The transformation our culture undergoes the day after Thanksgiving is incredible. Our playlists change. Radio stations alter their programming. The advertising blitz gets deafening. Crazy amounts of money get spent at retail – to the mind-boggling tune of around $450 billion each year. Our diets go in flux, and baked goods are consumed in ridiculous quantities. Holiday parties crop up every weekend in December. People drink eggnog. Once-a-year family gatherings happen. Dudes get on ladders to hang lights all over their houses. People tromp through the snow to cut down live trees and then drag them into their houses for a month…or four. Our moods swing. Stress levels climb.
This is no ordinary season.
Each year I tell myself that I will resist these potential trappings. But year after year, December 25th comes and goes, and I cannot shake the feeling that I have let some of the good things God created – food, gifts, decorations, holiday parties, Christmas music, family tradition, and more – distract me from the ultimate thing: the unbelievable miracle of Jesus’ birth. Thus, I’ve been pondering: what is God calling me to this Advent season?
Digging into Luke’s gospel convicts me that I am being called to one thing above all else during the Christmas season. Worship!
Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth is full of worship, from beginning to end. Mary’s response to being told she would give birth to the Messiah was humble obedience and praise to God. She sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
After being made mute for his unbelief at the angel Gabriel’s announcement that Elizabeth would give birth to the forerunner to the Messiah, Zechariah bursts out, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
Upon Jesus’ birth, the heavenly host appears to the shepherds and sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” After getting to see Jesus, the shepherds spread the word about Jesus and praised God.
The worship of Mary, Zechariah, the heavenly host, and shepherds convicts me that in the midst of the growing Christmas chaos, God wants me to simply focus on and praise Him for how amazing it is that He, Mighty God, in all of his fullness, became flesh and dwelt among us – ultimately as an answer to our sin.
Given the variety of our lives, worship looks different for all of us. Personally, I know at least two things will help me worship God more fully: (1) more quiet and (2) more Bible. Without dedicated times for actual quiet reflection and prayer, I will completely miss God’s awesomeness in the busyness of the next three weeks. I need to make time. And without pressing into God’s word, I miss the richness of God’s rescue plan.
At some level, Mary, Zechariah, the heavenly host, and the shepherds all knew that God’s promised redemption plan was being fulfilled in Jesus. I marvel at God when I trace His promises through scripture. The prophecies of Jesus’ coming might take your breath away. Isaiah 9 says: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on forever and ever.”
Glory be to God!
What is God calling you to this Advent season? How is God drawing you into worship this Christmas? How can we as men be servant leaders in our families and relationships, and lead our family and friends to a greater worship of Jesus this season?
– Bryan Freeman