Read John 1:6-8 and Luke 1:26-38
When I was in elementary school, there was a little girl named Leslie whose mother made an advent wreath for her class every year. If you were lucky enough to be Leslie’s classmate, each school day in December you got to choose a piece of candy from the wreath. Butterscotch and cinnamon fireballs still take me back to those days.
Similarly, when my children were young, they looked forward to the advent calendar I would bring out each December. Every day leading up to Christmas they got to open a little door revealing a small surprise.
These traditions encouraged little hearts to anticipate the coming of Christmas. They weren’t meant to be the real celebration; they just led up to it. John the Baptist, the long awaited child given at last to Elizabeth and Zechariah, was sent to prepare the hearts of God’s people for the greatest gift of all. John 1:6-8 tells us that he was not the Light, but was only a witness to the Light.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep Christ at the center of Christmas. It’s easy, instead, to get caught up in the festivities leading up to and surrounding the holiday. Last year, in an effort to focus on the true meaning of the celebration, I gathered my two grandchildren, six-year-old Connor and four-year-old Bailey, close to me. We sat on the rug next to the Christmas tree. The floor beside us groaned with presents. I opened the Bible and began reading from Luke’s account of Christ’s birth.
I came to the part about the angel’s announcement and, as I related Mary’s response, Connor’s eyes grew wide.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” I read, feeling pretty good about my efforts as I observed my grandson’s obvious interest. My confidence wavered, however, as he gave voice to his thoughts.
“Wow!” he exclaimed. “I’d like to have a servant!”
Connor’s comment is closer to my own heart than I’d like to admit. A prayer like Mary’s takes courage and faith, and sometimes I’m not sure I want to go there. The truth is, I want to have a servant’s heart, but I also want a comfortable life. I enjoy the candy and the carols and the trappings of Christmas but part of me wants to stop there. It’s much easier to keep the focus on those things with which I feel comfortable and avoid dealing with the things in my life that I’ve not yet totally given to God. I tend to dance around complete surrender, continually preparing for it without allowing my life to be utterly transformed by it. Yet, total submission is the only way to truly experience Christmas and the Prince of Peace.
Ask God to help you identify areas of your life that you have not yet surrendered to Him. Commit to pray about these, and obey God’s promptings, as you celebrate Christmas and throughout the new year.
Questions for Discussion:
What are some practical ways to keep the focus on Christ throughout the Christmas season?
How can we avoid the materialism that so easily creeps into the celebration of Christmas?
Do you have any tips for helping children develop a love of giving and serving while enjoying the traditions of Christmas?