I'm not ready for Christmas. A fact I've had to admit as I declined 4 invitations for this week alone. My heart isn't ready. Here's what I'm expecting this year: during the two days before Christmas, Russell and I will be serving our church as we host 10,000 of our neighbors gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And frankly, my heart is not prepared. I haven't made room...but I've made plans doing festive holiday things. I haven't prepared my heart for Jesus...but I've prepared my home to host friendly get-togethers. There’s nothing wrong with friends and festive things. I don’t think God has a personal vendetta against hot cocoa and tinsel, but I do know that my priorities have been wayyy out of whack.
And as I sit here typing this, I think about what my life could look like if I miss this important season and all it has to offer. What if I allow another Christmas to pass without putting Jesus as the #1 priority? Could it affect whether I yield my 2017 to Jesus’ leading? Absolutely. Could it affect my kids’ priorities one day? Sure. But what could happen if I really, truly yield this season to Jesus? I could be full of peace, joy and love during a time when everyone else in the world is stressed about the perfect holiday ham, the perfect presents for their loved ones, and the perfect holiday party dress. And that’s also what's in it for you, my friend, so read on!
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a colleague about Christmas. He is struggling to get the stinkin' Christmas lights on the house so his kids can stinkin' enjoy Christmas. I could completely relate! But as I responded, "Just tell your kids it's called Christ-mas not lights-mas", I could hear the silliness of what I was saying. It seems like everybody is busily preparing for Christmas with the same sentiment: When did the holidays become about Jesus?! Factually speaking, he wasn't even born in late December. This is a commercial holiday under the guise of religious pretenses. #eyeroll after #eyeroll
With all due respect, I wholeheartedly disagree. Christmas was in the Bible long before the Rockefeller Plaza had twinkling lights. It was part of God’s plan to love us long before Ugly Christmas Sweater parties were invented. You think Christmas started in the book of Matthew? Wrong again. Check out Isaiah 53. It's one of my favorite descriptions of Jesus, written before His birth as a prophecy of His coming.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53
Yet even in knowing that this holiday is MONUMENTAL to my faith, it still doesn't change the reality that I'm just not ready for Christmas. I can tell because I'm focused on.....presents. Little trinkets and such from a store trying to sell me twice as much stuff at 25% off, which eventually will be wrapped in shiny paper and the perfect bow...OH MY GOSH WHERE CAN I FIND THE PERFECT BOW?! You know what I mean?
I could sense my focus was being misdirected, but it really hit me during a recent message at church. My pastor is sharing a series with the central focus question of...wait for it...
"Are you ready for Christmas?"
Ugh! ✋ #facepalm #nawtreally
On the first week of this message series, we read Luke 2: the story of Joseph and Mary (late in her pregnancy with Jesus) traveling by donkey to their hometown for the census. You know the story. The innkeeper has no room for them in his hotel, so Mary gives birth in a barn.
See! You missed it. Right there!!!
The innkeeper has no room for JESUS. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is in his tiny little town, and he "has" no room to house them. He sends them to stay with the animals. I'm going to pick on this innkeeper, because he represents YOU AND ME at Christmas time.
The innkeeper didn't "have" room. When you read that from now on, I want you to read it this way:
The innkeeper didn't MAKE room.
There will always not "be" room, and we will always not "have" the extra room. We have to MAKE room for our priorities. We show our priorities by our decisions and what we MAKE room for.
If the Beatles or Bill Gates or Justin Bieber were coming to your little town and you owned the local hotel, don't tell me you wouldn't kick out Joe Schmoe to MAKE room for these VIP’s. If we really understood the weight of the situation that the King of Kings who would change the course of history was coming to our little hotel, we would understand that kicking out another patron is such a small price to pay in exchange for the presence of JESUS!
And yet, that's what He wants from YOU this Christmas. He wants to live in your heart and surround you with His presence. Will you MAKE room? Will you kick out consumerism, perfectionism, Netflix, or whatever distracts you and takes up your focus from that ultimate prized room of your heart? Because Jesus wants to reside with you. But you have to MAKE room.
What’s striking to me is that the innkeeper's actions reflected his mindset of how unimportant Jesus was to him. The reality is that the rooms were already taken, which reflected his priorities. The hotel rooms were taken by paying customers. He didn't make room because he didn't care enough to see that it was JESUS's family who needed the room. He didn't make room for a sojourning mother about to give birth. He didn't make room because he didn't want to kick out any other customers. If Caesar was coming to his town, he would have cleared his hotel...or at least the Penthouse Suite. And that’s how we can operate with our hearts. There are people and things that we can enjoy and cherish, but the Penthouse Suite – that number one place for only the MOST important person – needs to belong to Jesus. If you have anyone else residing there, it will lead to disappointment. And if that's where you find yourself today, I challenge you to put that other someone or something in its appropriate spot - beneath the Lord of Lords. I’m not saying that anything or anyone in itself is intrinsically evil, but I am saying that nothing and nobody will satisfy the longing of your soul the way Jesus will.
If you turn to perfectionism to fulfill your Christmas wishes, you will be disappointed in any and all flaws in your perfectly planned family get-together with your perfect presents…trust me, I’ve tried this before. If you turn to consumerism, you will end up overspending and STILL feeling empty. If you turn to any substance, you might enjoy yourself for a moment, but when you’re back to sobriety, that aching pain in your heart will still be throbbing. If you turn to people – whether your spouse, children, family, or friends – you will put a heavy weight on them to fulfill this expectation that they simply cannot fulfill. And you will still be empty after it all.
BUT if you trust Jesus, and focus on the truth that He came to be with us and fill our hearts, you will have the right perspective on Christmas, the right perspective on your family gatherings, and the right perspective on yourself. This is the difference between experiencing Christmas with Jesus versus experiencing the holidays on your own. It’s two polar opposites, and I’m praying that you and I find the soul-gratifying perspective this year.
Jesus wants to celebrate His birthday with you. Will you make room?
With love, PriskaTabitha
***Special thanks to Pastor Tim Whipple at Bridgepoint Church for sharing this message and helping to lead me back to the real meaning of Christmas***