What makes Christmas special for you? I’m ashamed to admit it, but often what differentiates Christmas from other times of the year is outwardly preparing for the season. Preparing the right food. Buying everyone gifts. Sending out all the cards. Getting the house ready.
And beyond the preparations, I am more focused on having fun and making memories than anything else. Nine years ago, the first Christmas after my husband left, I was dreading the holidays. We used to be a happy family of four, opening gifts and laughing on Christmas morning. That year, the girls and I opened our gifts in silence. We neglected most of our traditions. I just wanted to get through the day. In my mind, there was nothing to celebrate. All I could see was loss.
In the years that followed, I learned that when I let loss become the focus, that’s all I see. I now have a wonderful new husband and a beautifully expanded family, but there are always losses. I can do less and less at Christmas. I used to love shopping, making handmade gifts, baking cookies and wrapping presents with beautifully decorated bows. None of that is part of my Christmas anymore.
Now, my favorite part of Christmas decorating is putting out the nativity scene. I carefully unwrap each piece and put it in its place, making sure every single figure is facing Jesus. This year, as I make the last little lamb look at Jesus, I am overwhelmed. Do I look at Jesus that way? Is my attention fixed on him? Is Christ the center of Christmas for me?
Too often at Christmas, my eyes are on other things. Besides what’s missing at Christmas, my eyes are often on other people. Have they appreciated what I’ve done? Do they notice what I need? Do I have to spend time with them if they’re difficult for me? Christmas is often a time when we are with extended family, and people we naturally wouldn’t spend time are at our gatherings. What do we do? Do we gravitate towards the people we feel comfortable with or do we engage with those we feel awkward talking to?
And even more than that, do we keep a record of wrongs, remembering past grievances that we keep rehearsing? Perhaps looking at Jesus means letting go of past hurts. Not dwelling on feeling overlooked. Seeing people as Christ would have us see them. Perhaps intentionally overlooking offenses can offered to God in worship.
Looking at Jesus can also mean not letting my circumstances dictate my attitude. The words to the Bethel song, “Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you; through it all, through it all, it is well,” keep running through my head. When I keep my eyes on Jesus, it is well, regardless of what’s happening around me.
The song goes on to say, “let go my soul and trust in him. The waves and wind still know his name.”
The waves and wind still know his name. I am reminded of Peter, who jumped out of the boat and walked on the water, oblivious to the howling wind around him.
But when he took his eyes off the Lord, seeing the force of the wind and the waves, he began to sink. The voices around him and the voices inside him were shouting for his attention, and Peter listened to them instead of Christ. I’ve done that before. I’ve listened to myself in self-pity. I’ve evaluated my circumstances and felt overwhelmed. I’ve doubted God and focused on my fears.
When our eyes are on Jesus, it is well. When our eyes are on Jesus, we shift our perspective. When our eyes are on Jesus, we see what we have. We aren’t preoccupied with what we’ve lost. We can rest in him.
I keep reminding myself to look at Jesus. Look at Jesus when I feel overwhelmed. Look at Jesus when I feel sorry for myself. Look at Jesus when I feel irritated. Look at Jesus when I feel overlooked. Look at Jesus when I feel taken for granted. Look at Jesus when I don’t have time to do another thing.
The shepherds and wise men looked at Jesus. They dropped everything for the invitation to come and worship the newborn King.
Do I drop everything to come and worship Christ? Do I look at Jesus or do I look around at the things I have to do? Do I feel I will have time for worship later?
Look at Jesus. The invitation is for now. I’m looking at the nativity scene again. I know that all these figures weren’t there the night Christ was born, but somehow their placement together helps me see that this scene transcends space and time. As I look at the characters, each has a different story. Some were rich and others poor. Some were wise, and others were simple. Some were important, and others were ordinary. What did they have in common? They all had celestial signs pointing them to Jesus. They all came as soon as possible to visit the Christ child. And most importantly, they all had their eyes on Jesus. And they worshipped.
I am asking myself, what do I need to take my eyes from to put them on Jesus?
When my eyes are on Jesus, I worship. And that worship transforms me. That’s the heart of Christmas, isn’t it? It’s not about presents or cards or decorations or even family or giving or making memories. The heart of Christmas is worship.
When I worship, I stop thinking about myself. I am not focused on how others have wronged me. I am not looking for perfect circumstances. I am not stressed about all I have left to do. When I worship, my attention is riveted on Christ.
This Christmas join me in taking time to focus on Jesus. Be still before him in worship. Let Christ be the center of our celebration. O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.