(originally posted 12/21/06 on my other blog What's Inside)
It seems the Christmas advertising season starts two days earlier than it did the year before. That is two extra days a year of hearing songs about Frosty, Rudolph, mistletoe, and holly. Two extra days of red, green, & white decorations, and Salvation Army bells ringing across the nation. Two extra days for all of the seasonal Santas to wear their red suits. Two more days for hearing about peace, joy, and the good news of Jesus’ birth, along with the complaints “it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet." And two more days of panic for dietitians and procrastinators.
Christmas is my wife’s favorite holiday. She loves the deep sense of family traditions, and the budding philanthropist within her finds no deeper satisfaction than giving gifts to her closest friends, family, and the occasional stranger in need. She longs all year for the apple pie, laughter, winter snow, the smell of evergreen, and - most importantly - the curious excitement that comes with the celebration of Christmas.
Yet, somehow, in all of the commercial endeavors, the difficulty finding parking spaces at the mall, and the inescapable business of the holidays... we miss the real reason for the season. We get caught up in the worry of buying presents in time, and picking the perfect wrapping paper. We occupy ourselves with lists: food lists, wish lists, mailing lists. We bury ourselves in traditions: the nativity scene, Christmas Eve church services, carols, gift exchanges. What is this for? What is Christmas about?
The Christmas story is (for some of us) a familiar and treasured story. But to really grasp what God intends for us during holiday season, we have to dig deeper. We must look beyond the shepherds, the manger, the gifts of the magi, and the inn with no room. We discover the reason for Christmas before Joseph and Mary even travel to Bethlehem.
Of all the people involved, I think Mary’s reaction best describes what Christmas is about. In the first chapter of Luke, we read about Mary’s encounter with an angel. She has been told that she was with child and would give birth to a son. In verse 38, Mary says “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” Mary was not asked a simple favor, but given a daunting task and a lifetime of unanswered questions. Yet her bold response echoes the greatest gift we could ever give to our God.
I am your servant, do as You will. Such an act of faith can not be possible with out an assurance. In verse 37, the angel eased Mary’s confusion and fears “Nothing is impossible with God.”
The holiday season is not always the easiest time of year. For many, it lacks joy. The stress of the holidays overshadows the joy of Christmas. But God does not intend for us to suffer through the most wonderful time of the year. When you are facing the first holiday after losing someone close to you, or your first Christmas away from home; when you are stranded at an airport because of a blizzard; when you are panicking about whether or not you will blow your diet, or mail out Christmas cards in time; remember, with God all things are possible. It is up to us to reply, “I am Yours, may you do as you have promised.”
And what has God promised us. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)