Merry Christmas to all! I sincerely hope that your Christmas celebration was full of worship, joy, and inspiration. For many of us, Christmas is a highlight of our year when we focus especially on the incarnation of Jesus the Messiah. We celebrate that God’s Son took the form of a servant and walked among us. We rejoice at the fulfillment of centuries of prophecies that God would send a savior for mankind. Awesome!
And then comes “Boxing Day”- the obscure British holiday that is December 26th. It’s the day after Christmas, also known as “Shopping Purgatory Day.” It’s a day set aside so that we can return gifts people gave us and get what we really wanted. Ouch.
I bring up that awkward juxtaposition of spiritual focus and materialism to make a point: often our Christmas focus is a spiritual flash in the pan. Christmas can be a Jesus-centered moment in the midst of an otherwise not very Jesus-centered life. Christmas is a great cultural opportunity to focus on Jesus, but it’s not enough. A real encounter with the Son of God should leave a lasting impact. It should result in life change. But often it doesn’t.
The battle to worship Jesus every day is not new. I think it’s always been a challenge to translate a spiritually climactic moment into daily living. What about those who were the first to encounter Jesus on earth?
Consider Mary. After experiencing the miraculous birth of the Messiah, and the visit of some random worshipping shepherds, Luke tells us that “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Luke is describing reflection. It is not a stretch to suggest that Mary didn’t want to forget what had happened.
What she had experienced was so remarkable, she never wanted to lose sight of it. But instinctively she knew she had to purpose to not let the moment just pass. Why? Because she would be busy changing diapers and doing laundry and cooking and shopping and momming. Life was about to happen.
Do you treasure your relationship with Jesus? Do you take time to reflect on who he is, what he has done, and why it matters to you? Have you made it a point to anchor those moments in your soul? To insist on remembering?
Consider Joseph. Joseph had already experienced a great change of heart due to God’s intervention (Matthew 1:20, 24-25). Months of waiting had verified that God’s Word to him was true. His faith was not misplaced. Perhaps the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, and the remarkable visits of the Shepherds and Magi, had reassured him that his faith was not in vain.
But he still had to register for the census. He temporarily relocated his young family to Bethlehem, and then they had to flee the country as refugees to Egypt (Matthew 2:14). Refugees! I am sure that it was very difficult to walk by faith while running for their lives. In the midst of all this, Joseph was responsible to provide. He had to deal with the practical dad issues of working to provide for the family, but he also had to deal with the fact that the king wanted his son dead. No one said it would be easy.
Do you let the stresses of work or politics or family drown out your faith? Do you let fear and anxiety distract you from hope and faith in Jesus? It’s never easy.
Consider the Shepherds. These guys were the first to get the memo from God that the Savior had been born. They left their sheep and found Jesus just as the angel had said. They worshipped. Then they went and spread the word about what they had experienced. What a moment! Now what?
Now they had to get back to their sheep. The men who were the first outside the family to meet the Messiah had to deal with, you know, shepherding things. Like chasing sheep. Feeding sheep. Moving sheep. Chasing sheep again. Etc.
Do you remember Jesus in the mundane moments of your life? At work or at school? When you’re stuck in an endless cycle of traffic or laundry? Chasing sheep can suck the spiritual focus right out of you.
Consider the Magi. These astrologers for some foreign royalty had by the sheer grace of God seen the sign of a new star and deduced that the new King of the Jews had been born. We don’t know how all that worked out, but it did. They came, they offered their gifts, they dodged the bullet that was Herod the Great, and they went home (Matthew 2:11-12).
To what? To a pagan religious context. Surely what they experienced would mean changes for them theologically. But not just theologically, because their theology was their livelihood. Did they lose their jobs? Did they preach the gospel to their king? Did they impact their culture? Were they imprisoned? We don’t know. One way or another, they went home changed men.
This year maybe you need to insist on Christmas not just being Christmas. Maybe you need to insist on being changed by Jesus. Maybe you need to reflect on the significance of the gospel in your life. Maybe you need to resolve that you will worship all year. Maybe you need to get serious about reading your Bible and staying active in your church. Whatever you do, don’t let Christmas be just a moment.
Now get back to those sheep.