By Michiella Stone
Nothing is ever perfect, and rarely does life ever play out how we picture it to be. For some, especially those of us who are perfectionists, that does not sit well with us. I remember our son’s first Christmas two years ago and how I wanted everything to be perfect, but it ended up backfiring. Several things went wrong and I was stressed as Christmas Day approached. I lost the purpose behind celebrating Jesus’ birth and succumbed to the superficial aspects of the season. I realized all my efforts did not matter if my heart was not in the right place with God. So as I reflected on the original Christmas story, it gave me the conviction I needed and humbled me to enjoy the season for the right reasons.
As I imagine Joseph and Mary in that miraculous moment in time, they were certainly under stress and pressure prior to their Son’s birth. They needed to stay under the radar of King Herod and looked for an inn to stay in once they arrived in Bethlehem, only to find out that they were all full. So Mary gave birth to Jesus in a lowly manger, with peace and awe after a considerably challenging journey. God never took away His hand of love and protection over them, as he brought His greatest gift into the world, the Prince of Peace. If we look closer into our lives, He offers us that same gift of peace each and every year. The question is, are we keeping that Christ-like peace in mind as the countdown to Christmas continues?
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:7 (ESV)
A STORY OF LOVE
Jesus, the greatest gift of all, was not meant to only bring world peace. He was meant to also bring redemption to all because God desires a relationship with each of us. He knows that every one of us are unique and loves us too much to overlook anyone. With God’s power, He could snap his fingers and there would be world peace if He wanted to provide a blanket fix. Yet, He made the Holy decision not to. Instead, He intends for peace to be introduced to each of us uniquely when we place our hope in His Son Jesus and declare that Christ is our Lord and Savior. This is the reason for our Christmas season. So when I am stressed about getting all the right gifts and what to bring to the Christmas potluck, I stop in my tracks. God and His Son bring the loving conviction we need when our souls cave into the pressure of perfection during this time of year.
The story of Jesus’ birth causes us to wonder if Christmas was ever meant to be the extravagant event it is today. While Christmas is traditionally celebrated with decorations, lights, gift giving and receiving, and the gathering of people, the first day of Christmas actually took place in a manger with shepherds as visitors. Thinking about that is so humbling. It shifts our perspective from the practices of the season to the heart of it, down to its very core. It reveals the benevolent heart of God. His faithfulness is displayed through Joseph and Mary’s protection as He orchestrated the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. His inclusive love is revealed when the angel appears before the shepherds, telling them to come and see the “good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Luke 2:10). As we think about these things, we begin to come back to the heart of the season and our hearts begin to feel a little lighter along with it.
RECEIVE HIS PEACE
If God was concerned with what the delivery of His Beloved Son would look like, He would have chosen a king and queen instead of Joseph and Mary and a palace instead of a manger. The first visitors of Jesus would have been high priests instead of shepherds. Yet that’s the point: God does not care about any outward appearances. Likewise, it does not matter to Him if our homes are in order for Christmas, or if we have gifts for our children’s teachers. Everything we do should flow out of love instead of obligation. And God pays attention to our hearts.
As much as we want to bring the Christmas cheer as eager servants of the Lord, sometimes we need to touch base with God so He can help us see the condition of our hearts first: “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And while Santa might require a plate of cookies and a tall glass of milk, Jesus merely requires a willing and humble heart. So let’s remember this Christmas that we are allowed to come to the altar without having anything in order and with only our broken hearts to offer. How sweet it is that our celebration of the birth of Christ comes at the end of the year. As we are reminded of the gift of Jesus, we can reflect on the last 12 months and prepare our hearts to enter into a new year with peace, hope and joy. That is my prayer for YOU!!