“…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
In many ways, Christmas in America begins the day after Thanksgiving.
We have barely put away the leftover turkey before our thoughts turn to shopping, Christmas trees and party planning. What should be a time of reflection and continued thanksgiving, turns to hurried accomplishments to be checked off a list.
While some people thrive in the bustling atmosphere of Christmas preparation, many feel overwhelmed and even frustrated by it. We try not to go overboard, and yet in the pressure to find the perfect tree, the perfect gift, or to have a perfectly decorated home, we cave into the chaos.
“They carry out a plan, but not mine…” Isaiah 30:1
I have been camping out in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, looking at the prophet’s perspective on the coming Messiah. Knowing that this prophet’s message was fulfilled hundreds of years later in a cattle stall in Bethlehem, I search for a picture of what God intended to do. God spoke to Isaiah and gave him a very distinct message for His people. He warns of their coming doom if they fail to listen to His counsel; a reflection of our compassionate God, He wants them to see that the choice is theirs: Follow God, seek Him and do His will or continue to live in bondage.
Out of fear, Israel was choosing to do the safe thing, rather than the right thing.
Ouch. Enslaved. How often do I disobey God by cowering and succumbing to fear?
In their weakness, they had become self-sufficient and selfish. Choosing their own path, they trusted Pharaoh to protect them rather than the Lord Himself (verse 2), and the result was tragic:
“…They are of no benefit, they are no help; they are good for nothing but shame and reproach.” (verse 4)
So what is the lesson here? Could Isaiah’s words from long ago point us to the remedy for our holiday frenzy? I happen to believe the whole Bible and I study it–not just as a book on history, but as a living, active message that continues to speak to us today.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Isaiah’s job is not a popular one. The prophecies from God spoken through Isaiah were harsh. Sin has consequences, and the farther we move away from God the more dire our situation becomes.
So when did Christmas become more and more about material blessings and less and less about the spiritual ones? How did we take the simple story of Jesus’ birth and turn it into a consumer’s nightmare?
By rushing right past the true meaning of Christmas, we put ourselves in the position of a frazzled phenom. More worried about our budget (or lack thereof), our bargains and our baubles, we pass right by the Baby in a manger.
“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” Isaiah 30:15
Do you want to get through the holidays, or experience Christmas? Get back to the Baby. Return to the Christ of Christmas–to the stable where God became a man and entered our world in the must humble of circumstance. See Him lying in a manger bed or resting peacefully in the arms of His earthly mother. Join with the heavenly hosts in singing,
Here are more thoughts from Christmas’ past: