It’s pretty much impossible for any Christian to have never heard the expression Jesus is the Reason for the Season, yet isn’t it true we are still more motivated over the gifts, food, and fun of the holiday season and miss the point of bringing Jesus into our hearts and daily life?
John says in the first chapter of his Gospel: What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world … He came to what was his own, but his own did not accept him. Here is some clarity (pun intended); darkness is not something on its own, it is the lack of something. In the truest sense, darkness is the absence of light. The darkness that John speaks about is not being present to Jesus in one’s life. The last part of this Scripture passage submits to us that we are to accept Jesus. So how does one become ready to accept Jesus? Let’s think for a moment about Mary and Joseph, and their preparation and readiness for the first Christmas. Clearly, they understood that the Son of God was going to be born of Mary. I would think there was serious consideration and personal commitment given to being prepared. They must have lovingly prepared in some ways to receive him. Some things happened though, which they couldn’t plan for, and they had to alter their plans. For instance, when the moment came for Jesus to be born, surely they didn’t end up in the place they hoped for to give birth. But God’s plan for Jesus existed from the beginning and Mary and Joseph had to adjust. The real point of preparation is that it has to be flexible enough to adjust to God’s plan. Joseph obviously searched for a safe and peaceful location for Mary to give birth, and he could have let all of the stress and altering of his plans distance him from being meaningfully present to what God was doing. Just because there was no room at the inn, it didn’t mean there was no room for Joseph to receive Jesus with love and joy into his heart.
The expectations of Christmas in our culture often get in the way of preparing and readying to receive Jesus. The reality is too many of us are so busy with making plans that there isn’t a whole lot of room for Jesus on Christmas Day. Let’s think for just a second, what is Christmas really about? It is about Jesus wishing to be born into our lives. And maybe we have realized that God prepared for Jesus to be born physically, and that Jesus had to be born to save us one day, but have we realized that God prepared for Jesus to be born personally into our life from before we were born. How much space is there in our life for Jesus? We may justify the lack of time for him with the busyness of life; commitments to family, working, school, friends, and other commitments. God doesn’t want us to shun these. What God wants is to be present in all that we do. God wants to be close to us. Think about it, the God who cannot be contained by a universe made himself small enough to fit into a manger, small enough to fit into our lives. He made himself small so we can understand he is present to us.
The Incarnation, the mystery and birth of Jesus is what changes everything in this world, from the beginning of time to the end of time. God’s love always set us free, in the birth of his Son rests the promise of God’s greatest gift of love, Salvation. Love is essential to us attaining the best version of ourselves! Where love doesn’t exist, the absence of light resides: carelessness, thoughtlessness, dismissiveness, insensitivity, and divisiveness. It is when one acts from love and responds in love that relationships thrive. Love is what magnifies light. When we love, there is a light that shines before all and this light draws people to it.
My love language is in giving. As much as I enjoy giving gifts at Christmas and seeing the joy in others receiving, Christmas is much more about presence than it is presents. John goes on in his first chapter to say the Word became flesh. The Word is indeed powerful. When we are present to the Word, our words can encourage love instead of kindle fear. Make no mistake, what we speak does take on flesh and live with us. We are to seek to be present and not leave unsaid words of love that in a moment will be gone forever.
Do you want to give the most meaningful gift of all? This Christmas, give voice to your heart and say what needs to be said to those you love. Those words are more powerful than any material gift you will give. And if you really want to be kind to yourself, give yourself a present that will last all year. Begin a grace box, jotting down something wonderful you hear, see, or receive every day. I guarantee you will have 365 reasons why you became much more present!