By Brenda Poinsett
The season meant to honor Jesus can have the ironic effect of crowding Him out. There is too much to do—shopping, baking, decorating, cleaning. There are too many gifts to buy. There are too many expectations to fulfill. There are too many events to attend. There is too much food. Too much money is spent.
To help me deal with it all, I sometimes place a crude wooden manger (what I’d call “authentic Bethlehem”!) filled with straw by the Christmas tree. It will serve as a tangent reminder of what the season is all about, keeping me centered on Jesus rather than the hustle and bustle.
When the pressures of gift selection (Will she like what I bought?) and gift buying (How will I ever find the money?) close in on me, I sit for a while beside the manger. I reach out and touch the rough wood, and I remember the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth, how He came to establish not a material but a spiritual kingdom. That prompts me to think about how I can spiritually give to others. Money doesn’t necessarily buy the best gifts, and I can give of myself in friendship and ministry long after Christmas is over.
When I feel rushed and agitated by Christmas expectations, I think about what everyone expected of Jesus. He was consistently Himself, maintaining that His kingdom was not the political one people wanted. I remember what He said in a vexing conversation with the religious authorities: “I am Who I Am” (John 8:24, 28). Recalling His words remind me that I am a Christ-follower, as well as a woman who can make choices. I can exercise some control over the kind of Christmas I have.
Sometimes when I move the manger to vacuum, I get a splinter in my hand, reminding me that the first Christmas was not perfect either. Mary and Joseph did not have a perfect place to lay their son. Jesus came into an imperfect world and accomplished His mission through imperfect people. This reminds me to not be surprised when my Christmas does not go perfectly.
I’m sometimes reluctant to entertain during the holidays because my furniture is shabby, the carpet is frayed, and the upholstery on the wingback chair has a big hole in it. (I’ve tried covering it with an afghan in hopes it won’t slip off, but invariably it does, giving me a real appreciation for Jesus’ words, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed.”) I cringe at the thought of the detail-noticing gazes of the women who will come. When they step through the door, my house will be under their scrutiny.
I reason: I just can’t invite people here…and then I look at the manger. I rub my hand over the coarse wood, and I remember another invited guest. Jesus will be present!
So I breathe, “I am who I am,” pick up my pen, and start addressing invitations. A sense of expectancy begins to rise within me. I look forward to His presence and for a chance to share Him with my guests. I can’t predict what that will look like, but He will be there because I am who I am and He is who He is.
[Jesus] said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am…’ Many who heard Jesus say these things believed in him. John 8:28a, 30 TEV
About the author: Brenda Poinsett works with women who want a new lease on life and with adults who want to know Jesus. She does this through writing, speaking and teaching. She’s the author of more than 20 books including Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas. She and some of her family will celebrate Jesus this Christmas at their home near Saint Louis.
The Christmas season can often be a time of great stress and pressure for women, who feel the weight of expectation for a “perfect” holiday. Can Martha have a Mary Christmas is a practical book of meditations that will help the “Martha” in each of us realize that she is entitled to the “Mary” time with Jesus that He desires.
Join the conversation: What stresses you out during this holiday season?