Thursday, December 12, 2013

Focus on the Savior

Two children rushed to their mother and said, “It’s only 55 days till Christmas!!!”

She didn’t share their excitement over the coming of Christmas. Instead, panic swept over her as she thought of all the extra things she had to get done in those 55 days. Buy (and wrap!) gifts for everyone on the family’s Christmas list. Decorate the tree and house. Mail cards. Attend/Host Christmas programs and get-togethers.

She’s not the only one dreading the coming of Christmas. For many, the images of “perfect” people living “the good life,” especially during the holidays, bring painful awareness that they and their family don’t measure up to such perfection.

Others, who, for various reasons, will be apart from their families at Christmas, dread the pain of loneliness they’ll experience. Still others, weary and worn from the struggles of daily life, feel they have no more energy and/or resources to use for Christmas, since the holiday has become so draining—financially, emotionally, physically…

Such dread, such lack of excitement, regarding the coming of Christmas, isn’t new. In 1849 Edmund H. Sears mentioned circumstances that are much the same for us today: “the woes of sin and strife…years of wrong…man at war with man…life’s crushing load…toil…painful steps and slow…” (“It Came upon a Midnight Clear”).

 What can we do? Mr. Sears advice: “O rest beside the weary road, / And hear the angels sing,” as they did centuries ago to lowly shepherds watching over their flocks. They, like we, yearned for good news, for hope that life would get better. It was to these downcast shepherds that the angel announced the birth of Christ.

Here’s the story, as recorded in Luke 2:8-15, NLT: “That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!’

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.’

“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”

The shepherds ran into the village and found the Baby lying in a manger, just as the angel had said. What great joy they—and everyone else who heard about the birth of the long-awaited Messiah—felt.

Yet, sadly, the joy over that good news has gotten lost in today’s celebration of Christmas. But we can experience it anew if we’ll slow down and shift our focus from the “stuff” of Christmas to the wondrous gift of a Savior who loves us.

© 2012 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill