I love Christmas. My parents had little money, but my mother filled our home with glitter and warmth during Christmas. I’m not sure how she did it, but it felt magical.
One Christmas, we took a day trip to downtown Houston to wander the nine floors of the Foleys department store. As we reached the next floor on the escalator, I saw a mannequin dressed in a fabulous bubble-gum pink sweater covered with fluffy balls of pink yarn. It was everything my pre-teen heart could dream about. I knew it would be too expensive, so I pretended it didn’t matter. But on Christmas morning, I unwrapped a box and there was the sweater—pom poms and all!
Memories of Christmas fill our hearts as we think of our family and friends. But, if we could get a glimpse from the manger of the most glorious moment in history, how would it change us? What could we learn?
The Christmas story might be the most oft told story of all time. So familiar we might miss much of the miracle and the life-transforming lessons each character in the story is ready to teach us.
Whatever the condition of our heart, when we encounter Christ, our heart changes. Consider these key people:
Zachariah the priest had a reluctant heart because he was disappointed at having no children. His reluctance led to doubt when the angel said Elizabeth would have a child. He couldn’t believe.
Barrenness broke Elizabeth’s heart but she did the best she could in her judgmental society. The news that she would bear a child turned her brokenness into expectancy. If God could do this what else could He do? Her expectant heart led to her greatest role.
Mary was ready when the Angel appeared to her. She heard him. She didn’t understand but she said, “Let it be to me as you have said.” Being ready for God’s intervention leads to belief.
Joseph’s kindness kept him from placing public shame on Mary. Because he was kind, he heard the Angel’s announcement and made a fast decision to obey. Obedience is what God desires from us all.
- The Innkeeper
The crowds overwhelmed the innkeeper, but he took care of his business and all the details. But his busy heart focused on the work and the hustle instead of the miracle in his own backyard. He missed the Savior because he didn’t have time.
- The Shepherds
As social outcasts, the shepherds felt eager to learn more about God. They’d seen the creation while in the fields with their flocks, and they understood the truth of Creator God. When the sky opened and the angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah, their eager hearts were filled with awe. The eager heart leads to the full heart.
- The Wise Men
The wise men, or Magi, studied the stars and heavenly bodies and were experts in ancient writings. When they saw an unusual star, they were compelled to know the source. Their curious hearts led to worship.
What about your heart?
Whatever you are feeling now will affect how you will respond when you encounter Christ this season. If you have negative or jealous or critical thoughts and feelings, Christmas may enlarge your bitterness or unhappiness. When life is tough, seeing the glitter and glam of Christmas or hearing a Christmas song sends emptiness to your soul.
There is an alternative way to go through the season and find joy in the bargain. Instead of allowing the troubles of this past year create a black hole in you, take a fresh look at the manger in the stable.
Imagine Joseph clearing away debris while adding fresh hay to make the feeding trough ready. Open. Prepared. Anticipating.
Then Mary laid the babe into the open arms of the manger.
Question: What have you done, or what do you plan to do, to prepare your heart for Christmas?