Christmas is coming

Published 5:40 am Sunday, November 26, 2017

I once took a “stress test.” This test consisted of a long list of items; I was to check everything I had experienced within the last year. Each item had a predetermined number of points; the value of the marked items was totaled; the higher the total, the more stress I supposedly had in my life. The test suggested anyone scoring above 100 should seek stress counseling. I had checked a few items when about three-quarters of the way through it hit – my highest stress point of the year – Christmas. Christmas alone was worth ten points – ten percent of the suggested total to receive professional help. In comparison, out-patient surgery scored an eight. It appears that Christmas is more stressful than a vasectomy.

Buying gifts, arranging family get-togethers, the family gatherings themselves, school programs, office parties, church programs, taking the kids to see Santa, the decorating, extra cooking, the burden on the pocketbook, all of this and more make December 26th the day adults are waiting for – the day we wake up and say, “It’s over!”

It is sad that a day set aside to honor the Saviour of the world has turned into a season of dread and a high amount of stress. I have a theory; could it be that removing the Saviour from the season is making the season more stressful?

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I have seen the holiday becoming more and more secular, but it was about ten years ago when I was shocked into understanding how little Christ was a part of Christmas.

It was early December, and the church had three visitors – three children brought by a neighbor who regularly attends. Three wonderful girls ages twelve, nine and six. The older two were sisters, and the younger was a cousin.

The kids were practicing the Christmas program when the girls came. It was your typical Children’s Church Christmas program. There was a Mary, a Joseph, a baby Jesus, shepherds, an innkeeper, and children dressed up like sheep and other animals. All three girls loved dressing up as animals with the other children, making barnyard noises while Mary and Joseph spoke their lines.

When it was over, the twelve-year-old came up to my wife and asked, “What does any of this have to do with Christmas?” After the initial surprise, my wife had the privilege of telling the girls the Christmas story. All three of them were hearing it for the first time.

In the years since this experience, we have found more children with no knowledge of Mary, Joseph, or baby Jesus (on a side note – we have discovered even fewer children that know anything of the Resurrection and Easter story).

Over time the story of Christmas has shifted from God Almighty coming as a baby born of a virgin so He may seek and save the lost; to a man in a red suit delivering toys to all the good children of earth.

This Christmas season, attempt to reduce the stress a bit by placing the following story in your heart and sharing it with others; especially the children.

Luke 2:1-14, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Preacher Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind.