You know what I usually do when I get tired? I keep going. Then I get sick.
This is a pattern that repeats itself several times a year. You’d think I would learn, but I never do. I always think I can do just one more thing. Eventually, God draws the line for me and sends me to bed. In no uncertain terms.
It’s especially easy to get rundown this time of year. There are still the things I have to do (my job comes to mind). And then there are all the things I want to do (it’s Christmas time, after all!) I do find it a little interesting, though, that all this bustle is in preparation for a day which originally had about as little preparation as we can possibly imagine. Can you imagine telling your guests this year, “Oh, hi! Sorry we weren’t expecting you and the house is full, but help yourself to the stable out back.” Or consider the probability that the wisemen didn’t even show up until a year or two after Jesus’ birth! (This makes me feel better about sending my Christmas cards in January.)
Despite the seeming lack of preparation, I can only imagine that the Creator of the universe who orchestrates every detail of every human life paid extra special attention to the birth of His Son. Which means that it must have transpired exactly the way He wanted. If that’s the case, then maybe we need to rethink the kind of commemoration He wants today. Maybe he wants us, like the wise men, to set down our gifts and worship Him. Maybe He wants us, like the shepherds, to proclaim the good news and rejoice in God. Maybe He wants us, like Mary, to ponder all of these things in our hearts. Maybe He wants us, in fact, to not prepare at all, but to show up, just as we are. “Come to me” Jesus says, “all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
This sounds pretty good. Why on earth don’t I take Him up on that offer more often? The answer, I think, goes something like this.
There is a dark underbelly to the Christmas story that we don’t talk about during our brightly lit festivities. We don’t mention what other ramifications were brought about by the wisemen’s visit to worship Jesus. We don’t mention, in fact, that Jesus also said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34b).
Jesus Himself, of course, never wielded a sword, but He knew His very presence would be divisive. And it didn’t take long for the sword to manifest itself. When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi (Matthew 2:16). It was the original sin all over again. It was a man fearing his power would be overthrown by this “King of the Jews.” It was a man, once again, trying to place his own power above God’s. Herod did not want to take on Jesus’ yoke. He wanted his own.
On some level, we all waiver between Herod’s grasp for power and the wisemen’s giving of their burdens to Jesus in worship. When we focus too much on earthly matters, we are like Herod, concerned only with ourselves or with things that don’t really matter. But if we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf, we are able to release our burdens to Jesus and experience His peace. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:7). It is not something we can do on our own. Paul knew this when he cried out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But Paul also knew the answer. “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord”(Romans 7:24). We can come to Jesus anytime we are weary and burdened. Like the wisemen, we can set our gifts down and worship Him. Like the shepherds, we can proclaim the good news. Like Mary, we can ponder all of these things in our hearts. Indeed, when we set our minds away from our selfish desires and onto the Spirit of Jesus, we will find that His yoke is easy. It is, in fact, life and peace itself.
For today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).