Sunday, December 22, 2013
An "Upper Room" Christmas
This morning, as I sat with my head bowed in prayer, I thought about our upcoming Holy Days. I thought of family and presents and the birth of our Savior. I thought of how, as a people, we are so easily distracted from the shining light of truth and quick to cleave to worldly fancies, forgetting the source of our very breath. This morning, as I sat with my head bowed in prayer, my mind was filled with heady thoughts.
During the Christmas season, we attempt to encourage ourselves to remember the "Reason for the Season". We talk about celebrating "Jesus' Birthday" and read the account of His birth in an attempt not to get caught up in the spectacle that has become "Christmas". We sing Christmas carols, bake cookies and give each other gifts, all while expressing our desire to emulate the greatest gift. But, when all is said and done, we feel let down - like we are missing something. Something big.
Truth be told, Christmas, along with all of our holidays is celebrated with food and family and friends. And that is right and good. Every one of the holy days of the bible were celebrated similarly. They all centered around God's children (family) and feasting. The feasts were a time of remembrance. God instituted celebrations as an opportunity for His children to perpetually remember what He had done. Christmas in our modern time is no different. It is a time to remember the Savior, that is God, who became man in order to bring perfect reconciliation between sinful mankind and a holy, blameless God. And we celebrate as in times of old, with fellowship and feasting.
As wonderful as Christmas is, it is all too often overshadowed by strife and discord. We are consumed with finding that "perfect" present, baking cookies for every person we have ever met and decorating our homes to look like a spread in a glossy magazine. And then, when the day actually arrives, we feel nothing but dread. The family is coming. Uncle Fred is difficult, Aunt Fran smells. And then there's the drama of Aunt Martha. She and her family always arrive late and grumpy, her children are sullen, her husband is contentious and she is always mad at someone in the family. It is so bad that the other brothers and sisters take bets before she gets there as to who she will be mad at this year. In reality, Christmas would be perfect if it weren't for the people. They are a burden and serve little purpose but to ruin the "Norman Rockwell" image we have so carefully crafted in our minds.
And therein lies the problem. We are so set on celebrating a "perfect" Christmas, trying to keep Jesus at the center, that we miss our true calling - one of sacrifice and humility.
Sitting in church this morning, the picture of a perfect Christmas played before my eyes. It had nothing to do with snow or trees or presents. There were no carolers or elves or jolly red men. There was nothing but a humble room, twelve men and a soul intent on doing the will of His father.
Jesus, during his own last supper, revealed to us the perfect keeping of the feast. He gathered his family (the twelve) together, for an afternoon of fellowship and feasting. He prepared a feast for those he loved. He ate and drank with them. He shared his soul. He even knelt on the floor before each man, removed his sandals and washed his feet, giving to him a perfect gift. He did this with full joy mingled with heavy resignation. He celebrated this feast with his imperfect family, knowing it to be his last feast on earth. He broke bread with the man He knew would betray him for 30 pieces of silver. He drank from the cup of the man that He knew would deny him three times. He gave perfect gifts to a family that would betray and disown him. He knew it - and he served them anyway. His was the perfect feast - the perfect Christmas.
As you gather together to celebrate our Lord, remember who it is that you are serving. You are serving the One who kissed his betrayer on the cheek. You are serving the One who loved the man who would deny Him. Can you do any less for the family He has given to you?
This year, celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Forget the "Norman Rockwell" vision of Christmas and embrace the "Upper Room". Love those that persecute you, serve those that revile you, kiss those that betray you.
Merry Christmas to you all. I pray that your "Norman Rockwell" Christmas is replaced with the "Upper Room" Christmas and that God reveals His perfect Gift to every last one of you.
Merry Christmas every one.