If memory serves, this year we first encountered Christmas advertising sometime in August. The pressure to accomplish all of what’s expected of us really begins to mount with the arrival of Halloween. By Thanksgiving, it’s in our face and the messages we hear drown out the real meaning of the season. It’s difficult to avoid being swept up in the materialism, abject falsehood of “Celebration” for the sake of self indulgence. “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party — what’s that really saying?
A few days ago we were “Inside the Gate” for an evening service with inmates. Owing to the Christmas message perhaps, quite a few more fellows came out. We’d strung a few lengths of cheap lights because having candles wouldn’t be possible, but the effect was remarkably similar. We enjoyed “Communion” together and worship songs. Then snacks and simple fellowship… we listened as our brothers inside mentioned those whom they’d seen or wouldn’t see… others who’d sent mail and prayers for those who remained out of touch.
And then for a few minutes we read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke chapter two. The “Good news” and about “Gods Favor” … and then settled in to imagine Mary, that simple, humble “maidservant of the Lord.” The section we read summed itself up with:
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
Contrast Mary’s cousin Elizabeth — who gave birth to John the Baptist (the messenger that came to announce the Messiah.) Elizabeth was married to Zacharias, a Priest. They lived well enjoying great depth of religious education and devotion. Mary was poor and not educated in the least. Mary had no depth of intellectual understanding, only a superficial awareness of scripture and prophesy. She believed in her heart above all about the goodness of God. So the most favored woman of all time simply had faith in her heart.
Mary, when the Angel announced to her what would happen — only believed. Her response:
“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
So Mary had only her heart and used her heart to comprehend the Lords work. What she couldn’t understand, she believed God could accomplish.
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:34-35
Often what fills our heads isn’t helpful in the matters of the heart. The seasons’ overly commercialized emphasis tends to distract us from the true peace and joy that we could experience if we let the birth of Christ affect us in our hearts the way the Angels announced it to the Shepherds:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14.
If I’m discontent, if I’m filled with angst and worry of accomplishing all that’s expected of me this Christmas? Time out! I’d like to retrain my thoughts to be on God the Father in heaven remembering the words of Jesus Himself:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
The most magnificent, perfect, incomparable gift of all … that Jesus was born.