I have a Christmas tradition that started when we moved into our house about four years ago. Every morning, while the house is still and quiet, I sit on my couch, Bible in hand, and stare deeply into the lights of our Christmas tree. Our tree sits in a corner, next to a window large enough to let the darkness of the early morning illuminate the outstretched beams of every twinkling light.
I sit and I breathe it in. I sit and the phrase that plays on repeat in my heart is, “He is coming.” That phrase conjures up a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions. “He is coming” means that though the finished work of the cross is alive in all believers, the promise of Jesus’ return is still to come. “He is coming” stirs up hope that these light, momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). “He is coming” reminds me that I am a sojourner in this world, and this is not my final home.
Now don’t let this calm, beautiful snapshot fool you. My entire Christmas season is not cloaked in tranquility! Laughably, I fully admit that my Christmas season begins back in October with pumpkin spice and the cold sweat of realization that my to-do lists and bank accounts are about to be hammered. Indeed, the months leading up to December 25th can be some of the most stressful for Americans. One survey revealed that 69% of people feel stressed about “lack of time” and “lack of money” during the Christmas season. Even sadder, a survey by NBC news found that 45% of people would prefer to skip Christmas altogether.
As believers in Jesus Christ I don’t know how much differently we approach Christmas. Admittedly, I have been in all of those categories at some point every year. The pressure to “make memories” turns into the pressure for “pinterest perfection.” Packing in every seasonal party and event, while still somehow having everything ready for the big day can drive anyone into a frenzied state of wondering, “What is all this for?”
But here’s a thought worth ruminating on in light of these statistics and our own practical realities: What are we really anticipating? In other words, “What IS all this for?”
One of my favorite verses is in the gospel account of Jesus’ birth, found in the book of Luke. To set the scene, close your eyes and picture Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. Mary has recently delivered her first child, Jesus. Jesus, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. By modern standards their surroundings are unsanitary, lowly, and poor. But even for their day, this is not a noble birthplace. I imagine Mary staring at Jesus’ face and reflecting on all the promises the angel had shared with her before His birth: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
A million questions must have flooded her mind as she compared the promises to her present circumstances. But then…interrupting the doubt and fear, a rough and tough group of shepherds arrive at the manger of Jesus. Again they declare His greatness as the choir of angels had proclaimed to them. And what was that message? Glory and peace! (Luke 2:14) It was a message centered on the glory of God incarnate and the peace He brings to earth. Where there was no peace, there is now the invitation to drink deeply of this gift.
If you read further you will notice that favorite verse of mine, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). When Mary heard the truth reaffirmed amidst her bleak circumstances, she treasured it and pondered it in her heart. As believers this is our invitation as well–to embrace the truth of not only Jesus’ life on earth, but His arrival still to come, when His glory will be seen in its fullness. When He will arrive on the clouds, clothed not in rags, but in beautiful robes of splendor. When we meet Him in all His goodness and spend eternity with Him. When He makes all death, pain, and striving cease.
How different would our Christmas season look if we treasured this gospel-centered truth within our hearts, drawing from its well daily? In Greek the word “pondered” means “to bring together in one’s mind; to confer with one’s self.” The word beckons the individual to dwell in the thought. Sit, think, contemplate, and then do it again. What if during this season, instead of running out in hurried shopping panic and stressed dinner preparations, we took time to visit the well of Jesus? What if we sat at the well and took some much needed sips of His grace, mercy and peace? What if we invited others to this refreshing place of life, and welcomed them by showing them the Good Father who removes the heavy burdens weighing down our souls?
What if instead of pondering how to make everything just so and picture-perfect, we drew our eyes to the Savior and repeated in our hearts, “He is coming.”