And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
“Mommy, is Jesus’ birthday over?”
This was the sweet little question I received from the backseat last week as I drove around Chattanooga running errands. This also, was the sweet little question that caused me to really pause and think before I answered. This was the first year Mary Margaret really began to understand Christmas, and she loved everything about it. How do I then explain to my tender, curious two-and-a-half year old little girl that though Christmas had come and gone, the reality about what we celebrated in that season is still just as true and real today?
As I have gone about my daily life these past few days, as the weather gets colder and our schedule gets busier, it has weighed upon me that her tender little heart is not the only one that needs to hear and be reminded of this reality. My heart needs to hear day after day that what we just celebrated at Christmas is still just as true and real this day.
At our house this season, the Christmas carol, Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, was on repeat. My heart has clung tightly to the first verse:
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art.
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
At Christmas, we hear, we sing, we pray, we are reminded of these beautiful realities over and over again. Jesus has come! And though the circumstances of our lives may seem to be ever the same, because of His coming, everything is different. Because of His coming we have freedom from sin and rest in our striving, strength in our weakness and consolation in our sorrow, we have hope that is sure and joy that is immeasurable. At Christmas, we hear these truths loudly, we hear them often, and the eyes of our hearts are lifted and they are fixed upon Jesus.
Christmas is not that far past, and we are just barely two weeks into the New Year. What have you fixed the eyes of your heart upon?
Perhaps the eyes of your hearts are fixed upon your striving. This is the year of keeping resolutions–of losing weight, of reading through your Bible, of getting off Facebook, of better managing your time. This is the year to do better. With enough discipline, it can happen. Christian, let us be reminded of the truth of Christmas, that Christ has come to give us rest in and from our striving. What He started in the manger, He has finished. The babe in the manger now sits at the right hand of the throne of God, pleading His righteous record and perfect standing on your behalf.
Perhaps the eyes of your hearts are fixed upon your shame. Just two short weeks into the New Year, and the resolutions are already broken… again. The resolution to read your Bible, and to try to pray every day, you have actually kept, but it’s felt more like something on a checklist than something your heart is engaged in. Perhaps you are not a resolution person, but you have hoped, you have prayed that this year you would be different–that you would be kinder to your spouse and more patient with your children, that you would be a person of gratitude and contentment, that you would be more generous with time and money and gifts. But our hearts don’t seem any different yet, and with that comes a sense of failure; a sense of shame. Christian, let us be reminded of the truth of Christmas, that He has come to bear our sorrow and our shame. The scandal of the incarnation ended in the scandal of the cross. The babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, hung naked on a cross wearing our sin and our shame for us. We are covered and clothed in Him.
Perhaps the eyes of your hearts are fixed upon your fears. A friend reminded me recently, that though for many this season is one of hope, for many it is a season of great anxiety. This past year has been harder than we could imagine, and we wonder what will happen next. This past year has been really great, and we wonder if this is the year where the other shoe will drop. Our future seems totally unknown. Our future seems totally secure, but we wonder where and when it will crack. Our eyes look ahead into something yet unseen, and our hearts are filled with fear. Christian, let us be reminded of the truth of Christmas, that He has come to meet us in and release us from all our fears. The Christmas story initiates the glorious end of the story, of our story–the story where Emmanuel wins, where we dwell with Him in glory, and where He tenderly wipes away all tears from our eyes.
And perhaps the eyes of your hearts are fixed upon your hopes. We hope deeply and sincerely, that this is the year the LORD will give us the longings of our hearts. Christian, let us be reminded of the truth of Christmas, that He has given us our surest hope, and met our deepest longings in Himself. In the babe in the manger who became the man on the cross, we see displayed the sure reality that God is for us and is willing to give us what we need most at the greatest cost to Himself.
Martin Luther once said, “Preach the Gospel to your self everyday.” In these bleak and dreary days of winter, where the reality of Christmas can often seem so far gone, let us remind ourselves and each other everyday of the Gospel that the shepherds heard that seemingly ordinary night in Bethlehem, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord…” These are not just Christmas words, they are everyday words; everyday truths about a Jesus Who is alive, Who is near, and Who is the same–yesterday, today, and for all the days to come.