There are single-digit days left until Christmas. Can you believe it?
This past summer, our church staff decided Christmas was not going to sneak up on us in 2018. We were going to plan our music and messages and outreach strategies months in advance. We were going to be ahead of schedule.
At least, that was the plan . . .
But at a recent staff meeting, the calendar mocked us. Christmas was just around the corner, and we still had so much to do. It’s so crazy around here that I feel like I’ve emailed the same reply to a dozen different people: “Can this wait until after Christmas?”
Can you relate?
Maybe you’re the student studying for final exams, staying up too late and living off a diet of Monster and espresso shots. Maybe you’re the employee dealing with year-end numbers and key clients who are days away from taking time off. Maybe you’re the mom who is in charge of all the gifts, all the wrapping, all the cookies, all the cooking, all the concerts, all the schedules, and all the stuff that gets squeezed into the season.
Or maybe you work at the mall. (If so, please know that we are praying for you!)
We fly through these final weeks of the year. Yes, we Christians know the reason for the season. We are fully aware that Jesus is the star of the show. But sometimes it feels like we’re speeding past the manger at 70 mph, singing a quick rendition of “Joy to the World” as we catch a quick glimpse of blurry baby Jesus.
And a blurry baby is better than nothing. But we all know it’s not the best way to adore him.
Is there any other option?
To be honest, this year might be too late to undo the Christmas rush. It’s hard to back out of commitments made months ago. So, instead of blasting you with hours of ideas to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus this Christmas, I’m going to limit myself to giving you just 15 minutes of homework. Think you could pull that off? If so, here goes:
I would love for you to take 15 minutes and ponder the birth of Jesus. Find a quiet spot. Get up a touch early. Grab a Bible, and meditate on these words: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). That’s it. Don’t read the entire chapter or even the next verse. Just let your mind reread each word.
As you ponder his birth, chew on each detail of the good news. What does it mean that a Savior was born (and not a teacher or a judge)? And what does it mean that Jesus is the Messiah (and not just a rabbi or a prophet)? And, while you’re at it, what does the title the Lord imply? And why are the words to you the source of salvation for every sinner?
In other words, I’m asking you to think deeply about the identity of Jesus. Because I know the answers to those questions will give you the blessings we so often find in our Christmas cards and holiday ads—peace, hope, joy.
This is the path that Mary took during the craziness of that first Christmas. As she and Joseph rushed to find a place for her to push and the shepherds then crashed her bonding moments with her firstborn son, Luke tells us what Mary was up to: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
Maybe next year we will learn to cut back on our Christmas commitments to have quantity time to sit in silence and study these words. But for this year, let’s “pull a Mary” and ponder these things in our hearts. And let’s pray those 15 minutes of Spirit-given insights come to mind every time we see Jesus in a manger. Even if we only catch a blurry glimpse of a baby.
Because this is truly good news that can cause great joy for all the people. Including you.
Pondering with you,
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.
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