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Religious Reflections

A Christmas to remember

by Pastor Bob North

The hustle and bustle of yet another holiday season has arrived and with it comes a plethora of demands causing us to often succumb to those that seem to have the ability to "stake claims" of utmost importance. However, if we are able to objectively stand back and review them one-by-one, our discovery frequently reveals that these "important demands" are from the ones that only know how to scream at us the loudest.

Perhaps we need to evaluate more often what is really of importance so we can respond first to those, without feeling the pressure to give in to the "urgency of the moment." Let's face it, Christmas was never meant to be as stressful as we seem to make it.

Long ago there lived a couple who were engaged to be married. Theirs was probably like any story book romance. One day, however, everything changed in one brief encounter. The young lady in the story was most likely making preparations for the wedding (you know; the invitations, the cake, the wedding gown, bridesmaids gowns and such) when out of nowhere there appeared this glorious, heavenly being with news that she was going to give birth by the Holy Spirit, to the long awaited Messiah. Talk about stress! After letting this extremely impacting news process in her mind she knew that she could not withhold this revelation from Joseph. She must tell him.

Can you imagine the thoughts racing through her mind as she contemplated what Joseph might feel and say? As you well know Joseph had already been prepared for the news. They responded by drawing close to each other and Joseph, like any valiant man, sought to protect his betrothed from rumors and unnecessary trouble.

Mary began working vigorously, making preparations for this divine infant who was to be the Messiah who had been foretold long ago. Like most first-time expecting mothers, she probably watched what she ate; got the proper rest needed, and sought counsel from trusted companions concerning her delivery. Not only did Mary have the normal pregnancy issues to deal with, but also the added pressure and emotions of knowing that she was carrying not just any baby, she was going to give birth to the Savior of the world.

That blessed evening came and Mary gave birth to Immanuel, God with us. Although we are not given the specifics of the birth process (details such as how long labor lasted, the extent of the pain, complications, the messiah's weight or length, etc.) we can well speculate, based on experience, what may have taken place that evening in the stable. It is more likely than not that Mary did experience a tremendous amount of pain in the birthing process. It is also more likely than not that she labored very hard. After all, this was her first time giving birth and it was God's plan all along that the Messiah would come into this world in a very humble and normal way.

Giving birth to the greatest gift the world could ever receive has been accomplished. All the efforts had been more than worth the gift, simply because mankind had been afforded the greatest opportunity in the history of the world; the gift of life to the fullest.

As I write this, I am struck with the thought that perhaps we are trying to exert much the same effort as Mary, to give birth to a bigger and better gift, or office party than was given last year. While these gifts are surely given out of love and noble admirations, we must realize that the labor, stress and, dare I say, 'pain', we often go through in the process can be giving into the 'urgency of the moment' instead of the more important. Perhaps we have a need to de-emphasize the giving of gifts to one another and focus more on giving to Christ the only gift that He desires; ourselves. After all, it is His birthday.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why, so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust Him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to Him.

John 3:16-18, The Message

Pastor Bob North serves at Neighborhood Church.

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