The true heart of Christmas
The true heart of Christmas is not about gift-giving, family times, or even through worship events. The true heart of Christmas is much deeper and broader than all of these.
When we look at the people and the story of the first Christmas, we see something that transcends the goodwill and giving of Christmas. Without this one characteristic of the people God chose for this Christmas story, there would be no Christmas.
The heart of Christmas is obedience.
Submitting to a higher power, whether it is submission to the will of that Power or to the guidance and control of that Power, goes against our human, personal grain. Obedience goes beyond our feelings.
Truly, feelings have nothing to do with obedience. There is a difficulty, and there is a delight in obedience.
Look at Mary – and Joseph. Look at the shepherds and those wise men who came two years later. Were it not for their unbridled obedience, the story of Christmas would never have occurred.
The story characters chose obedience over circumstances, conflict, and consequences. That is what the heart of Christmas truly portrays.
Obedience in spite of Circumstances
Mary chose to cooperate with God’s plan for her in spite of circumstances. Would it have been her choice to become pregnant before her wedding to Joseph? Would she have chosen the ridicule of others on her own?.
Mary was a virgin. She was sexually pure, yet she chose to do this virgin birth because it was God’s plan for her. God honors those who have confidence in His plan.
Mary was highly favored because of her heart. She had the heart of Christmas.
Obedience in spite of Conflict
Conflict makes obedience painful. When others ridicule us or disagree with what is happening, it makes obedience hard.
Joseph was a just man, but he had to endure the ridicule of others for being betrothed to a girl who was with child. He had done nothing wrong, but he suffered because of God’s plan for him and especially for Mary.
Joseph chose to obey in spite of the conflict in his world. Obedience is not a formula; it is an attitude. Joseph chose to have that attitude. Joseph chose to accept the role of a father to Mary’s child, thus making him a stepfather. He committed himself to caring for not only Mary, but for the Child. That care included a middle-of-the-night journey to Egypt to protect his stepson (and his Savior.) Obedience for Joseph wasn’t just a one-time event. It became his life as stepfather to Jesus. It wasn’t comfortable. Conflict never is. Joseph’s response shows us the heart of Christmas, for he chose obedience over comfort and reputation. He chose obedience in spite of conflict.
Obedience in spite of Consequences
Too often, we allow the beliefs and responses of others to govern our obedience. We don’t want to face ridicule or lose friends. We don’t want to miss out on things. We want to understand or completely agree before we decide if we will obey. Sometimes we allow the influence of others to keep us from being obedient.
The shepherds – those smelly, working men – left their flocks to go to Bethlehem to find the baby as the angel commanded them. They weren’t a popular bunch of people, but they went. They found the Baby, and they worshipped. They returned, telling everyone what they had seen. Who would believe them? Who else would go to see the Baby? They didn’t care. They obeyed in spite of what others had to say about them. Their obedience shows us that they had the heart of Christmas.
Yet, the truth is that if we obey only when we want to and believe only what is understandable, we do not trust God; we trust ourselves. Those magi who traveled for months to find the Baby had only a star to follow. They didn’t know where they would end up when they finally arrived. They didn’t know how long the journey would take. The magi didn’t know what dangers they would face. They didn’t know what they’d find at the end of their journey. They probably did not envision needing to return home another way because of King Herod. They went. They presented gifts. They worshipped. They obeyed. Truly, they had the heart of Christmas.
The heart of Christmas changes everything
How different this story would have been if the people God chose refused to cooperate with His plan for them. How different it would have been if these people had not been obedient. How different the story of Christmas would have been had there been no true heart of Christmas.
As the events unfolded with Mary and with Joseph, could it possibly have felt to them that what was being asked of them was impossible or that it was unfair? Will we ever know?
This we do know: if there is anything impossible with our God, then He is not God.
Obedience – where the heart of Christmas truly lies.