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Two men who decided to go sailing instead of Christmas shopping with their wives launched their sailboat and were making their way out into the ocean when a big storm came. The boat took on a lot of water, and they eventually were beached. As they worked in the freezing water to get the boat off the sandbar, getting beat up against the hull, one turned to the other and said, “Sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn’t it?”
In the midst of our search for the ultimate deals, maybe we all should take a deep breath and remember what this time is all about. Sometimes in all of the activity, we can lose sight of the real meaning behind this season. We are too busy celebrating Christmas.
It seems like we certainly have lost the name of Jesus in the Christmas celebration. We don’t see the word “Christmas” as much as we used to. It has been replaced with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” or “Winter Break” or even “the Winter Solstice,” as some describe it.
It seems people have hijacked Christmas, just as they have hijacked Thanksgiving. The new name for Thanksgiving is Turkey Day. Turkey Day? What is that all about? I saw an ad in a newspaper for a bar that was serving vodka-drenched turkey, with the promise of one ounce of vodka in every bite. Of course, that must have been what the Pilgrims had in mind when they set a day apart for thanksgiving to God. Their menu included eel and eagles, but turkey didn’t come until quite a bit later. But we have turned Thanksgiving into Turkey Day and Christmas into Season’s Greetings, and we have lost sight of their original meaning altogether.
I think we can even lose sight of God. It is quite easy to do.
The good news is that God never loses sight of us. The blessing the priests were to pronounce over the Israelites was, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26 NKJV). The phrase “lift up His countenance” could be translated from the original language as “to look, to see, to know, to be interested, to have one’s full attention.” So God is saying, in effect, “I am going to bless you. I am going to keep you. And you have my full attention. I am paying attention to you.”
Have you ever been pouring your heart out to someone who looks distracted, like they really don’t care? As you are talking, they stare blankly into space and occasionally comment with a “Really?” or a “That’s interesting.” Or they are texting while you are talking, or worse, they take a call on their cell: “Hey, what’s up? Yeah. … No, I’m not doing anything. …”
If you are wondering whether God is even aware of what is happening in your life right now, the answer is yes – absolutely. The essential message of Christmas is that God came to us. His name, Immanuel, means, “God is with us.” He always is watching you, always caring for you – even when you are not always watching him.
On one occasion when Jesus dispatched his disciples across the Sea of Galilee and a great storm came, he was not on board at that particular time. He was on a mountain praying. They could not see him, but he could see them, and he ultimately came to them, walking on the water.
In the same way, he is watching you. He is praying for you.
Even so, we do lose sight of him. A friend of mine who is also a pastor told me that once when his son was praying, he said, “Lord, thank you for sending your only forgotten son.” He meant to say “begotten son,” but he misunderstood and said, “forgotten son.”
That is how it has become for many people today. God’s only begotten son is God’s only forgotten son. And one of the easiest times to do that is during the Christmas season. We can be so busy with our activities that we forget all about Jesus, and we can lose him at this time of year. God’s only begotten son can become for us God’s only forgotten son. Often when we become too busy, we will cut out what we think are the nonessentials, like reading the Bible or praying. That always interests me when I hear people say they don’t have time for Bible study. But maybe there are some things they could cut out so they will have a little bit more time for it. In fact, I think we will always find time for what is important to us, no matter what. And the last thing we ought to cut out is our time studying the Word of God, and our time of prayer as we get ready for the day. But often that is what people will cut out first.
And sometimes we can be too busy even doing so-called “spiritual things.” We can be so busy working for God that we miss God. We think of people who are far from God as those who leave the fellowship of other Christians, ignore God’s Word, and go out into the world and live foolish lives. But you can be active in church and attending every week and still lose sight of Jesus.
In Revelation 2, Jesus offers his prescription for renewal when we have lost sight of him: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (verse 5 NKJV). First, you remember. You think back and say, “You know, there was a time when my life was much stronger spiritually. There was a time when my commitment to Christ was far more passionate. I need to remember that.”
Then, you repent. You get back to where you were before. The word “repent” means to change your direction. It is like hanging a U-turn on the road of life and starting to live the way God wants you to live.
Finally, you repeat. You “do the first works.” In other words, you get back to where you once belonged.
The message of Christmas is God is with us. If you have lost God, if you have forgotten about him as the years have passed by, then I have good news: God has not forgotten about you. So don’t forget Jesus during this Christmas season. He certainly hasn’t forgotten you.