Mary and Joseph on Way to Bethlehem

The Christmas rush we know all too well.  An increase of traffic on the streets and highways and an uptick in cranky people trying to get things done abounds around us.  A decrease of money as we try to fit shopping into the mix of end of the year deadlines, hoping for that Christmas bonus to cover where ends don’t meet.  Maybe just as concerning is the lack of time to get things done.  It’s enough to make a person feel completely and totally overwhelmed.

So, what in the world do we do about it?  Being overwhelmed was certainly not invented by contemporary people.  Think back to two-thousand years ago and imagine for a moment what the couple Joseph and Mary were going through:  Joseph, a poor carpenter, is trying to get by and prepare for his new family, but he is taken away from doing his work because of a census that he and Mary need to show up for in Bethlehem.  This was a trek of some 100 miles, and we aren’t talking over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house on an idyllic sleigh ride.

The trip would typically take about four days, but with Mary nine months pregnant you could easily add another three days.  This made for a grueling week, only to get to a swelled Bethlehem full of people all there for the same reason.  No room.  Mary goes into labor.  If this isn’t the height of being overwhelmed, I’m not sure what is.

It is here that we can take our clues and our cues as to facing this blessed season, even and especially if it is fraught with a lack of time and money and an abundance of headaches.  Mary and Joseph were simply present to their very special son.  The shepherds, watching their flocks that night, simply came and were present with this newborn king (Luke 2).

After Jesus was born, there was a whole lot of praise going on around him.  Mary and Joseph rejoiced; the angels praised God; the shepherds joined the angel chorus in the great praise; eight days later, Simeon and Anna praised God; and, here we are all these centuries later….

Are we praising God?  Perhaps we have become so caught up in our sense of being overwhelmed by our circumstances that we need a different sense of the overwhelmed.  And this kind of overwhelmed can only come through setting the hammer down and leaving Nazareth; leaving heaven; leaving the field with the sheep, and dwelling in the presence of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that Today is the day of salvation (Hebrews 3:12-15).  Not tomorrow, but today is the reasonable and appropriate time to come and enjoy, to come and dwell in the presence of our Savior Jesus Christ.  For he has rescued us from the darkness of monetary budgets that won’t budge and belligerent people who are too stubborn to give Christ the time of day, and has brought us into the light of freedom from sin and peace on earth.

O come, let us adore him… today, and forever.  Amen.

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36

            We have all likely at times felt the anguish of the psalmist:  being so overwhelmed that it feels like we are drowning.  The feeling is compounded exponentially when behind the sense of trying to keep our heads above water there are people who do not like us – maybe even hate us, to the point of undermining our work every chance they get.  It is in such circumstances that we can experience sleepless nights hoping that somehow and someway God will show up.
            The typical modus operandi for such a situation is the age old route of complaining and wishing things were different.  But neither griping about our adversity nor dishing out slander and gossip toward others is a godly way of dealing with problems.  Just the opposite response is the proper path to the bone-crushing feeling of opposition:  praising God’s name with a song, and magnifying him with thanksgiving.  The reason the believer can engage in adoring God in the midst of trouble is not some Jedi-type mind trick to make us think more positively.  Instead, the basis for praise is in knowing God.  It is God who ultimately will deal with the wicked; it is the Lord who will bend his ear to listen to our lament when times are hard. 
            Thanking God for answers to prayer in advance of them actually being answered is a biblical thing to do.  Having a faith robust enough to see ahead toward hope can bring love to a loveless situation, and usher in praise before the divine deed of deliverance is even accomplished.
            Saving God, thank you for your deliverance!  I give you praise for loving me through sending your Son, the Lord Jesus, to this realm so that I might experience salvation from sin, death, and hell.  By Christ’s authority, in the power of the Holy Spirit given to me, I resist the enemy’s attempts to seize control of my life.  I belong to you, God.  Amen.