The weeks of preparation came to fruition yesterday. We welcomed Christmas Day. It came. It has gone. Like the Queen of the Night cactus that blooms only one night a year, Christmas has bloomed and Christmas has departed.
The contrast was stark yesterday afternoon as we drove home from visiting family. Parking lots were empty. The doors to most stores were locked tightly. The Christmas lights, that just a day before had been so promising, were like a monument to what once had been. We played our Christmas music. We talked of our Christmas experiences but our zeal was diminished. Soon we were discussing our schedules for the next several days and weeks. We had work to do, places to go and schedules to keep. Life was returning to 'normal.' I felt overwhelmed.
Assuming the best about us, for the past 25 or so days we have been focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ. How do we now live? What do we do? For most (all?) of us the Christmas season has been a mixed bag. We have read Christmas devotional books, attended church services and talked much about the birth of Jesus. As well we have been to a lot of stores (virtual and otherwise). We have invested our time, spent our money and worn ourselves out getting ready for Christmas.
Perhaps today we are looking at a mound of wrapping paper. No gifts decorate the base of the tree. Stockings are empty. Everything looks and sounds different. Christmas is over and yet the remnants remain. We are in between Christmas and normal.
What now? That is the question that I am considering this December 26th morning.
Perhaps the best answer to that question is found in the Christmas story itself? What were the immediate responses after the birth of Christ from Luke chapter two:
Worship (8-13). Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lords stood before them, and the glory of the Lord stood around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angels said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'
Shepherds were confronted by one angel. They were soon joined by many angels. The angels did what angels always do. They worshipped God!
Go Quickly to Jesus (15-16). So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
How do we go to Jesus? We go to him by faith. We cannot travel to Bethlehem and hope to find a baby in a manger. Nor can we go just outside of Jerusalem and find Jesus upon a cross. Jesus has come, He has lived, He has died, He has been raised from the dead and He has ascended back to heaven. So how do we go to him? We do so by going back to the Bible and reading His story. We better learn His gospel. We hear again the "good tidings of great joy." We seek Him in prayer and we follow after Him. When we fall short (as we do each day) we go back to Him in faith and thank Him that He never fell short. When we are sad or tempted we go to him for sympathy. When we feel condemned due to our ongoing struggle with sin we go to him with thanksgiving that "...there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 8:1). We never stop going to Jesus.
Tell Others About Jesus (17-18). Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the Shepherds. The Psalmist in Psalm 105 tells us to Make known His deeds among the peoples! The Christmas season affords us great opportunity to tell the good news!
Ponder the Christmas Story (19). But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. A lot had happened to Mary in the previous nine months of her life. She had heard from an angel the amazing announcement that she, a virgin, would give birth to the Savior. She had faced all of the challenges that must have come to an unwed woman who was pregnant. She had rejoiced with Elizabeth and had made the difficult journey to Bethlehem with Joseph. There she had found no room in the local Inn and therefore had given birth to Jesus in the most primitive of situations. Though Mary had not grasped the fullness of what was happening in, to, through and around her--she nevertheless was a deep thinker. She had made that perfectly clear in her song from Luke 1:46-55. She knew that God was at work. And now she had given birth, wrapped her baby up and she pondered. Perhaps this is one of the great missing ingredients of our modern Christmas celebrations. Our celebrations are loud. They are busy. They are talkative. Some of that is good. Much of it is necessary. But often we fail to simply ponder the story. To think deeply about God, His promises, the fulfilment of those promises, the coming of Jesus and the implications of Jesus. Be prone to ponder!
Worship Again (20). Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. Of course it is all worship. We worship as we go to Jesus in faith, as we tell others about Him and as we ponder Him. And yet we worship in more specific ways. We gather for congregational worship with our church family. We gather with our family to worship. We begin, continue and end with worship.
What now? Worship! Go to Jesus! Tell others about Jesus! Ponder Jesus! Worship God!