All those preparations! Does your family resemble the Crandles? Did you hear Ann’s to-do list? The to-do lists just gets longer and longer, don’t they. Unfortunately, the number of hours in a day remains the same. So, how will we get all our preparations done by Christmas? How do we prepare for the family coming? How do we get ready to leave to travel to our parents or grandparents? Most of all, how can we do all that must be done and maintain the spirit of Christmas?
Have you ever stopped to think about who it is that talks about the spirit of Christmas? The only place I hear that phrase is in commercials and in print ads. Retailers want us to think that the spirit of Christmas is buying gifts. They want you to feel generous so you’ll buy more of their products to give as gifts. Even greeting card companies depict warm and loving relationships and say that this is spirit of Christmas. While they are very close to the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, keep this in mind. They just want you to buy their cards! They don’t care if your relationships are good or bad. They have cards for both.
So, what is the Spirit of Christmas? The Spirit of Christmas is relationships. Say it with me. The Spirit of Christmas is relationships. How do I know this? Well, let’s look at the scripture Colette read earlier. Mary did a strange, but not an uncommon thing. After the visit from the angel, Luke tells us that a few days later she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth who lived in the hill country. Mary had plenty of things to worry about and make preparations for. Instead, she left home and went to Elizabeth’s house. Why? Because the angel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age. Mary went to Elizabeth’s house for one reason—to see if what the angel had told her was true. She also wanted someone who was experiencing the same thing. While Elizabeth’s pregnancy began by the normal means of conception, her pregnancy was still a miracle from God because of her age. Notice what Mary did. She sang a song. We do not know the tune, but the words have been preserved for us. Listen to them again.
Luke 1:46-55 (NLT)
46Mary responded, “Oh, how I praise the Lord.
47 How I rejoice in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed.
49 For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.
50 His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm does tremendous things! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones!
52 He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 And how he has helped his servant Israel! He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful.
55 For he promised our ancestors—Abraham and his children—to be merciful to them forever.”
The only way to keep from going crazy in the midst of all the preparations for Christmas is to keep your priorities in order. Now, I know that’s not you wanted to hear this morning. Christmas is a time of indulgence, at least that’s what’s become. Remember, we’re focusing on the real Spirit of Christmas, which are relationships.
During her visit with Elizabeth, Mary took plenty of time to focus on her primary relationship. She focused on God. Luke records that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months, which means that she was there for the birth of Elizabeth’s son, John who later became known as John the Baptist.
We do not know what Mary did during her three-month visit with Elizabeth. However, we do know that she had a remarkable relationship with God. Maybe it’s a good thing that the Holy Spirit didn’t reveal to Luke what she did during that time, because, if he had, we would try to replicate Mary’s experience. God doesn’t want us to us copy Mary. What he wants us to do is to prepare for his arrival by getting closer to him.
The way to prepare for Christmas is to get the Spirit of Christmas, which is a relationship with God. Before you can focus on your relationships with your family friends, you must focus on your relationship with God. Mary could have spent those three months preparing for the birth of her son. She could have spent those months growing a deeper relationship with Joseph, her parents, his parents, and her friends. Instead, she chose to get away from home and have a three-month retreat with God.
How will you focus on God? How will you prepare for Christmas? Will you be prepared for all the family time? How will you tell your mother you won’t be there for a week? How will you deal with your obnoxious cousin, Ed? How will you handle the stress of the ever-growing to-do list? How will you keep from over-spending on gifts?
If you want to get in the true Spirit of Christmas, then make sure you focus on God. Before you carve the turkey or ham, carve out some time for God in your schedule every day.
That’s what he did for you. In the midst of running the universe, God stopped whatever he was doing so he could celebrate your birth. He smiled when you took your first step, said your first word, and rode a bike for the first time without training wheels. He kissed every scraped knee and elbow. His eyes were misty when you prayed to him for the first time. And when you told him that wanted his Son, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior, his eyes filled with tears, and he ordered a cosmic celebration on your behalf. God made the time in his busy schedule to focus on you. Will you do the same for him?