The Monster in the Manger

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… you can’t read those words without adding the tune, at least in your mind. Christmas is a wonderful time because it is the time of celebration of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2). Christians recognize the Messiah to be the baby born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). The sign to the shepherds was finding the baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:12). So, much of Old Testament prophecy pointed to this great event in the life of the community.

In America, we have removed the Messiah in the manger and replaced him with the monster in the manger. To a few people, it appears to be offensive to make any reference to Jesus during Christmas, preferring to emphasize Santa, reindeer and good old fashioned consumerism (dare I say, materialism). In a lot of places we have to remove the word “Christmas” and insert “holidays.” Hey, if this is the only persecution the church receives, it is pretty mild compared to what believers are enduring around the world, just for professing faith in Jesus Christ.

Today I want to remind you of an over-used story in the Bible (although never to my knowledge is it in the context of Christmas). It is used often in the context of choices, women’s roles, discipleship, service, or the need to spend more time with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This was a family whom Jesus loved very much. It was sort of like family coming home for the holidays. The first thing I notice is that Martha spent so much time serving Jesus that she had no time to enjoy his company. As a pastor, I fear this happening in my life and must constantly be on my guard against it. After all, Jesus called his disciples to first BE WITH him (Mark 3:14) before he sent them out to serve him.

Frustration apparently arose over Mary not doing her part to help out. Everything had to be perfect for the guest who were coming over. That which started out as gladness and celebration ended up in resentment and envy.

Christmas is a special time when we want everything to be perfect… the right thoughtful gift that expresses our feelings for someone; the party plans require cleaning, and shopping, and invitations, and cooking, and decorations, and all of this leads to exhaustion. If it is not perfect, then we are just a failure. How many times have you been so spent physically and emotionally that you are unable to enjoy the Christmas season?

We must keep the baby in the manger as our primary focus during Christmas, because we can be all about being so busy during Christmas that we forget what the nativity is all about. If the Messiah is being diminished, we are replacing him with a monster!

Even if what you are doing is for the glory of God, God will not ask you to do something that will hinder your relationship with him! Spend time with him rather than just serve him. Sometimes we actively serve him and at other times we quietly sit at his feet.

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