December 24. Christmas Eve.
Most of of us will go to church tonight and find ourselves squished into the pews between some familiar faces and a whole lot of folks who only find time to attend on Christmas and Easter. We'll settle the children into their spots and then glance around the dimly lit room: evergreens glittering with tiny white lights, luminaries lining the edge of the platform and, perhaps, colored candles perched on an altar. Before long, we'll hear the familiar strains of "What Child Is This" or "O Little Town of Bethlehem," signaling the start of the service, and then we'll continue following along, carol after carol, striving to really think about the words instead of just singing the memorized melodies. We'll press a silver dollar into each child's sweaty palm as the offering basket nears and watch to see that they all close their eyes when the pastor prays. And we'll listen to the good pastor's exposition of Luke 2 even though we've heard the passage dozens of times before.
It isn't that we don't want to gain new insight; we know the Word is living and active and that the Spirit can teach us new things any time we read even the most familiar verses. In fact, we're desperate for the incredible story to touch our hearts in a new way. And, even more than that, we desperately want our kids to absorb the awesome truth that God - God! - cared about each of us so much that He squeezed His glory into the form of a tiny human baby boy so He could ultimately pay for all our sins.
But ritual can get in the way of revelation - as can the "visions of sugarplums" that have been filling our kids' heads for weeks. Or we may have approached this Christmas distracted by sadness or disappointment over any number of things that haven't gone as we'd hoped. So we worry that we'll go through the motions tonight - one more event to check off the holiday to-do list - but that it won't ultimately impact us or our homes.
And what do we do with that?
Well, we choose to be still. Yes, we may have to assemble or wrap some gifts after the kids go to bed tonight. But there's no use fretting about that during the day. And we needn't bake more cookies, arrange more decorations on the mantel, or run out for "just one more" gift. What we've done so far is good enough. We may have to clean a bit, but we shouldn't lose our whole day to it. Instead, we ought to take some time - setting up the kids with a fun Christmas movie if that's what it takes - so we can have a few minutes peace with Jesus...all by ourselves, without any tinsel or trappings.
We can read Luke 2 - and the beginning of Matthew as well. We can read the passages in Isaiah and Micah that predict the Incarnation, and pull out our children's baby books to imagine the Lord in a similarly humble estate. And then we should quiet ourselves before Him, praying as the Spirit leads but also purposing to simply "be" in His presence.
If we do that instead of running pell-mell through the day as our culture suggests we must, we'll approach tonight's worship services differently. After all, God promises that those who seek Him will find Him, and that's a pledge to busy moms as much as anyone else. And don't forget: it's our example of genuine fellowship with God that will most draw our kids to desire Him as well. So simply purpose to be with Jesus today, and trust that He'll take care of all the rest.