Most days I go to bed feeling like I haven’t accomplished enough. I didn’t produce enough. I didn’t work enough, put enough effort in, exercise enough, clean enough, serve enough, do enough. I hold up a yard stick up to my day and measure what I’ve done, and it keeps coming up small. I sigh, I vow to do better tomorrow, I click off the light, and hope that when the sun comes up in the morning I’ll be ready to function at a higher capacity. I’ll be ready to produce.
The Christmas season brings out a lot of this production drive. Beyond the normal day-to-day tasks and responsibilities we feel the need to do more. Give more. Decorate more. Bake more. Perform more. More gifts, more cookies, more tinsel, more holiday spirit. All for the sake of creating the warm and cheery atmosphere our nostalgia tells us we want. If we can just find the right gift for everyone, if we can just hunt down the perfect tree, if we can just get every light on the strand to twinkle, if we can just arrange the perfect travel agenda for the holidays, if we can just get home, if we can just muster up a little extra magic and merriment, then we will feel like we’ve done enough.
But we don’t ever quite get there, do we? You can do all you want to make your Christmas special, you can get all the right people together in the beautiful room with all the perfectly wrapped gifts and the freshly baked cookies and it won’t be enough. That is the whole point of Christmas, of Christ’s coming. We aren’t enough. We can’t do enough. We need a savior.
I love that Jesus’ coming wasn’t a production. There were no welcoming committees or balloons or ornately decorated homes. There wasn’t even a crib with clean sheets. It was a manger in a barn. Quietly, unconventionally, not how anyone envisioned it.
He never asked for a production. For more effort. For a cleaner house or a prettier tree. He’s never been about the display or the traditions, and he’s certainly never been about perfection.
And there were shepherds nearby, watching over their flocks by night. And without any effort on their part, without any preparation or planning, an angel of the Lord appeared to them – to these simple guys, sitting in the wilderness. It wasn’t to the party planning committee or the people scurrying to put on a show. It wasn’t to the high functioning political members of the community. It wasn’t to the successful business owners or wealthy rulers. It wasn’t to the respected religious leaders of the time. It was to the shepherds.
Jesus wasn’t about production then. He still isn’t today.
The shepherds ran to see this newborn king. They didn’t shower. They didn’t put on their Sunday best. They didn’t stop by Target to find a present and wrap it with a beautiful bow on top. They ran to see their King. They didn’t get caught up in all the preconceived expectations of what this should look like. They only cared about one thing. They understood what was truly important.
Maybe that’s why the angel visited them. Maybe that’s why they were first to know that the Messiah had been born. Maybe it’s the ones who aren’t wrapped up in the production who get to encounter God.
Jesus never asked us to do more. To achieve more. To be something more. He never desired his coming to invoke panic or frenzy or hustle. He’s never been about our function or our production. He’s here for the redemption and restoration of our hearts and He asks only that we come.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” –Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)