“Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to ride in a horse-horse- open sleigh ... HEY!” is what I hear on repeat from the backseat of my car on the way to school almost every morning these days.
My son is so excited for Christmas. He loves seeing the lights and the decorations as we drive down our street at night, he’s thrilled to be mama’s little helper with Christmas cookies and sprinkles (so many sprinkles) and, let’s face it, kid’s excited for some presents. It brings me joy to include him in all of the holiday traditions that I always loved as a kid; there are so many wonderful things to do and look forward to at Christmastime that it’s hard to get it all in.
But amid all of the carols and the cookies and beaming holiday displays, God’s promise of sending a Savior shines brightest of all, right?
It’s the real reason that we’re celebrating, isn’t it?
I wish I could say that Jesus always takes center stage at our house during the Christmas season, but to be honest, that’s not always true. My son knows that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and it’s a time when we say thank you to God for sending us a Savior. He can point out all the major players in the Nativity Scene and knows most of the words to “Away in a Manger,” but in the next breath, he’ll talk about all the new trucks he wants for Christmas.
I marvel at it every year … how hard Satan works this time of year to shift our focus … and how many times he wins. Every single commercial we see tells us how to be the best gift giver this year, how to give our loved ones something thoughtful and special.
And as much as we know that the greatest gift we’ll ever receive for Christmas is the Savior Jesus, don’t we still pat ourselves on the back for finding that perfect gift for our child or parent or spouse?
We feel so accomplished when everything is bought and the presents are neatly wrapped under the tree. We’re “done” and it feels great, doesn’t it?
Satan – 1, Jesus – 0
Christmas means lots of family time, nothing wrong with that, right?
It’s always so fun to see the kids playing together, to indulge a little too much in delicious food and to lounge around with everyone laughing and talking. But to get to that cheerful, cozy Christmas day, we have a lot to do … and so does everyone else. Bustling aisles at the grocery store, last-minute stops at the mall, parking lots full of shoppers in a hurry, not to mention all the prepping, cooking and cleaning. It’s exhausting, but worth it so that everyone can enjoy the day together.
Another “perfect” Christmas in the books thanks to all of our hard work. We somehow accomplished everything on our list.
Satan – 2, Jesus – 0
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with giving gifts or making the holiday special for our families, but when those preparations start to overshadow the preparations we should be making in our hearts and minds for our Savior, we have a problem.
And it’s a trap I find myself falling into every year.
In theory, Christmas is an ideal opportunity for quiet reflection, to look back to all of the instances in the Old Testament when God promised a Savior to his people, to turn to the New Testament and see that promise come to fruition and to be reminded of how faithful our God is to his Word and to us.
But our Christmases always turn out to be anything but quiet. Everything and everyone is fighting for our attention, everything but the one thing that is really important, our Savior Jesus coming quietly into this world to save us all.
And as I struggle to tune out the noise, it leads me to the same place every year. As I hear the trumpets blast and the congregation belt out “Joy to the World” on Christmas morning, I can’t help but feel equal amounts of joy and shame. God’s love for us and our love for him as saved sinners are so potent and so beautiful in that moment. But somehow every year it takes me until that one point in time surrounded by my fellow believers to truly let the joy and wonder of Christmas sink in.
It’s a stern reminder for me that as powerful as God’s love and influence is in this world, Satan’s power is not to be underestimated.
He knows our weaknesses only too well and if I’m being honest with myself, it’s all too often that I make his job incredibly easy.
Of all the things on my endless to-do list, carving out time to study God’s Word regularly or scheduling nightly devotions with my family didn’t make the cut. Of all the gifts I have waiting for my son under the tree, I haven’t spent nearly enough time talking to him about the spiritual gifts God has given him.
Next year, I still plan to bake cookies, buy gifts, decorate the house and watch Christmas movies, but I pray that I can focus more on the preparations that really matter.
Next Christmas, preparing my heart and hearts of my loved ones for the arrival of our Savior will be at the top of the to-do list.
May Jesus' promise to the disciples bring comfort and joy to you this Christmas season and always...
Satan – 0
You are our rescuer. You came into the darkness of the world and the darkness of our hearts to bring light. We confess that we can be easily distracted by the world and Satan's schemes. The devil can be extra deceiving during Christmas by taking that which looks good and making it bad. Thank you for leaving your throne that first Christmas to do the hard work of defeating the devil and his hold on our life! Thank you for the comfort that only comes through forgiveness. May our eyes remain lifted towards you during Christmastime and always. Joy to the world! You have come! You are preparing a place for us and will come again!
Glory to you God in the highest heaven! And on earth peace to us on whom your favor rests.