A few Christmases ago, as I was standing in the doorway of a department store, enjoying a lovely Nativity scene in a store window, a mother and her little girl came hurrying by. Catching a glimpse of the beautiful scene, the child grabbed her mother’s hand and exclaimed, “Mama! Mama! Please let me stop for a minute and look at Jesus!” But her mother replied wearily that they weren’t even half through with their shopping list and didn’t have time to stop. Then she walked on, dragging her disappointed daughter behind her.
The child’s words rang in my heart for a long time after that. “Please let me stop for a minute and look at Jesus.” I thought of all the minutes speeding by me that busy Christmas in the mad rush of life that is accelerated at the height of the shopping season. How many minutes had I spent shopping and buying presents and preparing decorations and food in the great wind-up to Christmas, and how many had I spent with the One whose birth and life is the true meaning of this festive season?
Jesus is always so very close to us. He is “at my right hand” and “closer than a brother.”1 He is within speaking distance. His birth is the essence of Christmas. His gifts to all—peace, love, and joy of heart—are the essential magic of Christmas. With arms outstretched He holds out these gifts to us and says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”2 But these we will never receive if we forge on, endlessly shopping, to-do lists in hand, too busy to stop and even notice He’s right there.
Like the old saying, “Dew never falls on a stormy night.” We rarely experience the sweetness and joy of time spent with Jesus while in an anxious and feverish rush of accomplishment. But the dew of heaven and the blessings of Christmas fall peacefully on our hearts and lives when we stop for a moment to get quiet and remember Him. To go on without Him is to forfeit the only real, lasting joy and perfect love that can be experienced in this life and shared forever.
Why don’t we stop and enjoy—really enjoy—what Christmas means? Let’s cut down our task lists. Let’s enjoy the beauty. There are so many wonderful things about Christmas and so many beautiful things to see. It would be a shame to miss it all, wrapping this and wrapping that, rushing for this last thing and that, cooking and preparing so much for a feast, cluttering our Christmas with so many unnecessary things. And if we don’t stop to enjoy anything of life until after Christmas, the fury with which we proceed will send us reeling into the New Year sighing, “I just survived Christmas!”
Jesus came to bless our lives. That is why we have Christmas. He said He came to bring us life, and that we might have it more abundantly.3 And the apostle Paul tells us, “We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”4 Peace and life in all their fullness need not elude us. They are ours to enjoy this Christmas if we’ll give Jesus a chance in our lives and a place in our hearts.
May we all take a minute with Jesus. The true presence of Christmas is found with Him. May the celebration of His birth touch our hearts in a new way this year. May we learn more about the gifts He gave so long ago on Christmas. May we be a part of Christmas itself by being more like Him. May we stop and look at Jesus.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.
—Howard Thurman (1899–1981)
The way to Christmas lies through an ancient gate. … It is a little gate, child-high, child-wide, and there is a password: “Peace on earth to men of good will.” May you, this Christmas, become as a little child again and enter into His kingdom.
—Angelo Patri (1876–1965)