Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't Forget Jesus!

I imagine your home is decorated for Christmas by now. Twinkling lights, candles, a tree, and nativity sets of all shapes and sizes. Imagine if you forgot to put the figure of Jesus in the manger. What a ridiculous picture - Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and wise men – gazing adoringly, worshipfully… at an empty space in the crèche. I was recently awakened to how easily this can happen.

Our Christmas cantata was last week and I had a short solo in one of the songs. The line I was supposed to sing was, “Born to be Messiah; God’s only begotten Son.” Somehow, however, at dress rehearsal I belted out, “Born to be Messiah; God’s only forgotten Son.” Even though no one seemed to notice, I turned three shades of red. And I realized how easy it is to forget Jesus at Christmas.

This has been our tendency since sin entered the world. We get so wrapped up in ourselves we forget the giver of all good gifts. God’s anguish comes through when He said, “Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number” (Jeremiah 2:32). A seasonal translation might say, “Do my people forget to exchange presents or buy Christmas trees to decorate their homes? Yet my people have forgotten me, the reason for Christmas, years without number.”

I examined six areas of my own life where I tend to struggle. I pray God will use my thoughts to help you remember the Messiah at Christmas this year.

Kelly and I love to snuggle on the couch and watch movies. But we’ve been disgusted at many of the “Holiday” presentations this year. They have nothing to do with the reason for the season! They're either humanistic sentiment or blatantly anti-Christian. We rejoice in movies that lift up changed lives, sacrificial giving, and hope. It's easy it is to forget Jesus if we spend our leisure time on stories that muddy and distort God’s message.

Christmas is such a busy time. We have parties to attend, shopping to do, family to see. Meaningful time with the Savior gets squeezed out of the equation. I am exhausted at the end of every day! Yet without Jesus, the season is meaningless. The time I spend reading the Bible every morning and responding to what God is saying to me is the best part of every day. I couldn’t live without it. If God hasn't been a vital part of your Christmas schedule, start now!

I love to decorate our house for Christmas. We were late getting started this year and I pushed hard to transform the house while Kelly was at work. Just before he arrived, I lit candles and put on Christmas music. He stopped just inside the door. “It’s beautiful! he said. “It’s like entering another world. Outside it’s hustle and bustle, but it feels peaceful in here.” Then he started counting: “One, two, three…four nativities in the living room! Hmm, are you trying to make a point?” he laughed.

I guess it’s true. There are stockings and a few Santa ornaments on the tree, but they’re way outnumbered by the manger scenes and Jesus stuff. Yet, it’s still a challenge to remember Jesus and not get carried away trying to create a magazine perfect showcase.

Then there’s shopping. Buying gifts for each other, five kids, two sons-in-law, a boyfriend, two sets of parents, three sisters, three nieces and a nephew (not to mention an adorable first grand-daughter), can easily take over. It’s tempting to spend more than last year, making it better and more impressive, and give in to the shopping frenzy. I have forgotten Jesus at times as I make my lists and check them twice. It helps me to ask myself two questions: what’s my motivation? what's my limit?

Many of you are experiencing financial disaster, lingering illness or injury, the heartbreak of divorce or rejection, or an addiction that’s sucking you dry. The year my husband of twenty years moved out just before the holidays, and for several years after our divorce, Christmas cheer stuck in my throat. But even in immobilizing pain, I realized the message of Jesus is not obliterated by our suffering, it's enhanced by it. He is God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16). He came to give us forgiveness and hope in the midst of our pain. No matter how painful your circumstances may be right now, they’re temporary. Jesus is eternal.

I encourage us all to remember Jesus this season. It begins personally in our hearts and minds, and soon shows up in what we say and do, and how we say and do them. Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. That’s us! And to give us a reason to celebrate and share the joy of His coming with the world. By the way, I did get the words right for my solo in the performance. I’m so glad I remembered Jesus!
Beth Vice, 2010