Here we are, squarely in the midst of the Christmas rush. So much to do, so little time!
I like the story of the pastor who was visiting the Sunday school. He asked a young lady at a nursery-size table what it was she was doing as she busily cut out and arranged shepherds, camels, sheep, wise men, a manger and a baby into the traditional crèche scene.
She replied, with some frustration in her voice: "Can't you see I'm making an activity scene?" I think that little girl was very close to the truth – for most of us the nativity scene is an activity scene!
All of us have a pretty hectic schedule to begin with; add on all the preparations for our Christmas celebration, and it can get pretty overwhelming. Granted, all these preparations are necessary and important and fun.
Setting out the decorations, baking special foods, planning and attending parties, writing cards and buying presents are all part of the deal this time of year. But we must be careful lest this hyper-activity distract us from what really matters.
The Gospel of Luke tells of the time Jesus came to the house of Martha and Mary. It reads just like a present day Christmas story. Martha is in the kitchen putting in the Christmas turkey and is frantic in all her preparations, while Mary is content simply to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he has to say.
Martha is upset because Mary just doesn't seem to be with the program. There were cookies to bake and a tree to trim.
And the story ends with Jesus gently chiding Martha, telling her that her sister Mary has chosen the kind of preparation that matters most: she stopped and listened. She quieted herself before the Lord.
Quiet? That’s often a rare commodity in our noisy world, especially at this time of year! Boisterous parties, banging parades, jangling television commercials, ear-bursting music – all are part of the way our society celebrates Christmas.
There are Salvation Army bells ringing, and car-horns blasting, and eight pipers piping all the way through this season that begins a week before Thanksgiving. And then there are the incessant loud messages of merchants, screaming at us, “FOUR-HOUR SALE! HALF OFF!”
Yes, there is very little quiet in our world today – and our lives are filled with distractions. Most of us would admit to being more like busy Martha than quiet Mary this time of year.
But unless we stop and quiet ourselves before the Lord and listen, we shall miss what he is saying to us and the true meaning of Christmas will have passed us by.
"Be still," says the LORD, "and know that I am God." Stop, listen, and ponder the mystery of the manger. In the midst of the Christmas rush, let us find some holy hush, so that God can speak to us anew of his love and grace.