It’s such a big word, isn’t it? For children it can be loaded with magical associations of twinkling lights, joyful songs, longed-for presents and delicious food – all enjoyed in the company of loving family. For the bereaved, the word often heightens the keenness of our loss as a poignant reminder of what we are missing. But for many adults, I suspect the most obvious association with the word ‘Christmas’ here in the Western world, is stress, busyness, frantic pressure.
Make the cake, order the turkey, write the cards, make the kids nativity-play costumes, post the cards, buy the presents (try not to think about the cost), plan the grocery shopping (in time to get a good delivery slot), put the tree up, buy outfit for work party, tip the postman, attend the end of term concerts, hark-how-the-bells, tip the bin-men, wrap the presents, realise we haven’t got a gift yet for Uncle Bert, tip the milkman, dashing-through-the-snow, attend work party, have we ordered enough sprouts, fa-la-la-la-la.
Stop. (I know, there’s lots I missed off that list – but you get the point).
I imagine those dwelling in Bethlehem approximately 2,000 years ago were equally as frantic. With the recent census forcing people across the nation to travel to the cities of their ancestral homes, the place was full of travellers all desperate for a place to stay. Innkeepers and their wives, food vendors, tax-collectors, temple-workers, census officials and more – Christmas might not exist for them yet, but they were all overrun with the pressure of extra work on top of the stresses of every day life. Busy busy busy, everywhere you looked. But in one little stable, there was no busy. All was still. For amidst all the chaos going on outside, a baby had been born. And for those who were there to witness it, time must have stopped with the marvel of it all! For that first Christmas moment the baby’s parents, the visiting shepherds, and probably a few animals were the only ones privy to witness the incredible moment. How they must have been caught in wonder, awe, and worship, just gazing on the precious face of the One Who had come to live with us, to change all of our lives for ever. No busy busy, no dashing through the snow, no trees, plays, turkeys or cards. Just a baby in a stable, under a brightly shining star. Nothing more or less than God Himself, no longer far away in a distant Heaven, but here, with us. That’s all. How to take it in? And how much those outside missed in their busy-ness!
I pray for all of us this year that amidst the frantic rushing about of this season, we would all make time to stop and enter the holy place of that first Christmas moment. To pause, and sit or kneel – like the occupants of the stable all those years ago – with everyone else going about their busy lives outside oblivious to what God has done – and gaze upon the wonder of the One Who came to live with us and save us for ever. To hear an echo of the angels singing, “Peace on earth” and take in the miracle of God’s presence with us. Let all the chaos fade away, and come, let us simply adore Him in the precious gift of the Christmas Pause.