Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Lo How A Rose"1 (Lyrics)
Last year, I read about a man who had four thousand light bulbs on his house and in the trees on his property. People came from miles around to see it. "It was beautiful," was the general consensus. "After all, that is what Christmas is all about."
Matthew 3:1-3 – In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'" (with Isaiah 40:3 NKJV)
During my working career, I worked for a pipeline engineering/construction company. We designed and built pipelines through the wilderness of northern Canada as well as in other places around the world. Before we started construction, we had to prepare the right of way, a strip of land 50 feet wide and the full length of the pipeline — quite often more than 100 miles. The trees would be cut down, and bulldozers would clear everything out of the way, including tree stumps and boulders. Bumps in the landscape would be removed and holes would be filled. A straight "highway" in the wilderness was built in preparation for the start of construction.
Besides today's Scripture, Luke chapter 3 tells the story of John the Baptist preparing for the arrival of the Messiah. People had gathered at the Jordan River to listen to him, and he gives an inspired sermon, in effect: "Repent! Share with those who are worse off than you are. Tax collectors, be honest. Soldiers, be content with your wages and don't intimidate anyone. Sure I baptize you with water, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I. I only came to prepare the way for Him."
If John were preaching to us today, he would tell us to get rid of all those things which have made Christmas such a secular holiday, all those obstacles that make the Christmas season so stressful. While it is a wonderful time of year, it can put undue pressure on relationships, energy, and finances, leading to burnout and frustration. Which in-laws will we celebrate Christmas with? How will we work in all the parties, school events, social gatherings, and shopping trips? How will we come up with the money to pay for the ever bigger and better presents we bought? All this happens during the time when we are to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ by reflecting on its eternal significance. Perhaps it is time, no, it is time, to clear all these obstructions out of the way, just like we did on a pipeline project, just like John preached in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Repent! In other words, change our ways.
We should never forget the real meaning of Christmas. In order to die for the sins of all of us, Jesus came into the world on that night in Bethlehem, when the angels told the shepherds, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10b-11 NKJV)
After all, that is what Christmas is all about.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, we ask that we will able to set aside those things which obstruct this very event. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.