The Reason for the Season| By Emily Lawson

I’m a procrastinator. Majorly! Doomed forever into a life of rushing and running ragged. 

Though usually much better in previous years, this last week, I’ve done ALL of my Christmas shopping (we buy for around forty people!) and put up the Christmas tree. Like I said, I’m a procrastinator! 

My mind has been on what this person would like, where this present needs to go, how much wrapping paper I need to get, do I have bows, do I have enough flour for cookies, what day is that happening? 

But when I took the time to read the story of Jesus’ birth recently, I realized something I had missed. 

I hadn’t taken the time to appreciate the meaning of the season. 

In previous years, I have been able to enjoy the week before Christmas. Seeing the lights, liking my tree, wrapping the gifts, baking cookies, and starting to think about the season and its actual meaning. 

Christ’s birth. The salvation plan beginning.

This past weekend, my church’s youth group had a Christmas play based on the Innkeeper’s perspective of the birth of Jesus, and all the regrets he had after that night. 

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (KJV)

A thirty minute play, and the moral of the story being that the world STILL makes no room for Jesus. 

We are rushing to get to work. We are rushing to get home. We are rushing to make time for friends, family, get togethers, birthday parties, and more. 

And, the world has forgotten that this life is about more than “going”. 

Think about it, they didn’t have ultrasounds and pregnancy apps when Mary was pregnant. She knew that pregnancy was about nine months and she was due soon, but they still had to go pay taxes. 

And the Bible says in Luke 2:6 that “while they were there, the days were accomplished”. Can you imagine the panic of finding some place to have your baby? And a first time mom, wanting everything to be perfect? The anxiety that must have been going through her as she had to resort to a manger to birth the SON OF GOD! That definitely was NOT in the birth plan she had made! 

However, I also know, that as soon as that baby was born, she knew that all was okay. She knew that it didn’t matter where he was born, and she knew exactly where her priorities were. She was saved by His presence. Stolen away from the anxiety, worry, and worldly needs and wants of the moment. 

Good news! This world can be also! 

Being in his presence is the best present of all this holiday season.

Let Him wash that anxiety of getting everything perfect for the holidays away, and let Him set your focus. His birth is the reason for the season, and everything else falls behind. 

Giving is a wonderful thing to do for Christmas each year, but let’s also each TAKE the time this holiday season to sit with Him and thank Him for the gift of His coming!

Interruptions or Opportunities?| Teoria Murray

One lazy Sunday afternoon, I was lounging in bed engrossed in a good book, relishing in the rarity of a weekend off work. I planned to immerse myself in the peace and quiet, only moving from my bedroom to the kitchen and back again as needed.   

In the middle of my relaxation, the doorbell rang, and I dragged myself to the door. It was my aunt and uncle, making a spontaneous visit. Before I could greet them, I had the wind knocked out of me by an enthusiastic hug around my abdomen. My 7-year-old cousin Hannah gave me a wide smile. 

“Teoria! I’ve been wanting to play with you all day!” she gushed.

I swallowed a sigh and returned her embrace. My relaxation would be put on hold for the moment.

We have all felt the frustration of being interrupted or delayed. We can find ourselves interrupted or thrown off course by long lines, needy neighbors, traffic, or loved ones in crisis.

On a larger scale, sometimes God interrupts our plans with His own. When Jesus was born into our world, it was in a place and at a time when no one was expecting Him. Zacharias, an elderly priest with a beloved but barren wife, was faithfully serving in the temple of the Lord when an angel appeared. Prayers, perhaps long abandoned, were answered in the pronouncement that he would be the father of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Though initially he doubted, Zacharias experienced the faithfulness of God.

Months later, Mary was interrupted by the news that she would bear the Savior. She was engaged to be married in a culture where even the suggestion of impropriety carried severe penalties. Yet ,she embraced her calling, responding to the angel,

 “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38 NLT)

On the night Christ was born in Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were involved in the quiet mundane routine of tending their sheep. Their ordinary night was transformed by the appearance of a multitude of angels announcing the Savior’s birth. God chose an unlikely group of men in an unlikely location and showcased His glory to them. With great joy, they went in search of Jesus and found Him just as they had been told. Like the shepherds, wise men from the East received revelation of the birth of the king of the Jews and traveled to Bethlehem, following a star. Their faith was rewarded when they found the child Jesus and were able to worship Him and present Him with gifts.

These divine interruptions were more important than those affected could have imagined at the time. 

Christian author Ellen G. White once wrote, “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him.” 

To experience God’s best and highest desires for us, we must be in step with Him in our daily lives. This is only possible through consistent prayer and the study of God’s word, so we can recognize His voice. 

Most of us will not experience the appearance of angels to redirect our path. Instead, we may hear God calling us aside in the counsel of a spiritual advisor, a new and unexpected opportunity, or even a closed door. At these times, we have a decision to make because God will not force our hand. 

Mary could have chosen not to be a vessel and nurturer for God’s Son, preferring to follow the plan she had already envisioned for her life.  The shepherds could have continued their duties as usual. The wisemen could have dismissed the star that guided them and returned to their studies. God would have chosen others to carry on His plans, but those who refused would have missed out in a big way.

It is wise to have plans and goals for each day, but let’s not be too rigid. Always leave room for miracles, because what looks to us like falling off track may actually be God setting us up for an amazing journey. So the next time you are interrupted, pause and seek God’s word on the matter. That apparent delay could be a blessing in disguise.