Black Fridays, shopping Saturdays, crammed schedules. The Christmas season can become quite unlike the Christmas story, and our priorities can be quite different from God’s priorities.
OUR MINDSET IN DECEMBER… AND MOST OF THE YEAR
We get obsessed with a retail mindset, especially during Christmas. We want the biggest gifts, the greatest fun, the most Facebook shares. We want to keep up with everyone else. This time of year can put on display a desire we live most of our lives with: a desire to be impressive. We want to be first. We don’t want to only be successful and happy, we want others to know we are successful and happy.
We disguise this desire a million ways, but this craving for “success” lurks behind many things we do. It’s why we choose work over family time. It’s why we pick hobbies, jobs, or sports over worship at church. It squeezes out time in God’s word or with God’s people at church, but it ensures we have plenty of time for things that further our “happiness” and persona.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with being impressive and powerful, and we in the Church often absorb more of this culture than we realize. While we are running around trying to build our mini-kingdoms of sand, God shows priorities in the Christmas story that are remarkably different. While building our own kingdoms entrap us in a cycle of looking for freedom and fulfillment in success and other’s perceptions of us, God calls us to be free from that cycle to find true joy.
CHRISTMAS IS NOT OBSESSED WITH BEING IMPRESSIVE
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
– Micah 5:2 ESV
Christ comes into the world from the least of the least in the nation of Judah. He doesn’t use the strongest family of the most impressive clan. Just as when he chose King David, he chose the eternal king to be risen up from humility–not looking at what man prioritizes (c.f. 1 Samuel 16:7).
In God’s wisdom, he chose that the King of all Kings should be laid in a manger with the family animals, in an unremarkable small town, to an unimportant family, in an unimpressive clan. He chose to send angels to reveal this miraculous arrival to shepherds, not to kings and princes.
Jesus’ whole ministry followed this same pattern. He spent time with the lowly. He chose fishermen and tax collectors as disciples. He healed the sick, healed lepers, and preached things such as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Yet here we are caring entirely too much about how many likes we get on our Instagram posts. Here we are caught up in our own worldly kingdoms while God is building his eternal kingdom with entirely different blueprints.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:26-27 ESV
CHRISTMAS CHANGES THINGS
This is the story of the gospel–God’s grace reaching out to sinners. Not because they are impressive and powerful, not because they are of noble standing, not because they are prestigious and successful. No, the gospel is upside down. It’s the king of glory reaching out the un-glorious. God’s kingdom is not about us, it is about Him. As his people, we should be about the same things as our Father.
We think about ourselves entirely too much. Christ gives us a better glory to pursue than our own. He frees us from being slaves to our own kingdom-building. Christ’s glory will look different from what we are used to, however. His glory came to Earth in the humility of a manger and culminated in the pain and scorn of a cross. His glory came in laying his life down, not in exalting himself. Our joy this Christmas, and for our whole lives, will come when we make much of Christ, laying ourselves and our “power” down to exalt him instead.
If we find our priorities in stark contrast to God’s, maybe we don’t know him like we assumed we do. Maybe we need to sit down and ask tough questions about our priorities compared to Christ’s. By finding a greater glory in Christ, our lives will be a pursuit of God more than a pursuit of ourselves. Let that be the Christmas miracle we hope for this December.