The Christmas season is a time of preparations… lots of them. We are preparing gifts … preparing the house for company … preparing a menu of what to serve when everyone comes over … preparing what to wear … and then preparing the food. Lots of preparations!
It is very easy to be overwhelmed … so overwhelmed that sometimes we forget WHY we are preparing … and for WHOM we are preparing.
Our family gets together for Christmas Eve … and then every family can have their own Christmas without having to run around (to see our side of the family) …at least that is the plan. Every year we have a wonderful time together and, when everyone has gone home and the dust has settled, I sit down to put my feet up. Many times I feel like it was a wonderful party … but did we even invite Jesus to His own birthday party? And I promise to do better next year.
In the gospels of Matthew and Mark we are told that John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Lord. There hadn’t been a prophet in the land for 400 years and he was to pave the way for the people to receive their Messiah. It was foretold in Isaiah 40 that God would send His messenger …
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
I know how to prepare food and the house for Christmas company … though I’m always looking at how to do that better … but preparing for the Lord? How exactly do we straighten a highway … or make mountains and hills low … rough ground level … and rugged places flat (like a plain?)
Well, this scripture tells us where to start … in the wilderness and in the desert. How helpful is that?!?
Every one of us has places in our soul that are dry and dusty … neglected and inhospitable … deserts and wildernesses. So, we have to start there. These places need water, at the very least. They need our attention. They may need cleaning up … and straightening up. Do you have places in your heart that you have buried “stuff” you don’t want to deal with? Hurts? Irritations? Thornbushes … prickly thornbushes? Sometimes family can bring these things to the surface. So, if you find these hiding in your wilderness … turn on the Light of Christ, see them for what they are … garbage … stop holding on to them … sweep them into a big pile and ask the Holy Spirit’s fire to burn them up. Ask the Holy Spirit to wash these areas clean with the water of the Word, and to plant trees there that will bear fruit … love, joy, peace, gentleness, self-control, patience, etc. He is the Master Gardener.
What mountains need to be brought low? When I was a young mother, I wanted to do EVERYTHING RIGHT. I thought I needed to put on a Norman Rockwell Christmas … all the decorations perfect … the food delicious and done on time … everyone dressed classically and color coordinated … the table set elegantly … etc., ad nauseum. My kids still talk about the stress of those times … and my bad moods! We need to cut down those mountainous EXPECTATIONS. Those kinds of Christmases happen in movies or in rich households with lots of servants! The most important thing is getting family and friends together … sharing love and laughter.
Still feel as though you are not enough … that you can’t do it all? I imagine that, if Mary and Joseph had been interviewed about how they felt caring for this Child they both knew was sent by God … would they have felt adequate enough to care for Him properly … to protect Him? I don’t think so. But God was with them, guiding and providing. He filled up where they were lacking. When Jesus comes to the party, nothing is lacking. He is the Most Important Guest at our Christmas party.
When I read about making the rough ground level and the rugged places a plain, I picture a huge machine laying asphalt … making a smooth road … covering up the potholes, ditches, rocks … all the imperfections. 1 Peter 4:8 says “Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.” Most things aren’t worth getting all worked up over. I try to remember that ______ (whatever it is … you fill in the blank) won’t really matter in 5 or 10 years anyway … or next week, most likely … so stay cool.
OK, we have prepared our hearts and our homes. We have invited Jesus to His own birthday party. If your family is like mine, not everyone knows Jesus. Not everyone cares that it is His party. What is left?
I think we need to straighten paths and remove obstacles for others to find Jesus … and not just at Christmas time. When I was a new believer, I met a minister with the sourest disposition. If he had Jesus in his heart, his face had no idea! Had he been the first Christian I’d met, I’d have run in the other direction.
Are we drawing others to Jesus or chasing them away? Do others see “something” in us that they want? Do people have to fit into a “Christian box” to be treated lovingly? Do we look down our noses at “those kinds of people” who aren’t “Christian” enough yet? Our judgmental attitudes and gossipy, condescending speech may put up roadblocks or twist a path for others, making it much more difficult for them to find Jesus. Are we loving and kind when shopping, standing in lines, or stuck in traffic? Do we look at the world as “going to hell in a handbasket”, or do we acknowledge the problems but God is still on the throne … He is victorious … and people still need to know the love of God … and He hasn’t given up on them.
People are responsible for their own decisions, yes … but I don’t want anyone to look at me and not see God’s Love through me. (Still working on this… I haven’t arrived … yet!)
Ephesians 5:18 tells us to “… be filled with the Spirit.” We really aren’t full until we are overflowing, splashing onto others.
What is our goal in all this? That “… the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.”
Thank you so much
for leaving Heaven and
coming to live with us on earth,
not as a reigning King, but as a regular
everyday person to show us how much You love us.
Thank you that you use regular, everyday people like us
so full of
Your Holy Spirit
that we are splashing
Your Love onto others…
in the stores, at work, at home,
with salespeople and neighbors…