue us from the depths of sin that we cannot get out of on our own. Christmas is Christmas because Jesus is Emmanuel...God with us. Christmas is Christmas because Jesus is Jesus - The One Who Saves.
Jesus wins. He won then, as a baby refugee in Egypt, he won on the cross, he won in the empty tomb, and he wins in the end. Let's let him win in our hearts today too. Even as we stand in long lines.