Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

The last week has been very "interesting" for me. Last Sunday, we canceled services due to the weather. That left me to figure out how to condense two weeks of content down to one week for today's message, and also where to put songs, skits, videoes, etc. for the last two weeks of the series--in addition to planning the Christmas Eve service tomorrow, of course.

I got that all arranged and felt good about it, when we lost electrical power today--right in the middle of the second song of the first service!--and had to pull the plug on some of the content that relies on electricity to run (i.e., video projector, CD player). We just made up a new order of service on the fly. Needless to say, I was feeling a little frazzled, and I'm sure that some of you noticed.

Fortunately, power was eventually restored, and we are still planning on having a great Christmas Eve candlelight service tomorrow night at 7:00pm. Of course, with this wind blowing (and more tree limbs crashing??), who knows what we'll end up having!

In all of this, I've been thinking about how it seems at Christmas time there's always something to distract us, calling our attention away from Christ. There's a mythology about what Christmas is supposed to be, and then there's what we really experience:

We Say Christmas Is:
About Christ
For Family Gatherings
About Giving
The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
But Christmas REALLY Is:
About Shopping
For Family Fighting
About Showing Off
The Most Painful Time Of The Year

And it seems to me that we expend so much energy trying to make Christmas into what we say it is--trying to pretend that the reality of Christmas measures up to our mythology about Christmas--when what we ought to be doing is getting out of the Christmas hamster-wheel.

When we spend so much time on stuff that's not Christ--shopping lists, parties, gift exchanges, Christmas cards, cookies & goodies, and so forth--how is there room to squeeze him into our lives? How can we say the holiday is about him? How could he possibly be the focus, when all the activity doesn't have anything to do with thinking about him, or acting like him?
  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem! Did you get your kid a Nintendo Wii gaming system?
  • God made a way for us to know him! I think I'll buy a new TV!
  • God expressed his infinite love for us! Let's brag to everyone we know about all the great things we did this year in an impersonal letter!
  • The hope of all people was fulfilled in Jesus Christ! Will (insert family member) be upset if we don't (insert outrageous holiday demand)?

There's always other stuff that's going to compete for our attention. But who is in charge of your attention? Only you can give your attention to something. What are you giving your attention to this holiday season? Consumerism or Christ? Holiday mayhem or the manger?

Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn't have anything to do with sticking a sign in your yard or what your family chooses to do with Santa Claus. It has everything to do with how we order and prioritize our lives. I hope you can come to the Christmas Eve Service on Monday at 7:00pm, and if you've been distracted by other stuff, you can start over. But even if you can't make it for the service, it's never too late to turn our attention to Jesus! There's still time to focus on Christ--who he is, what he has done for us, and what we owe him. Even if you can't get time until after Dec. 25, that's fine. What's important is that we make sure we have Christ at the center of our lives year-round, and if we find at any time we've gotten away from that, we get back to it as quickly as we can.

Have a Merry Christmas, as you focus on Christ, not the spectacle that's grown up around this holiday.

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