Welcome to the Christmas Season! If you haven’t already attended a Christmas gathering, I’m sure within the next couple of days, you’ll have your ugly sweaters on, toting gifts for friends, co-workers, or even your mailman (don’t forget the mailman!). The wrapping paper will be strewn across every flat surface, the tape will be out (or missing!), and your nerves will be frazzled! If you’re like me, you’ve already hosted a christmas gathering (or two) and still have more in the weeks to come. So, now may be just the right moment to ask you… Are you enjoying the Christmas season? Do you dread it’s coming, praise it’s passing, or do you look forward to it only to see it whiz by in a busied blur of tinsel and tizzy? Do you ever stop and ponder the blessings of this season?
Let me remind of you of one of the most important Christmas story. Luke 2 says that once Jesus was born the shepherds were told of His miraculous birth and they came at once. After they saw the savior they just couldn’t keep their mouths shut about their amazement. They told everyone. It it seems that many came to see what the shepherds were so excited about. So, imagine introducing a new baby to the world and within such a short amount of time there’s a crowd there admiring your child.
I don’t know about other moms, but I wanted some alone time to bond with my baby before I opened the door to everyone and anyone to come and “oooohhh and awe” over them. But I wonder if Mary knew Jesus was to be shared. And so she entertained. She invited all those worshippers into her “Stall” with her brand new messiah child. And in the hustle and bustle of all that was happening Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19)
I’m sure Mary could have been overwhelmed. She could have tried to straighten the barn stall and manger to perfection level cleanliness. For that matter she could have turned everyone away since she only had a humble manger to entertain in. She could have stressed over whether or not the family had matching outfits fit for a worship session. She could have been frantic trying to prepare meals and presents and crafts to celebrate this most amazing event, the birth of her savior, her son… but she isn’t recorded as doing so. Instead she rested with Jesus in her arms and she stored the joy away in her heart.
I can picture her now. She, having just given birth, still recovering, but in that early stages of pure euphoria sits back and takes it all in. Her Son. They are worshiping her Son, the king of all kings, and Lord of all lords, the savior of the world, HER savior. And she took that moment and instead of letting the stress of it all overwhelm her, she pondered instead. Perhaps she pondered the angels promise to her and then to Joseph. Perhaps she pondered the announcement she made to Elizabeth when Jesus’ cousin lept while still growing in the womb. Perhaps she recalled all the prophesies about the Messiah that she’d grown up learning about.
And this my friend, is the one thing many of us are lacking each and every holiday season. As a pastor’s wife we entertain a lot. We are either having a party in our home, or hosting an event at church every single week. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE the holiday season, but there are always more items to check off the list of “to-dos”. This can be draining, daunting, and mundane if not done correctly. If not done purposefully, we can get all caught up in the lights, the decorations, the programs, the parties, the gifts, the finances, the stress, the heartache… and we fail to sit back and ponder.
I have a list of ways to do this. Over the years I’ve prayed for a way to enjoy the holiday season without heaping the stress on to the breaking point, and I’m confident I’m headed in the right direction (can’t honestly say I’ve mastered it). So if you’d like to see the “How tos” check back in tomorrow. But for now, let the idea of taking time to ponder the Christmas season sink in.
Albert Barns says that “pondered” means weighed. This is the original meaning of the word “weighed.” She kept them; she revolved them; she “weighed” them in her mind, giving to each circumstance it’s just importance, and anxiously seeking what it might indicate respecting her child.
So, if we were to “ponder” this season, and the importance of this season, and the REASON for this season (it’s such a great cliché!), we’re going to make the season revolve around its purpose. JESUS. We’re going to give each activity that we do an importance. We should be celebrating the birth of our Savior, so if our activities don’t do that, we can give ourselves permission to let them go.
Christmas parties aren’t wrong… but if they are causing strife in our household, stress in our hearts, and debt in our wallet, it is no longer about Jesus and should be omitted.
Christmas cookies aren’t wrong (PRAISE GOD!) but if we’re screaming at our kids for making too many messes, ignoring our family to get just one more batch done, it is no longer about Jesus and should be omitted from our holiday traditions.
Presents for loved ones of course are not wrong, but when we lose sleep over finding (and affording) the latest gadget, toy, or luxury, and we’re lashing out at the crowds at the malls in order to add to our plethora of “THINGS” all to please someone else and not our Savior that we’re celebrating… well, something has to change.
This season brings with it fun and warmth and togetherness, but it is also one of the leading causes for depression, anxiety, and despair. Most of that comes from our lack of ponder. We fail to sit back, and really weigh the importance of the season. We fail to sip our cocoa slower, we fail to cherish our kids’ excitement, we fail to gather just a tad bit closer, and we fail to glorify the one with whom our celebration is due.
Have your Christmas party, but don’t fail to breath in all the love that comes with having friends and family close. Ponder the blessing of friendship as you gather.
Bake your Christmas cookies, let the kids make messes, add in another batch for a neighbor, but don’t fail to ponder the reason we work these traditions into the season. To give out of sacrifice is an honor.
Shop for the perfect Christmas gift, but don’t fail to remember the greatest gift to mankind, the savior.
There is so much of the Christmas season to take in. And as Mary so graciously did on that first Christmas day, I pray you, too will find time to do as well. Take a moment to look around at the friends surrounding you during this season and praise God for each one of them. Take a moment to watch your child’s excitement over a gift under the tree, or lights as they look out their car window. Just take a moment to ponder what all of this means. What is it that you’re celebrating, and then take a sacred moment to ponder His goodness… that began that first Christmas day.
Check back in tomorrow for some ways to de-stress your holiday season. It seems as I started this topic God decided to lead me a different direction. However, I’d love to share how we’ve managed to host a party each week (between ministries at church and our own personal one), and bring some cherished moments in each day through the season. Maybe you could use some ideas for balancing the long list of to-dos with capturing the moments that need to be cherished. Until then… God bless.