Are You Ready for Christmas?
By Pastor Larry Schram
It really was an innocent question.
I was bouncing around in a pickup truck on a logging road and since Christmas was just a few weeks away, I asked my companion the obvious question: "So, are you ready for Christmas?" His response was clear and unforgettable. "I will answer that question this time but please don't ever ask me again. No, I am not ready for Christmas." I was a little surprised by the edge in his response but not by his answer. I never feel ready for Christmas. Maybe it is because Christmas has become so complex and challenging. Maybe it's because there are just so many activities and sensitivities, decisions and expectations and so many events and expenses that, no matter how organized I get or how much I pray, I never feel ready. Never.
I find myself every year on Christmas Eve wondering why I don't feel ready. The gifts are always purchased and wrapped, I have prepared for the events and the food is in the fridge. I should feel ready as all the bases are covered, but I don't. For many years I thought it was because I hadn't prayed enough or read my Bible enough, or lit enough candles. I often wondered if it was my sub-conscience telling me I had forgotten something important. For whatever reason, I have never felt ready for Christmas and that sense of not being ready is very disconcerting.
I just became a grandfather again with the arrival of twin girls last week. As I was holding them and marveling at their beauty and the simple joy they bring with their presence I realized something. I wasn't ready to meet them and I never would have been. Just like I wasn't ready to be a husband or a father or a pastor. I prepared for all those things but I never felt ready for any of them. They weren't things I could really prepare for. They were simply gifts of grace and relationships I needed to experience. I think Christmas is exactly like that. We can prepare all we want but it's not something you will ever be completely ready for. Like marriage, babies and major life changes it is something you can only experience.
When we fail to grasp this I think we turn Christmas into a chore.
I could approach my granddaughters that way. I could decide that it is a chore to change their diapers, a chore to hold them and rock them to sleep and an expensive chore to travel and see them. Or I can simply marvel at who they are and experience the awesome gift of their new life. I don't want my grandchildren to ever feel that they are a chore and I don't want to approach Christmas like a chore. I have never felt ready for Christmas and I am not sure I ever will. But I believe I can experience the heart of Christmas, the true Christmas presence of Immanuel, if I stop trying to get ready and just sit and marvel at who he is – just like I marvel at my grandchildren.
I have not asked my friend again if he was ready for Christmas and I am going to try and completely remove that phrase from my life. Instead, my prayer for us all is this: May the presence of Immanuel be with us and may the wonder and grace of that gift never be a chore.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22- 23