Welcome to Christmas—one of the best, yet busiest times of the year. Ironically, it’s the busyness that makes it the best and worst time of the year.
It’s the best time because friends and families make it a priority to spend time together, people go out of their way to do an act of good will, and there are many fun traditions waiting to be enjoyed. It’s also a crazy time of year because real life doesn’t take a holiday, and we are forced to incorporate Christmas into our already hectic, overfilled schedules.
Over the years, I’ve noticed there are two ways that people handle Christmas craziness and stress.
There are those who embrace it. They throw themselves into the season and enjoy each moment. These are the people who don’t mind sitting in traffic for half an hour just to get out of the parking lot. To them, it’s just an opportunity to listen to Christmas music on the radio.
Then there is another group, those who see Christmas as a stressful hassle. You know, the one’s honking their horns at you while you’re stuck in traffic. They don’t have time for this nonsense. They have places to go and people to see. Christmas is just another item on their “to do” list waiting to be checked off. Their goal is to complete their Christmas tasks, and move on with their life.
It isn’t just Christmas that divides these two groups of people. They can be found in every area of life—even 2000 years ago in the small town of Bethlehem. No, these people weren’t buying Christmas presents, juggling cell phone calls, or waiting in traffic. However, they did have their own problems.
In order to fulfill God’s prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, God arranged for Caesar Augustus to issue a decree that a census be taken and every person had to return to his own town to be counted.
Can you imagine what a hassle this was? Every person in the Roman world had to interrupt their lives and make a trip—no matter how long—just because the Roman government decreed it. No exceptions! As we see with Mary and Joseph, it didn’t matter what was going on in your life. Everyone was going to make the trip.
Can you imagine the chaos and confusion as every person in the Roman World prepared to journey to their own city? For Joseph and Mary, this meant a trip to Bethlehem. There’s no possible way that Bethlehem was a quiet city that night! It was filled with people coming and going, traveling, asking for directions, trying to find lodging. Busy people who wanted to register, be counted, and get on with their lives.
While many of these people were hurrying and complaining about the hassle of this trip, they completely missed the greatest miracle in the history of the Universe. They went to Bethlehem, fulfilled their duty, and returned home, without ever noticing the Star above the stable, the angels that visited the shepherds, or the birth of God Incarnate in an out of the way manger.
Think about it: when we read the account of Jesus’ birth we find that Bethlehem was so crowded there were no more rooms available, not even for a woman in labor. Yet, the Messiah was welcomed into the world by only a few shepherds. Everyone else was so busy, they missed it. Even after the shepherd’s told people the story, they were amazed, but they didn’t go to see for themselves. It makes me wonder, “Why?”
Why didn’t people go to the stable to see for themselves what was happening? Were they too busy?
What made the shepherds decide to leave their sheep in the fields and go to Bethlehem?
Yes, the angel’s announcement told them about Jesus’ birth, but what caused them to obey the angels and go to Bethlehem?
As far as that goes, what caused the wise men to follow the Star to bring the necessary gifts to Joseph, Mary and Jesus? Certainly, many astrologers saw the star, but what caused these men to journey for years and bring their gifts?
As I think about these things I ask myself the question, “Which category of people would I fall into?
Am I like the people in Bethlehem? Am I too busy with myself and my agenda to notice what God is doing around me? Or am I a vessel that God can use for His purposes no matter the time or the place?
Do I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and obey Divine commandments as the shepherds and the wise men did or do I ignore the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life? If I am ignoring Him, what am I missing?”
Are their people who need me like Joseph, Mary and Jesus needed the gifts of the wise men?
Am I willing to lay down my life to meet their needs just because the Holy Spirit leads me in that direction?
What about my own family? Is the Holy Spirit leading me to put my own agenda aside and meet their needs?
Most importantly, am I even listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit or am I too busy to notice what He wants to do in my life?”
These are questions all of us can ask ourselves this Christmas.
Who do I resemble: the busy travelers who missed the first Christmas or the shepherds who came and celebrated what God had done?
As we approach the New Year, let’s pray that we become women who follow the example of the shepherds and have hearts and schedules that are open to all God wants to do in our lives.
Have a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!