Isaiah 29:13a – The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (NIV)
They stream out of the store, carts crammed with piles of groceries, assorted Christmas items, wreaths, toys, candy canes, chocolates, huge frozen turkeys, and the occasional clinging child. A few people notice me standing beside the Salvation Army Christmas bubble. Some stop and dig into their pockets and purses, then, with a self-conscious smile, push a few coins or a crumpled bill into the bubble. Others send their children over. Some approach rambunctiously, others shyly. One little boy, before he decides to relinquish the coins he is clutching in his fist, asks curiously, "What's this money for?" I explain that it is to help some families to have a nice Christmas.
Of course, parents want to be sure that their children have a happy Christmas, and for many, that equates to lots of food and presents. But what do the children know about the real meaning of the season?
My heart goes out to the children who have missed the experience of singing "Happy birthday, dear Jesus" and listening to their fathers read the Christmas story. My heart goes out to the parents who have no understanding of the real meaning of Christmas, and are rushing about madly under the pressure of what Christmas has become for so many: spending money on expensive gifts — many of which will soon be forgotten as they toss one aside and reach for the next one — and buying excessive amounts of food — much of which will go to waste after their large Christmas dinner.
In my mind, I see a large jigsaw puzzle entitled "Christmas 2016". There is all manner of beautiful shining ornaments, tall, decorated evergreen trees with mounds of gifts piled underneath, and heavily laden tables of food. But I ask myself, "Where is Jesus?"
And then I notice that the puzzle is flawed because down in one corner, a small piece of the puzzle is missing. There is no nativity scene. I feel a tear slide down my cheek as my heart goes out to Jesus, Who gave His life for the world that all humanity might know Him.
This Christmas, many will be missing the real meaning of Christmas, but Immanuel is not missing. His Spirit is still present in our world, working within all those who love Him, for, as Jesus told His disciples so long ago:
John 16:7-8 – But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. (NIV)
God is still at work in our world revealing His Son and the true meaning of Christmas, through the power of His Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us remember to pray for open hearts, ears, and minds for those to whom our hearts go out: those who have not yet heard or come to accept the greatest Christmas gift of all — Jesus!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as the season of celebrating Your birthday approaches, open unexpected opportunities for us to share with others that all this activity is really all about You. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" (Lyrics)