Luke 2:11-14: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Some years ago I was approaching a check-out lane at a Target Store during a busy Christmas shopping time. In front of me were a mother and her teenage daughter who were arguing incessantly. As I got in the lane, I realized they were arguing because the mother was getting the daughter something for Christmas but it wasn’t good enough. The daughter was complaining and wanted the bigger and better thing. The mother insisted that they could not afford what she was asking for and that what she was getting her more than met her wishes. I was struck by how ungrateful the daughter was and how much she expected for what she “should” get. The mother proceeded to pay for the items in the cart and continued to walk toward the door. The cart was already jam-packed with stuff. The arguing continued.
I only had a few items I needed at the time so I went quickly through the line. By this time, I was coming closer to exit. There they were... the same mother and daughter, still bickering. They were trying to maneuver all of their stuff through the door. I came up and opened the door for them and said, “Merry Christmas!” as they were walking through the door opening, arguing all the while. It suddenly dawned on the mother that someone had opened the door and wished them a “Merry Christmas.” She seemed a bit dumbfounded and turned around and said, “Oh, thank you.” With that, they continued their argument and walked out the door.
This little incident sure made me think about a few things. Is this what Christmas has become? Getting stuff and arguing about whether it met our criteria? Even in giving things, we often wonder if it’s the “right” thing and if the person will be satisfied. A grateful and thankful heart in all things seems more and more uncommon.
I was recently serving as a chaplain at the hospital and I met a lady well up in her years that had recently taken a fall. I was struck by how gracious and grateful she was to all those who came to see her. She expressed gratitude for the doctors and nurses and health care workers that were helping her. She was thankful for the support of family and friends. She never thought she would live as long as she had already. We had a nice time of encouragement and joy and laughter. She had a strong sense that God was with her even in the difficult times...and she had many difficulties in her life. After we prayed together, I’m sure I left the room feeling more uplifted and encouraged by her than she did by my visit. What was the difference from my previous example? For this dear lady, she didn’t have high expectations of others. She just had a simple dependence on God for each day and focused on his blessings no matter how small. This made all the difference for her and to those around her.
When the angels delivered the message of hope and broke out in praise to God, it was the most significant thing those “lowly” shepherds had ever experienced. For eternal thankfulness and gratefulness, consider God’s Son, Jesus, who came to save us from our sin. Nothing else compares. We need to keep Jesus in view…that He was born to live a perfect life, to die, to rise again. It was through this that He came to save us from the power and penalty of sin and to give us eternal life. When we realize that He is THE gift, then every single blessing we have in this life whether large or small is from Him. We then give our lives back to Him from the gratefulness of our heart. Then, there is truly no room for complaint. May the true gift of Christmas be Christ himself this year. Glory be to God!
Pastor Mark E.