Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land! The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield a mere ephah. Ah, you who rise early in the morning in pursuit of strong drink, who linger in the evening to be inflamed by wine, whose feasts consist of lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine, but who do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands! Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood, who drag sin along as with cart ropes, who say, “Let him make haste, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfillment, that we may know it!” Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight! Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant at mixing drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of their rights! Isaiah 5:8-12, 18-23 (NRSV)
We have been sold a lie. Christmas is not about greed and gluttony. It is not about receiving, and the more we focus on the receiving, the more dissappointed we will be on Monday the 26th. That’s right… Christmas is coming, but the Monday the 26th comes right afterwards. If you blink, you’ll miss it all, as you get caught up in the rush.
Isaiah wrote to Israel and challenged their values of wealth and luxury. Where will all your stuff be when you stand before the Lord Almighty and are asked to account for your life? What will happen to your property when Christ comes again, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and claims it all as His own? What will be the use of your luxury when God is bringing justice into the world?
We see this brought to life when our favorite vacationing spots suffer from disasters. Hurricanes and fires wreak havok on the lives of communities whose economies are based on providing luxury and tourist attractions for the wealthy. You can build up a community quickly with smart investing and good marketing, but money and advertising do not make a true community. It can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Communities disappear, Christmas presents break… the only thing we have control over is what we give. The only thing that lasts is love. Love comes and goes. We can receive it, but we cannot hide it away for safe keeping. We cannot buy it and make ourselves drunk on it. We can only receive it and pass it on.
Love is the only thing we really need this season and, like breathing in and out, we only are able to receive as much into ourselves as we are able to empty our selves out of ourselves. My ego gets in the way and prevents me from receiving love as it spreads over me like a security blanket. The gospel narrative tells us and shows us that it is not by taking that we are filled, but by giving that God fills us. The best way to experience and receive Christmas, is to come and empty yourself before Jesus, so that you can experience the love of God, undistracted… the love that came down from heaven and lived among us.
- Where have you noticed God breaking into your busyness?
- What is your biggest distraction from receiving God’s love today?
- How can you empty yourself and make room for Jesus in your life?
On Christmas Eve in 1818
A blizzard stranded the tiny village of Ogledorf
Nestled in the Austrian mountains
That same day the people of St. Nicholas’ church found their organ broken
So the priest and organist began composing a song that could be sung without
An organ yet beautiful enough to express their Christmas joy
All day and all night long they worked
And at midnight the gentle carol Silent Night was born
The pure clear tones echoed through the hills
And the world has been captured by the beauty of that simple song ever since.
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace