Are You Too Busy for Wonder?

shopping-centerWe’re busy.

All of us have calendars full of events that keep us busy, and this is especially true during December as we prepare for the Christmas season.  We have Christmas parties for church, work and social clubs, invitations from friends, open houses, gift exchanges, family get-togethers, and all of that piled on top of our regular schedules for work, school, and church.

It gets to be a lot.  Almost a burden.

Sometimes, for our own sense of peace and sanity, we need to be careful about which invitations we accept.  If we are to appreciate and enjoy the holiday, we need to find some balance and time for quiet reflection.

But amid all this busyness, we might also remember that in some ways, life wasn’t all that different two thousand years ago.  People were busy.  Just living their everyday lives, doing business, working jobs, raising children, growing crops, preparing food, and all sorts of ordinary, mundane tasks filled their schedules.  And their busyness caused almost everyone to completely miss the most amazing thing that ever happened in the history of the entire planet.

In the second chapter of Matthew we hear this story:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Despite the predictions and prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, despite thousands of years of expectation, despite generations who prayed for the Messiah’s arrival, despite knowing where the messiah would be born, despite the writings of Daniel that gave a good indication of when the messiah would come, despite a collection of professional theologians and priests who dedicated their lives to the study of these scriptures, still they missed it.

Perhaps it’s because they were too busy.

Certainly, God’s messiah arrived differently than anyone expected.  Who would have imagined that the savior of the world would be born to a couple of poor people from the distant countryside?  Who would have guessed that the official birth announcement would be entrusted to a bunch of sheep herders on a hillside?  Who would have believed that a king would be born in barn or a cave, and put to bed in a feeding trough?

As we hear in Luke chapter 2:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

It was unexpected.

But how much easier was it to ignore amid the busyness of everyday life?

I know that you have things to do.  I know that you have Christmas cards to write, family to visit, cookies to eat, and gatherings to attend.  But don’t let your busyness cause to make the same mistake that the world made two thousand years ago.  Don’t get so caught up in your activity that you forget to remember the story.  Don’t forget to appreciate the blessings of the unexpected.  Don’t forget to appreciate the coming of the Prince of Peace. 

Our busyness will only make us tired.

Don’t allow your busyness to drown out the wonder of this moment.

Take the time to remember the story.

Take the time to be thankful.

Take the time to appreciate the gift, and the blessings, that we have been given.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 


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Too Busy for God?

Are you too busy for God?
    Have you made all your summer plans yet?  I have to shake my head when I think of all the activities that we have been cramming into our schedules for this summer.  We have vacations to fit in, family to visit, church and community activities to attend, church camp, scout camp, band camp, cross country camp, soccer practice, church Annual Conference to attend and other summer activities all added to our regular work schedule, doctor visits and other year ‘round activities.  The problem is that our family is not all that unusual.  Most people we know are planning equally busy schedules and sometimes more.  But amid all this hubbub and frenetic activity, where does God fit in?  
    It is well known that most churches see a slump in attendance over the summer.  There is a summer slump despite the fact that many people have been using the winter snow and spring rains as an excuse for not attending church.  I have come to believe that our summer attendance falls off not because church is unimportant.   Neither is it really because people are too busy.  Instead, attendance falls because most of us never stop long enough to really think about what we are doing.
    Most rational people understand how important it is to save for retirement and yet many of us arrive at our golden years with little to show for it.  It isn’t that we couldn’t have afforded to pass up a few lottery tickets or a second Big Mac once in a while so we could set aside a few bucks a week, it’s just that we never stopped long enough to think about it and to plan for the future.  For many, our track record for church attendance is pretty similar.  We believe that church attendance is important but we think that we’re too busy to add church attendance to our plans for the summer.  Because we don’t plan, Sunday sort of sneaks up on us and we arrive at the first day of the week tired and over-scheduled and grasp at one more free day to sleep in or to cram one more thing into our busy schedule.
    In our last church there was a family (I won’t use their names) who were leaders in our church.  They loved the church, they liked the pastor (at least they said they did) and their extended family attended our church.  They disappeared every summer.  At some point they bought expensive recreation equipment and felt that in order to justify the expense of their new toy, they should use it.  And so, during the spring, summer and fall, whenever the weather wasn’t particularly horrible, they would be gone nearly every weekend. 
They probably knew that someone in our church took attendance each Sunday.  What they probably didn’t know is that I kept those attendance sheets and looked at them at the end of the year.  Even though these were good people (and our friends) who loved the church and held leadership positions in it, at the end of the year their overall attendance fell well below 50 percent and probably below 30 percent.  I’m not certain that they would have believed me even if I had told them.
    Our friends didn’t miss church because they didn’t like it and they didn’t contribute to our summer slump because church wasn’t important.  They would be first in line to tell you different.  Instead, they, like many of us, never took the time to include church attendance as a part of their plan.  Each year we plan how many days that we will miss work.  We even try to calculate how many days we might be sick.  Sadly, even though many of us would say that church attendance is nearly as important, almost none of us have planned how many Sundays that we will miss.  The end result is that Sunday sort of sneaks up on us and at the end of the year we discover that we’ve missed far more days than we ever expected.
    As you make your summer plans I challenge you to do something unusual.  I challenge you to plan how many Sundays you will miss this year.  Decide, in advance, how important church attendance is to you. Choose how many days you will be absent, and then put it on your calendar and commit to it.
We all know that your summer will be busy.
Please don’t be too busy for God.