It starts earlier and earlier every year, the hype and commercialism. Christmas stuff and Halloween gore side-by-side in stores. Ads, articles, commercials, and movies all conspiring, seemingly, to make us think we’re missing out on the perfect Christmas.
With some people so striving for that perfect celebration that the entire season becomes nothing but a frenzy of shopping, rush, and stress. And they’d love to get off the merry-go-round but don’t know how. So I’m going to suggest a novel idea, or one that was novel to me at any rate! 😉 .
Let’s go back in time and travel the pre-Christmas week with Mary and Joseph.
The poor couple. They’d made all their preprations. Midwife engaged, grandmothers at hand. Swaddling clothes and warm blankets folded and ready. And Joseph, no doubt, had crafted the finest cradle of his carpentry career! All was in readiness.
Until they had that Bethlehem journey sprung on them.
What if she gave birth on the road? What if they didn’t have enough water? What if something went wrong?
Had she packed enough swaddling clothes and warm wraps for the babe? And the knife and string for tying off the umbilical cord? Joseph might need them… These thoughts and more surely assailed their minds as they began their descent from Nazareth into the Jezreel Valley toward Bethlehem.
But what about their hearts? In what way were they preparing them for the monumental event about to occur? And what can we learn from it?
Lessons from Mary and Joseph on preparing our hearts for the holiday.
1. Slow Down.
Find time to remember the reason for the season.
Had Mary been at home, she likely would have busied herself with last-minute preparations. Just like we do. Cleaning, and fixing, and making everything just so. With little time for contemplation.
As it was all they could do was trudge on, day after day. It was a long and tedious journey of 157 km (98 miles), usually taking between four to seven days, especially for one in Mary’s condition. And there was nothing to do during those endless tiring days. Nothing to do but walk or ride.
So perhaps God had planned the long trip, in part, to make them slow down and focus on what was really important. On what he was doing. And to give them plenty of time for prayer and contemplation.
Let’s take our cue from this and slow down. We often get so busy in the doing that we lose sight of what’s it all about. Let’s take time to reflect on what Christmas really means, and how we should keep it in our lives.
2. Keep the story uppermost in our thoughts.
Relive the wonder and joy of that first Christmas.
We don’t know if Mary and Joseph grasped the full implications of Jesus’ birth. But we can be sure that their minds replayed the angels’ words and Mary’s visit to Elizabeth over and over. We also know they had long awaited the Messiah’s arrival. No doubt the couple could think of little else.
While we can’t share their same anticipation, we can relive the wonder and joy of that first Christmas, by replaying this miraculous event over and over in our minds. Read the nativity stories in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. Focus on who Christ is and why he came. Let it live in your heart.
3. Focus on what we have, not on what we’d like.
Keep your heart focused on God’s promises, and your eyes on what’s truly important.
Mary and Joseph were human. Joseph was a normal father wanting to provide the best for his family, not a stable. But rather than wishing for what they didn’t have, he concentrated on the important things. Soft hay for Mary and the babe. Hot water. Warm and strengthening food.
Mary lacked most of the normal comforts, and likely didn’t even have a woman nearby in her difficult hour. But the birth was upon her. No time to pine for what she didn’t have. So I’m sure she kept her heart centered on God’s promises, looking forward with peace and joy.
Your own Christmas.
Perhaps you too are tempted to wish for what you don’t have. Better finances to provide a nicer holiday. All your loved ones around you. Or even just wishing that you had someone, anyone. To you, the idea of finding a perfect Christmas seems ludicrous and depressing.
Or maybe your holiday season has become one big rush and stress of trying to create an ever illusive perfect Christmas. And you’ve lost its real meaning in all the chaos.
Either way, I have good news for you.
You can stop searching for the perfect Christmas, because it already happened over 2000 years ago.
With Mary and Joseph in the little town of Bethlehem. Far from loved ones. With no place to call home. And lacking most of the material comforts. But even without all those things it was still perfect in every way.
And you can have the same perfect Christmas too. Just let it really live in your heart and mind!
Will you take time to do that as Christmas approaches? Slow down and remember what it’s all about? Relive the wonder and joy of Immanuel – God with us! And remember how very much you already have – especially in God’s promises. Choose one of those to meditate on this week! It’s sure to restore your joy and wonder over what Christmas really means!
Merry Christmas from Italy!
[Photo of Mary and Joseph by Edge Group – Lion Hudson on FreeBibleImages.org, education & ministry use only, CC BY NC ND.]