Christmas day 2014 has finally arrived! Beautifully wrapped presents that have been sitting neatly under the tree for weeks have now been ripped open leaving behind a pile of paper carnage. Children and adults alike will spend the next few days enjoying the gifts they received and reminiscing of the time they had with family. Christmas is a wonderful time of year that comes with so many traditions, festivities, well wishes, and general enjoyment. What a great season of the year! There is so much preparation and anticipation leading up to Christmas morning, but after the presents are open, what then? With this being my first Christmas in the Dominican Republic it’s impossible to avoid the fact that my surroundings are so much different than they’ve been in past years. Over the past 4 months I’ve seen many things through what seems like different eyes and surprisingly this Christmas is no exception. Last night while reading the Christmas story from the book of Luke I was reminded that Christmas is not just a season.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with our Christmas traditions. Decorating, exchanging gifts, spending time with family, etc are all great things and we should continue with great fervor. In fact, if it helps, leave those decorations up all year! Take notice of how the birth of Jesus affected those that were present: 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. [Luke 2:16-20] From the first day Jesus appeared on Earth he has had a visible effect on all those that have encountered Him. The shepherds did not simply return to their flocks like nothing had happened…they were changed…they were different. We should allow our lives to be changed as well. If we have truly encountered Him, we have no choice. Our traditions during the month of December should not be the only evidence of Christmas in our lives.
This Christmas let us truly remember the reason we celebrate. Christ came to Earth to live a perfect life that would end in torture and a criminal’s death. He did this for us. He is the example, the standard, the reason, and THE way. Let us not diminish the great sacrifice that He gave to a few days of celebration. In contrast let us live out the message of Christmas every day. Let it change us and be evident in our lives that we have encountered THE savior: For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [Isaiah 2:6]
We have been given the most amazing gift of eternal life that we can accept any day of the year. It’s for you, for me, and even that guy that took your parking space at the mall. All we have to do is accept and seek Him each day. As we move past December 25th the focus will shift as it does each year. We will begin to wish each other a “Prosperous New Year”. However, my hope for you and I this year is a little more radical than that. I hope for a year that is filled with God’s will and guidance…even if that looks completely opposite of prosperous. My prayer is that today and every day that you and I 1) hurry to Jesus, 2) tell everyone what we’ve experienced so they can also be just as astonished, 3) that we keep these things in our heart and think about them often, and 4) that we go about our daily lives glorifying and praising God.
Merry Christmas from the Hartsfields!