Candy canes, mistletoe and mince pies all have Christian origins....
Do you find that Christmas comes around quicker every year? Do you also get caught up in the Christmas rush, whether that’s finishing work, going through the Christmas gift list or signing the pile of Christmas cards that need to be posted, pronto? Time then to slow down and switch off.
I feel a little sad because without realising it I’ve made Christmas day into a deadline. A day by when all of these things, of lesser importance, need to be done. The problem is I think we all have. When the rest of the world is speeding up, that’s just the moment to slow down. With barely seven sleeps to our annual feasting and festivity, I want to try something new. I’m going to slow down a little and take some time to pause, reflect and ask myself one simple question, ‘am I ready to recommit myself to the newborn king?’
It doesn't help when our Christmas celebrations become too sentimental too, we brush over the incredible and actually unsettling Christmas story
It’s too easy for me to get distracted and forget the life changing person and power that we welcome and celebrate every year. It doesn't help when our Christmas celebrations become too sentimental too, we brush over the incredible and actually unsettling Christmas story. Babies are cute, so are donkeys. Three wise men wouldn’t look out of place in a Christmas panto and as for angels, aren’t they glorious?
While I love a little Christmas kitsch, the reality of what we celebrate is anything but cute. It’s dangerous. Are we really ready to receive the coming of the newborn king and how that can change our lives? Many Christian traditions celebrate advent. It can be a daily time of prayer, bible reading and devotion where we prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ the King. We’re into advent now. It begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It used to be a time not of rushing and Christmas parties but of fasting and abstaining. Now that’s hardly practical for today! But in this last week till Christmas it’s not too late to bring some of the advent approach to our worship and devotion in our busy lives, just as they are. It’s time to slow down and switch off and be open to receiving from God. Not despite the busyness, but because of it.
Preparing and making room again for Christ can be expressed in something as simple as a ten minute daily devotion. The devotion can focus on looking back at the first Christmas miracle, the incarnation of God coming in human flesh. We also focus on our own hearts and openness to have Christ born anew in each of our lives (not just at Christmas), and we also look forward to Christ’s second coming when the work he began will be complete.
There are some great advent resources you can use online to help find the right bible verses with some short reflections and guides for prayer.
I’m using an app produced by the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and there’s a good small group study by the Scottish Bible Study, just to list a few of the resources online that could help. Every year we need reminding of what God has done and is doing in our world. Every year we need to seek him out again and lay our ‘gifts’, indeed our very lives before him, not unlike the magi and shepherds of old. Every year I feel we need to hear this more. Because the greatest gift to humanity is that God who loved the world so much, gave his only son, first as a vulnerable baby. He grew to be the promised messiah the Hebrew scriptures had always spoken of, and he became the savior of the world, our Lord.
This Christmas, are you prepared to make room for him and to receive what he has for you?
Jeremy O’Hare is a blogger for www.notonlysundays.com and finalist for “Up and Coming Blogger” at this year’s Premier Digital Awards. You can read more of his blogs about bible wisdom for every day, @notonlysundays or facebook.com/notonlysundays