Several years ago, a young boy heard the circus was coming to town. He’d never seen a circus and asked his dad if he could go. Reluctantly, the dad told him he couldn’t afford to buy a ticket. However, if the boy could pick up some odd jobs and earn half the ticket cost, the dad would pay the rest.
He raked leaves, cleaned gutters, cut shrubs and earned his half and bought a ticket. When the big day arrived, the boy went to Main Street and with great excitement joined the crowds eagerly watching for the start of the circus parade.
Here it came, with lions, tigers, performers, elephants, wagons filled with animals, jugglers, and others marching down the street. At the end came the clowns waving to the crowd. As the last clown marched by, the thrilled youngster stepped into the street, handed the clown his ticket and went home.
Later, when his dad came home from work, he described all the sights and sounds of the circus parade and told his dad he gave his ticket to the clown passing by.
His dad suddenly realized his son’s confusion and said, “Son, I’m sorry to tell you, but today you watched the circus parade, but you completely missed the circus.”
Today, we can make a decision that will determine the focus of this year’s Christmas celebration. Will this Christmas be about Jesus, or will it be about the activity that leads up to Christmas day?
Wouldn’t it be tragic to go through the entire lead-up to Christmas and then, after it’s over, realize that you missed celebrating Christmas altogether?
How can we get the most out of Christmas?
First, open your heart to the Christ of Christmas. Too often we’re like the civic club in Lynn, Massachusetts. The Exchange Club went all out setting up a luncheon to honor its “Policeman of the Year.” They invited the press and city officials and urged every Exchange Club member to be present.
They had a nicer-than-usual lunch at a special location, and when it came time to start, the honored guest never showed.
Reached later in the day, the patrolman said, “I would have been delighted to go if only I had been invited.” Pause now and invite Jesus into your Christmas.
Second, take time to ponder the events and meaning of Christmas. The first Christmas wasn’t elaborate. Jesus was born in a stable or cave where animals were sheltered and then was placed in a feed trough. Nothing fancy. The news was first proclaimed to society’s lowest rung on the ladder: shepherds. Why shepherds? What does that mean? Why did Jesus come? How was God at work then? How is God at work this Christmas season?
Third, intentionally center on Jesus. Susan Noland, in the December 1997 issue of Decision magazine, told of setting out her nativity scene, carefully placing the figures in their proper place.
Her three-year-old daughter Caroline took it upon herself to rearrange the nativity. She placed baby Jesus in the center and put everyone else in a circle surrounding Him.
When asked why she had rearranged the figures, Caroline answered, “so they can all see the baby good.”
Do we need to rearrange our priorities to make sure Jesus shows?
Do we need to rearrange our schedule to make sure we’re where God wants us on Sundays? To give Him the first part of our day in quiet Bible reading and prayer?
Do we need to rearrange our loyalties to make sure Jesus comes first in our hearts? And in our homes? Is Jesus part of our Christmas or does our Christmas center around Jesus?
Fourth, find simple ways to share Christmas cheer. Invite someone to your church’s Christmas musical. Go Christmas caroling to the homebound. Deliver a meal to someone in need. Reach out to a neighbor who lives alone.
Kindness is often contagious this time of year. Several years ago, a McDonald’s customer in Florida told the drive-through worker she wanted to pay for the car behind her. Her only instructions were, “Say Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays.”
Her action started a chain reaction of customers paying it forward. Over the next six hours, 250 customers paid for the order behind them.
How can you share Christmas cheer? Make sure your Christmas honors Jesus.
(Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Their location is 352 McDonough Road, just past McCurry Park. Join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them online at www.mcdonoughroad.org.).