Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. In my family there is a tradition that we must always read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we can open our presents. We also have to spend some time singing Christmas carols.
As a child, this was excruciating! I would sit just inches away from my presents and I couldn’t open them. Dad would slowly read each verse from that chapter and with each phrase my anticipation would increase. When he finished I would be squirming on the floor, completely distracted, waiting to get to the “best part.”
Still, I had to wait. Mom would begin the singing, usually with Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. I wanted to leave the singing to the angels so I could get to my gifts. Yet there was more singing to be done. Sometimes Mom would lead us in six or seven carols. I would be nervously bouncing up and down anxious to get to the “best part.”
Finally, the time would come and Dad would pass out each gift to us. I would quickly tear through the paper and find something I had begged for in a box waiting for me. We didn’t have much money, so there were never lots of gifts, but somehow that one thing I really wanted was there. After the noise had died down and the Christmas paper was in trash bags, I would sit and think about how I had survived another “best part” of Christmas.
As an adult, I really don’t remember much of what I got during the “best part.” (Okay, I do remember my Six Million Dollar Man action figure whose bionic arm was ripped off on December 26, 1975 by my cousin, but that is about it.) What I do remember is that Mom and Dad always brought the true meaning of Christmas front and center in our celebrations.
I remember the words of Luke where it says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That’s what my folks taught me to do. I try to treasure the season and ponder how incredible it is that the God who created the universe loved me enough to come and be like me. I try to ponder the idea of Jesus laying down all that is Heaven and coming to Earth in a smelly, dank barn. I try to ponder godly parents who always tried to make sure we remembered that the Christmas story is all about Jesus. The story of redemption that began with that little baby in a manger is really the “best part” of all.
December can be a crazy month in ministry. I pray that as you celebrate with your teenagers and your own families this year you would emphasize the real story of Christmas. I pray that you will take time out of the hustle and bustle of gift exchanges and good food to lead others in pondering the reason we can celebrate. I pray that you will personally ponder the fact that the little baby in the manger would become the man suffering on a cross for your sins. I pray you will ponder the power of the empty tomb that would lead to death’s final destructions three decades after angels appeared to common shepherds in a field. I pray that you will not let this season go, without pondering the “best part.”