It’s almost that time of year again—yep, Christmas. And, oh, there are so many distractions to look forward to. The new iPhone is out, and my contract is up. I don’t really need a remote-controlled drone, but man that looks fun. My parents are getting older, my in-laws are getting older, and they won’t be around for too many more Christmas seasons—so whose house do we go to this year? I’m determined to lose weight again this year, and this time I’ll keep it off. Does the pile of presents for my daughter look a little bigger than my son’s? Last year we wrapped the house in some new LED lights. This year I think we should pipe music outside.
But, hey, this Christmas I’m vowing (like I’ve vowed every year before) to actually keep my focus on Jesus.
Sermons, posters, bumper stickers, and Facebook memes remind us, year after year, that we’re supposed to remember the “reason for the season.” But I’m beginning to really hate that phrase. It’s static noise in my life.
Think back for second: Have you ever experienced a Christmas without distractions? I can’t remember one. Sure, we had Christmas mornings as children when we didn’t have a care in the world, except for the uncertainty of what was under the tree. But since you decided to follow Jesus, have you ever experienced a laser-focused Christmas? Even my days in “normal time” are full of distractions. Remembering the “reason for the season” seems like a fairy tale.
Distractions that steal our attention from Jesus don’t start at Christmastime; they’re waiting at our bedside, from the moment we wake up in the morning. Distractions don’t have the power to make me forget that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. But they do have the power to undermine my confidence in God’s control. Faith is believing that God tells the truth, and distractions create doubt about that truth.
If you’re a visual learner like me, examples of faith-keepers really help me stay the course during the Christmas season and throughout the whole year. Here are three that may help us both:
She had distractions. Raging hormones, very young and pregnant, an uncomfortable ride on a donkey, and an awkward and perhaps strained relationship with Joseph. She had to endure a hard trip to Bethlehem, an uncertain new marriage, and some disapproving public opinion.
He had distractions. A new marriage (without consummation), a pregnancy that he didn’t cause, the responsibility of providing for a family, dealing with a moody wife, and trying to take care of a mother and infant. Not a single room available in all of Bethlehem—are you kidding me?
From 2 Corinthians 11:24-28: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move…”
These three people’s lives were infested with distractions, yet they remained faithful. The key to beating back distractions is facing them with humility. In life and ministry, your focus changes everything. Our pastor recently shed new light on what humility means: It’s not thinking lower of yourself—it’s not thinking of yourself at all.
That’s how I’m going to fight the distractions. It’s going to be a day-by-day, praying-for-strength-in-Christ kind of effort. Are you with me?