Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a businessman. I asked him if he was swamped with a lot of work. He replied that he had his hands full, but that the worst was yet to come. At first, I didn’t understand what he meant, but he quickly explained. He stated that the Christmas season generated the most stressful days of the year for him.
An observant person will notice that many people’s actions and behaviors in today’s world are no longer natural. It seems as though everyone is trying to increase their pace on a daily basis. It’s a hustle and bustle from early morning until late at night. The start of a new year seems to be an opportunity to begin the great race towards a climax, where we convince ourselves we have accomplished something great. The Christmas season, in particular, is such a climax.
As we walk through cities today, we can observe an unusual flurry of activity among people around Christmas time. They are so entangled in the “Christmas frenzy” that they have completely overlooked the actual meaning of this special time. Few want to acknowledge what Christmas is truly about. For many, these are just days of interruption in their pursuit of something uncertain. They are so occupied with Christmas plans, wishes, and gifts that they just don’t think what it’s all about. Suddenly, on Christmas morning, it occurs to someone in the family that today is a day when at least one member of the family should attend a church service. Why, and for what reason, few even know. Most people simply adhere to a custom or a tradition. Not many think about the profound significance of this particular day.
Is this Christmas? Is this a day to look forward to? Under such circumstances? Never! People who celebrate Christmas this way do not experience a true Christmas. They have merely used this day to outdo each other in exchanging gifts and “celebrating” with food and drink. When they look back at the end of the “festive days,” they regret and lament the wasted time and the fact that it all required so much effort. In the end, they are disappointed when they realize how much money they have spent. Oh yes, they may have even heard a sermon about a Jesus who was born over two thousand years ago. That’s all that remains.
Was it the same in the times of our forefathers? “Oh,” someone might say, “back then, it was already hectic enough.” But truly we must acknowledge that in the past decades, humanity has become so carried away that they are no longer aware of how they are being driven. All these things point to the future of the Son of Man. “As it was in the days of Noah.” We could add: “As it was in the times of the birth of Jesus, so it will be in the future of the Son of Man.”
When Jesus was to be born in the stable in Bethlehem, the entire known world of that time was in turmoil and unrest. People were ordered to do something unprecedented. Every citizen was compelled to go to their ancestral city to register and participate in the census. The travel, the circumstances, the fatigue put people in a state where there was absolutely no room for Jesus. Every Jew had heard that the Messiah was to come. Most were aware that the time could not be far off. However, no one thought that it would happen at that time and under those circumstances.
Is it not the same in our lives today, in our rushing and busyness, that Jesus finds no place in the hearts of people? Is it not the case that even religious people are so influenced by worldly matters that they often no longer distinguish between what is normal and what is excessive, what is spiritual and what is worldly? What is Christmas without Christ? What is life without a living Savior? Many have heard that Jesus is supposed to come again someday. Few are aware that He will return. But the possibility that He could come at this very time is hardly on anyone’s mind.
Satan has managed to maneuver people into a position where they do things they don’t actually desire to do. Everyone you ask says they don’t want to be so driven, but claim they are forced to be. Most often it’s about the fact that they are under pressure to keep up with others.
Thankfully, there is a way to be free from this pressure and compulsion. It happens through the living Christ, who comes into our lives through salvation. Where this Savior resides, the joyful message of Christmas is not an unwanted interruption but a continuous inner experience. The angels announced to the shepherds in the field, “Peace on earth, and goodwill toward men.” This peace is more profound and extensive than the “peace” created by a verse of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and the gentle covering of millions of snowflakes on the earth. This peace is not external peace. It’s like a flowing river, continuous, constant, and infinite. It is tranquility, assurance, and security. It is well-being despite illness, joy despite sorrow, fullness despite insufficiency, richness despite poverty. This peace is life from God, eternal happiness.
For such people, Christmas is a highlight but not a peak of hustle and bustle. It’s a highlight of their inner experience, because Christ was not only born in the stable in Bethlehem but still dwells as a living Savior in their hearts. To celebrate Christmas in this way is indescribable and glorious! External things are of secondary importance to them. For such people, Christ is a reality, a source of life, and a source of joy. Oh, what a richness of grace, what an inexhaustible source of joy!
If you are outwardly religious but inwardly sad, let this Christmas season lead you to the fact that Christ wants to be born in you. Let your discontented heart find the true, eternal, deep peace. Make room for Him today in your life, in your home, in your family. May great joy come to your home as you experience this, so that you can say: The Savior is born for me! Christmas will no longer mean restlessness, toil, and stress, but will truly be a God-given day of joy in your life.