(this is repost from several years back, but fitting just the same. may you be encouraged by it.)I was at Target the other night, picking up a few Christmas gifts to deliver to family over our Thanksgiving break. The girls and I were taking our time wandering the toy aisles; seeing what there was, pushing buttons and giggling lots. That's when we saw her. She looked like a very busy mom, bustling through with her cart loaded and a list longer than my arm. She had her bluetooth in her ear and seemed rushed and stressed. She stopped close to us to look at a toy cash register and commented to me how this one was better than the one on the next aisle, how it's on her son's Christmas list. She said, "That's what he wants. I just want it to be over."
With that she sped off, leaving me overcome by two feelings: sadness and exhaustion. The Christmas season hasn't even begun and she's ready to be done with it. It is so easy to miss it, isn't it? To miss the heart of Christmas because we are distracted by all the things that come along with the season, things that God never intended as we celebrate the birth of his son.
Matthew 11:28-30 gives us an invitation. It says, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." I believe that's what God has in mind for us, especially during this Christmas season. I'll be the first to admit that I have a hard time finding rest and remembering the heart of Christmas. I like to decorate and shop and bake, and have things just so for my home and my family. Those things are good, but they distract me from the main thing.
In the midst of that I hear God calling me back to a place of rest and remembrance. He is inviting us not to a Christmas event but to a Christmas encounter. An encounter with him this season that leaves us different, full of peace and rest. I think of the people we've come to know in the story of Christ's birth: the shepherds, the wise men, the evil King Herod, even Mary and Joseph, and so many more. Not one of those people came away unchanged after meeting Jesus. He made an impression, even as a small baby. He's still making impressions today; but we're usually too busy to notice, too busy to hear his voice calling us-inviting us to a life changing encounter with the Living God.
This season I want to answer that call, I want to trade all the pageantry and events of Christmas for an encounter. A meeting with God. That is the heart of Christmas, I pray that we don't miss it.