And so, here we are, fully into another Christmas season. Asked to give two words that best describe this time of year, most of us would say, "hustle and bustle;" the culture would simply nod its head.
That's it, this world says. That's the heart of Christmas.
Christmas, to our culture, is a bunch of running around. It's chasing down the latest and the best and the most-desired gifts. It's decorating the house, inside and out. It's cleaning and cooking and baking and preparing and setting the place for the family and friends who are about to come by. It's getting things ready for Santa, of all people, who we know is about to come into our homes and track soot all over the nice, clean floors that we've spent weeks preparing to impress those who already know we don't really live like that. We hang tinsel and lights and stockings, whatever we can do so that we're more focused on our hearths this Christmas than our hearts.
'Tis the season.
Here's what is completely backward and crazy about this whole notion of hustle and bustle: it would have been entirely foreign even to those who likely most should have felt it.
Mary and Joseph are the ones, if anyone, who should know about the hustle and bustle of Christmas. They were the ones traveling just over 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, with some estimates adding almost an additional 20 miles of just plain wandering as they searched for accommodations along the way. Mary, at the time, was fully nine months pregnant, ready to pop at any moment. The two young Jews were likely making some plans for their upcoming wedding, Joseph having abandoned his plans to abandon his bride. And the roads and the inns were so crowded that there was nowhere for them to even lay their heads at night. Our craziest Christmas has nothing on them.
But hustle and bustle is the one thing you don't hear in Mary and Joseph's story. Franticness is one thing you don't hear. Out-of-breath, collapse-on-your-feet tiredness is something you don't hear. Why is that?
It's because they weren't living their Christmas in the mess; they were living it in the promise.
They were living Christmas in recognition of the Spirit that was leaping with life inside of Mary. They were living with one eye on the baby they were about to bring in the world. They had their priorities straight, and they made sure that what came first in their Christmas...was the Christ child.
Instead of living in the business and noise and trial of their own times, they were living in anticipation of something entirely new. Their hearts burst with what was coming, not with all that it took to get there. They did not let their travel or their trouble distract them from their hope, a hope they knew intimately because it was literally welling up inside of them.
That's what we've lost in our Christmas season. That's what the world has convinced us we don't even need to see any more. We talk about this season, and the first two words that come to our mind are "hustle and bustle," but what about "hope and promise"? What if instead of anxiety, we lived with anticipation? What if instead of getting sucked into another Christmas mess this year, we stepped back and settled into the Christmas promise?
What if we got our priorities straight and remembered what comes first this Christmas?
...the Christ child. ..the precious Babe. ...the hope of nations. ...the Son of God.
He's the reason 'tis the season.