Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying this Christmas season. But if you are like me, this can be the most chaotic time of the year.
Here’s where I struggle. In the midst of the Christmas season, when I am supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ, I find my attention pulled away to anything but Christ. My schedule feels crushing during this time of year, and it can easily draw my focus away from my relationship with God. Even as I sit here trying to write this devotional, the notifications keep coming in on my cell phone letting me know another email has arrived, a calendar appointment is coming up, or another text needs attention. The funny thing is that I had turned off the ringer so I could work undisturbed, but the flashing light on the phone still let me know that something needed attention. I finally had to turn the phone over so I would not be distracted. Oh the joy!
So here is my plan during the Christmas season. Whenever possible, I make time to pull away from everything and spend some quality time with the one I love most – God. I turn off the Christmas music. I turn off my cell phone. I set aside the shopping list. I put off responding to email. Then I settle into my favorite chair with a cup of coffee and talk with God. Finding the time to do this is one of the most difficult things I do during this time of year, but it is also one of the most important things on my list. I need that time with him because of the needs that are present in my life. In my mind, I see him sitting there with me as I enjoy a cup of coffee. He looks over at me and says, “I know about everything that is going on right now, but I’m here, and I love you.” And I look back at him and say, “I love you too.” In that moment, nothing else matters.
When I do this, I celebrate who Christ is. Notice I did not say I celebrate his birth. Instead of celebrating his birth, I celebrate the God who is with me. I celebrate Christ, not Christmas. Christmas is a one-day event, but I need to celebrate Christ with me all the time.
When the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the birth of Christ, he said this:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV).
Consider the names that Isaiah used. Jesus is my wonderful counselor when I don’t know how to handle a situation. He is my mighty God when I feel weak and unable to cope. He is my everlasting father when I need guidance, encouragement, or support. He is my Prince of Peace when the chaos of my schedule presses in. This is the Jesus who was born in a manger, the Jesus we celebrate at Christmas.
Not only is Jesus all of these things, he is also with me all of the time. In the New Testament, when Matthew is writing the account of the birth of Christ, he quotes Isaiah and says this:
“ ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Mathew 1:23, ESV).
I smile when I read the way Matthew quotes Isaiah because he doesn’t just give the quote. He explains it as well. It is like he is whispering, “In case you didn’t know what the word Immanuel means, it means ‘God with us.’” It is as if he is saying, “This is important! Don’t miss this!”
God is with us. I need that kind of God. I need a God who is with me, not just above me. I tend to imagine God far above me somewhere in the heavens, sitting on a beautiful throne of pure gold. But in reality, he is sitting beside me as I write this note. He is also beside you as you read it. He is with us. He is God with us, Immanuel.
He is with you when you feel overwhelmed. He is with you when you are disappointed. He is with you when you are wounded. He is with you when you are in financial trouble. He is with you when the wayward child leaves. He is with you when you are the wayward child. He is with you in the doctor’s office when the diagnosis is read. He is with you when the loved one dies. He is with you when your marriage is in trouble. He is with you when you feel too busy to take time for him. He is with you. He is always with you.
Friend, will you make time in your schedule to celebrate Christ? Will you celebrate who he is, not just his birth? Maybe coffee isn’t your thing, but find a way to come apart from everything that pulls you away, and spend some time with him. Consider it a gift that you give to yourself, or perhaps a gift you give to God.
Jesus, the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of Peace, and God in the flesh, he is with us.
That, my friends, is worth celebrating.
This article was originally published in the December 2014 Newsletter.