Well, it is hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us.  And today I am introducing our Christmas series, entitled “Missing Jesus.”  I’m really looking forward to this discussion through the Holidays because it is going to give us a chance to look at the Christmas story from an important and unique perspective, but it also is going to give us a chance to be realistic and talk about some of the challenges that come up around this time of year.  So, if you are like me you are sitting in some amazement right now trying to wrap your mind around how quickly another year has passed by, time seems to just be flying by, but it is our prayer is that you can slow down and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas through all that comes with the Holidays…and let’s face it, while there is a lot of good that comes with the Holidays, there are a lot of personal challenges, emotions, and heart issues that can come out this time of year too.  So it’s a beautiful time of year, and can be so rewarding when we can focus on the true meaning and reason for all the celebrations and festivities.  So, I want to welcome you to our Christmas series here at MRC!  We hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday, hopefully having time to eat some turkey, rest, and enjoy time with your family, but with Thanksgiving behind us, and the calendar turning to December, we look forward to Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Savior.

So, as we get started here today, I will just say this, it’s hard to miss Christmas, isn’t it?  I know it is in my house.  My wife and daughters are ready to decorate our home for Christmas by early November.  I think Syd started baking Christmas cookies the first week of November this year…and no they didn’t make it to Christmas, her brothers made sure of that!  But it feels like I start to hear Christmas music in my home and cars a little earlier every year and I’m will just say that I’m not ready, now I don’t believe I’m like the Grinch that stole Christmas, but you know, having a Birthday on and around Thanksgiving every year, I think I have the moral obligation and responsibility to protect Thanksgiving and not allow Thanksgiving to be forgotten but it feels like just in my home alone, it’s like holding the ocean back with a broom because Christmas is a big one, and a loud one, and it’s coming!  So, every time I come home in October and November, I’m cautiously opening the door slowly, and wondering if I’m walking into Mariah Carey’s Christmas album blaring loudly and the tree being decorated!  But whether you live with a bunch of Christmassy people like I do or not, it is hard to miss Christmas, isn’t it?  Seriously, this Holiday gets a lot of attention.  I mean by late October we are seeing the stores already selling the Christmas stuff.  We are hearing Christmas music in all the stores.  So, in many ways, it’s impossible to miss Christmas, because it is everywhere. It’s in the stores, it’s on TV, it’s on the radio, it’s in our children’s activities like the school plays, and parties, it’s all about Christmas. But what we really want to talk to you about through the holidays is that you can walk through the Christmas season and miss the point, and reason for why we celebrate and what all the festivities are supposed to be about.  We aren’t going to miss Christmas because it’s out there for us to see all over the place, but it is possible that we miss Jesus, whose birthday we are celebrating…this is so huge, The Savior was born, announced this way to the Shepherds.

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. NIV

This Savior is known as Immanuel, which means that God is now with us!  This is how the angel explained it to Joseph, who was struggling to wrap his mind around his virgin fiancé’s pregnancy.

Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” NIV

This is what it’s all about, unto us a Savior is born, God now with us!  Because of this we have hope, and a future to look forward to, because of Jesus, we can walk through life differently.  It’s the birth of our Savior that we are celebrating and are to center all the festivities around, but when you think about it…more often than not, we miss Jesus.  One of the things that is so fascinating about the Christmas story, and Jesus’ arrival, was that most people missed it, back in the day.  I mean outside of some shepherds, a couple of wisemen, and Mary and Joseph, life just kind of moved on while this enormous, life changing event was taking place.  I mean, the town of Bethlehem missed Jesus. The innkeeper, the religious elites, and King Herod all missed Jesus and if we aren’t deliberate and careful, so can we.  So, this year, we want to take some time and talk about different things that can cause us to miss Jesus.  We are going to talk about busyness and the hustle and bustle that comes with the Holidays.  We will talk about materialism and all that presents and stuff that consumes so much of us through the Holidays.  We will look at how for some, we can miss Jesus because we have heard this story before…over and over again and it’s lost some its luster because we get it, and we know it, and we have heard it before, and we will talk about how for some they miss Jesus because of fear and aren’t really looking for a Savior that would come to their lives and lead them to life change.  This will give us a chance to dive into the Christmas story and show you different people who fell into some of these mistakes and missed Jesus themselves!

So today I want to talk to you about a very popular way that we miss Jesus during the Holidays…and that is because we are just too busy!  Our lives are filled up with family, parties, shopping, cooking, gifts, Christmas pageants, and all kinds of different Christmas events and before we know it, there just isn’t any room left for Jesus.  It’s very cultural or popular these days to look at a calendar and look ahead to Christmas and just feel completely overwhelmed and flustered rather than excited to celebrate this amazing gift of Jesus.  It’s so unfortunate, but there are many reasons for this today, and I want you to see that we can actually see something similar happening in the Christmas story itself.  So Mary and Joseph are doing what most of us do for the holidays, they are traveling home, and they bump into a very busy man as they try to find a place to stay in Bethlehem.  So, the first character we will take some time on this Christmas season is the Innkeeper who literally missed Jesus.  For the Innkeeper business was booming at this time, the town was full of travelers because Caesar Augustus wanted a census of all that was the Roman empire or world, which meant everyone had to travel to their hometown to register.  So, think of the times back then, this would be very inconvenient with no cars, airplanes, or trains for people, no smartphones or iPad or Wi-Fi to entertain yourself on the ride, and was certainly inconvenient for Joseph and the very pregnant Mary, but this was good news for the Inn Keeper’s business.  His Inn was full, the ‘No Vacancy’ was happily on display and I’m sure he had plenty to do!  But with all the activity, he was too busy to recognize what was going on and couldn’t make room for this young couple who needed a place for her to give birth to the Savior of the Universe.

Luke 2:2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. NIV

I really want us to focus on verse 7 today as we talk about how we can miss Jesus this Christmas season.  Because there is just something about that phrasing that stands out to me…

Luke 2:7 …She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  NIV

There was no room for them in the inn.  It’s hard to imagine that isn’t it?  An innkeeper looking at this very pregnant young woman and saying, ‘Sorry we don’t have any room for you in this nice warm inn…good luck to you, I hope it works out!’  Wow!  But when you stop and think about it, you and I can end up in a very similar spot.  We get busy, and frazzled, we have so going on in our lives that it can be very easy to miss Jesus.  I mean it’s not like Mary and Joseph were screaming for attention or had a sign over their heads that the Savior was in her belly!  I think life is like that for us too, there are just a lot of things that take our attention that are much louder than God seems to be in our lives.  And to add to that, much like the Inn you and I only have so much capacity.  We just came through a series on Spiritual Success where we talked about the fact that we have limits in our lives and that it was very important for us to brace that reality.  So the Inn only had so much space, well we only have so much capacity too. We only have so much energy.  We only have so many resources.  We only have so many hours in each day, and once that is all filled up, we have no room for anything else in our lives and sadly, in the world we live in today, it’s rare to see people who actually have room for Jesus…because just like the Inn, and something that only is exaggerated through the Holiday Season, our lives are filled to capacity.

So, the big question of the day as we start our Christmas conversation is this.  How do we make room for Jesus in our lives this Holiday season and beyond?  Well, it’s a great question and one that we are going to spend our time answering today…but I want you to see how easy it is to miss Jesus because we only have so much margin and capacity in our lives, and we can easily fill that all up without even really seeing it or thinking too much about it, but it’s in that busyness, that we walk through the Holidays overwhelmed, flustered, and just like the Innkeeper and his Inn we have limits to how much we can actually put in our lives.  So, are you tracking with me so far here today?  We don’t want to miss Jesus and it’s easy to do in the Christmas hustle and bustle.  The calendar can fill up quickly and we only have so much margin and capacity in our lives and when we fill it all up, it’s easy to walk through the Holiday’s overwhelmed and exhausted and just glad that they are over rather than engaging into the gift that this Season should and could be.

So, we need to take a moment right now and personalize this.  Let’s slow down, be intentional and think this through.  We don’t want to miss Jesus, so we need to ask this question and answer it honestly.  What takes room in your life through the Holidays and beyond?  What takes from you, and is filling up your heart and your mind?  What may be filling up your life to capacity so that you have no room left for Jesus? 

For so many of us we are moving through life, and we don’t take the time to be intentional or slow down enough to ask important questions like this…but we miss Jesus during the time we celebrate His birth and entrance into our lives and this world because of so many things.  So, stop and think about it. What is it for you?  It can be anything from family to all the traditions, and get togethers, and parties, to the shopping and gifts and those endless Christmas lists and the cooking and cleaning for the next family thing.  I haven’t even brought up the messy people stuff yet.  We all have those people; we are looking forward to seeing at Christmas, and we also have those people in our lives who we have done a great job avoiding all year long that we know we are about to see again.  For many others these are heavy hearted times remembering and missing loved ones…add to that the financial strain that many feel, and all the other stuff, and it’s no wonder we have no room left in our lives for Jesus…but please take the time today to think this through.  What takes room in your life through the Holidays?

Look, I know I haven’t maybe painted the rosiest picture for you here today as we dive into the Christmas season, but I do believe it is an accurate one.  I also believe we have already made some good headway here today.  We have learned a couple things.  First, we learned that we only have so much capacity and room in our lives.  We also hopefully just took some time to think through some things that take up that capacity or room in our lives.  It’s ok to admit it, we do have a lot going on, but it’s important to also see that we only have so much room in our lives.  So, with the time that I have left, I want us to think through how to make room for Jesus this Holiday season and beyond…and to do that, we are going to have to be honest, intentional, and get pretty practical!  This is fun stuff, and I’m excited to jump into this with you because it can make such a difference in our lives.

STEP 1 – STOP!  The first step in defeating the busyness and making room for Jesus this Christmas and beyond is to do something that sounds crazy when we are moving through life at a fast pace, with a million things to do, and a million places to be…are you ready for it?  We must stop moving, breath, rest, reflect, and center our lives deliberately on Jesus.  I know even as I say that you can show me the December calendar, and all the tasks, the “to do lists” and people and places that are on it…but the first step in not missing Jesus is to slow down, to stop, and focus on Him.   David actually talks about what happens when we stop and just focus on God here in Psalm 39…

Psalm 39:2 But as I stood there silently the turmoil within me grew to the bursting point. The more I mused, the hotter the fires inside. Then at last I spoke and pled with God: 4 Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. 5-6 My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you. Proud man! Frail as breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend. 7 And so, Lord, my only hope is in you. TLB

David stopped and began to clearly see the truth around Him…in stopping and being quiet he started to realize what truly mattered and what does not.  It wasn’t until he stopped that he saw the busy rushing around of people and how empty it is…it wasn’t until he stopped that He understood that everything truly centers on God and not us…but we can’t see it until we stop.   Later in Psalm 46 we see this…

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God!” NLT

Something happens when we stop, when we are still, when we slow down and can begin to process and think, yet for so many of us even as bring this up it is really hard to hear, because your mind is racing through a long list of things to do this Holiday season…if that is you, you are in danger of missing Jesus.  So, once we stop, and are still, and can think clearly, we can begin to ask some really important questions.

Ask yourself if what you are doing is needed or if it is just something that is taking room in your life from Jesus.  Once you stop, and center, and begin to think clearly, you can start to think and process things, which is awesome, and you can start to see that some things matter, and some things don’t.  This allows you to prioritize things and understand what you value and what God values too.  Which we learned is pretty important, since Jesus tells us that what we value shows us where our hearts truly are.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. NIV

So clearly and intentionally thinking through what matters is really going to be a big deal, and it won’t happen without us stopping and thinking!  You know it’s hard to not talk about busyness without bringing up the story of Mary and Scriptures favorite busy-body Martha.  We all know this story, right?

Luke 10:38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” NIV

Poor Martha is working hard and doing a lot, and is completely overwhelmed and isn’t happy that Mary is just hanging out with Jesus and not working as hard as she is…and what does Jesus say?

Luke 10:41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” NIV

Did you see that?  Jesus says there are many things going on, but few things are needed to be done, in fact He says that one thing is really needed to be done and that Mary chose it.  So, if you are really busy and overwhelmed right now you can struggle to receive what I just said, as I’m sure Martha did too.  Because of that long list of things to do, which every overwhelmingly busy person is mentally scrolling through right now, but remember what we learned here today, just like the inn, we only have so much room in our lives.  We only have so much time, energy, emotional margin, and resources…do you stop and think through what really matters and just focus on doing that or do you find yourself running around trying to do everything.  In that state of complete overwhelmed with the long list of things that must be done this Christmas season.  This is so important, there is a lot to do but just as Jesus says, very few of those things are needed.  Stop and prioritize what all you are doing this holiday season.  You know if you are really overwhelmed and your life is at full capacity right now, with no room for Jesus, you are probably struggling to stop and think this all through…it’s hard to find a way through when all you think about and focus on are all the things that need to be done, it is overwhelming for a reason.  In those moments of exhaustion and complete busyness we often are struggling to find room for anything let alone Jesus…there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but did you know that our Bible tells us how to actually make room in our lives…its comes down to reverence or respect for God…check this out.

Proverbs 10:27 Reverence for God adds hours to each day; so how can the wicked expect a long, good life?  TLB

How about that!  What is it that adds room in our lives?  It is reverence for God.  This is why we started these steps to making room for Jesus with stopping and centering, it’s all about reverence for God.  You know, it’s ok to say no to something that isn’t important especially when all those unimportant things are causing us to miss the most important thing.  We must stop filling our lives with less important things but that is hard to do when we are frazzled and allowing the world, our culture, the people in it, and our calendars to dictate and determine where we spend our time and energy, and what matters most in our lives, rather than stopping, slowing down, being still to know God and understanding what truly matters and just doing that.  Let’s look at another really important question to make room for Jesus this Holiday season and beyond.

Ask yourself what is expected of you by God and what expectations people may be putting on you.  Ok, so this can be a tough one as we walk through the Holidays.  A moment ago, I said it was ok to say ‘NO’ to things that we recognize aren’t important, did you hear that?  So that sounds great in a teaching or on paper but is often harder to live out because for many of us, we are walking in and out of these holidays with pressure, guilt, and the weight of expectations on us of what we should be doing, and when and for how long we should be doing it.  When we stop and slow down and are still and begin to prioritize, I think we can get to a place where we can stop making decisions based on the expectations people have for us, and begin to make decisions based on God’s expectations of us…can you relate to this?  Your schedule is filling up and you know it.  You are overwhelmed and busier than ever, your life is filled up, no room left, and if you stop and think about it, much of what you are doing is dictated to you by the expectations people (family, friends, and loved ones) have for you…and it’s important to get to a place where we ask what is actually expected of us from God?  And how should those expectations be reflected in our decisions, actions, priorities, schedules and lives this Christmas and beyond.  So, do we know what God’s expectation of us is?  Well, I think Paul would say that God wants us to be focused on Him, and have this eternal mindset, Paul brings this up a lot.  We are called to run toward the goal set before us by God and to live in such a way that people see God in our actions, decisions, and lives.  He brings this up a lot actually, like here in Philippians 3…

Philippians 3:13 Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. 14 I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 15 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you’ll see it yet! 16 Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. 17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. 18 There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. MSG

Paul does this time and time again, we are to have a God focused, eternal mindset as we walk through life on this planet which is hard to do in a world that doesn’t want you to have a God focused eternal mindset!  There are so many distractions in our lives, and frankly, there are so many expectations on us…and if you tracked with verse 18 Paul is saying that there is a way we should be going that God expects of us, and there are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and wanting you to go along with them…and I will add, they can mean well, they can love you, and yet still be pulling you from what matters most and today we are talking about what matters most this Christmas season and beyond.

So, as we close this talk down today and move into December and all that comes with the Christmas season, I think it’s very important for us to slow down and think this all through.  I think it is clear that we aren’t going to miss Christmas, it’s commercialized and seen and heard from October through the New Year…but we must make sure that we aren’t missing Jesus.  So just a few questions as we close…

  • Do you look at the Christmas Season, and feel peace, and joy for what Christ has done or do you feel overwhelmed, a sense of dread, and just relief when the Holidays are over?
  • Do you have room in your life for Jesus?  If not, what is filling up your life, to the point where like the Innkeeper and his Inn you have no vacancy, so what is taking up all the room in your life?
  • Have you taken the time to stop, slow down, rest, reflect, prioritize your life and keep your life centered on Christ?
  • Are you intentional in your life and how you do things?  Meaning do you have priorities that allow you to make decisions in a clear and healthy way where you can discern what truly matters and what really doesn’t?  Do you look at your capacity level?  Do you even know what that level is? 
  • Do you follow God’s expectations for you, or do you feel pulled to follow the expectations of those around you?
  • When you look at your Christmas and Holiday Calendar what do you need to do, and what should you eliminate to ensure you don’t miss Jesus again this year?
  • And this is just to help you visualize what could be…what if you came into the New Year rested, refreshed and centered on Jesus and not exhausted, depleted, and frazzled from all that was the holidays yet again?
  • What if you made room for Jesus this Holiday Season and beyond?

We love you and we just don’t want us to go another season where we are full go into Christmas, and so busy that we miss Jesus who is in fact the very reason we celebrate and have all the festivities to begin with.  Look at your life today, look at your capacity and limits, and make room for Jesus this Christmas and beyond…allow Him to change your life from the inside out, and lead you from this day forward.  We hope you enjoy this Christmas season as we celebrate and focus on the birth of our Savior!