Summary: Life is hard. Sometimes so is Christmas. This is about more than surviving it.
Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-7 – Surviving Christmas
These two Grand Mananers took a ferry off the island and went deep into the woods on the mainland, searching for a Christmas tree.
After hours of subzero temperatures and a few close calls with hungry wolves, one Grand Mananer turned to the other and said, "I’m chopping down the next tree I see. I don’t care whether it’s decorated or not!"
For each of us, Christmas carries its own stresses. And none of us really knows what another person has to deal with. But, one fact is true: that for many of us, if not most of us, Christmas carries stress. For many of us, Christmas can sometimes be a hassle. I was talking with someone this week down at the Save Easy, and he said to me, “You know, I really think that how we celebrate Christmas misses the point of what Christmas is supposed to be.” And I agree whole-heartedly.
For too many of us, too often, we are relieved when Christmas is over. It’s not that we enjoyed Christmas – it’s that we survived it. We watched a movie this week called “Surviving Christmas”. It’s the story of a young millionaire who’s lonely over the holidays, and pays a family a quarter of a million dollars to live in their home, which is the house he grew up in, and spend the season with them. Typical mayhem ensues, and things work out for the best in the end. But the title captures a truth that many would sympathize with: I just want to get through this season.
For some, this season brings bad memories. Although I cannot prove it, I suppose that 1/12th of all deaths happen in December. Which means that Christmas is often associated with a loved one’s death. My good friend, Fred Whittier, pastor of Lower Hainesville Wesleyan, just lost his mom this week to cancer. Her funeral is tomorrow. This Christmas will linger on in his memory forever.
For others perhaps, Christmas is a reminder of how lonely you are. This season reminds you that you don’t really have close friends, or that you don’t really get along well with your family, or that your spouse is so distant from you.
And then there are the stresses of finances, and travel, and weather, and family concerns, and poor health. Some people hate the hurrying around. Some people hate shopping. Some people hate the dilemma of getting something wonderful for that person, but not going too far over or under what that person will spend on them. I think every person hates the materialism, but most don’t know how to avoid it. It’s no wonder Christmas becomes a survival sport.
One thing we often don’t take into account is the stress of that 1st Christmas season, when Christ was actually born. Let’s read the familiar passage, found in Luke 1:26-38.
Erica sang about Mary’s acceptance of God’s will, but what did that really mean? For one thing, for Mary to accept God’s will meant that her whole life was about to change. This was no simple decision of where to park in a parking lot, or which outfit to wear today. No, this was a life-altering choice. Joseph and Mary were planning, likely, on an uneventful life together. Have kids, earn a meager existence, grow old together, and be done. But for this young couple, Mary being only a teenager, Joseph older perhaps, perhaps not, for this couple to embrace God’s plans would change all that. Their lives would never be the same. I really think that the announcement by the angel Gabriel would have thrown all their plans into a state of confusion.
Yet I read 1:38 and I see a simple acceptance of God’s will. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” In other words, “Lord, whatever you want is really what I want. Go ahead. As much as I need to give the Almighty permission to do anything, I give you permission to use me however You see fit.”
So here is this young girl, a young teenager, just found out she was pregnant, through no doing of her own, looking as if she had been unfaithful, her life spinning around, and yet… she trusts that the Lord’s plans are best. How can this be? How can she simply blindly accept this new twist of fate in her life? I suppose because she knew it was not fate guiding her life at all. It was the hand of the Almighty loving God that was guiding her. This change of plans didn’t sneak up on God. They didn’t take Him by surprise. No, they had been in His mind for eons.
We can see that Mary accepted the situation very well. Although her life was changed, and not always for the easier, she really adopted an attitude of praise through the whole thing. Listen to the song she sang shortly after the news: Luke 1:46-48. She actually praised God for this chain of events. She lifted up His name, not because everything was going according to her own plans, but because everything was going according to his plans. How different for most of us. We complain when things don’t work out how we want, even though God’s hand never left the situation at all.