December 2, 2008

Less is More 
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Entertainment Editor

"... And they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us."
Matthew 1:23, NIV

I put up my Christmas tree last weekend, right after Thanksgiving. Perhaps you did, too.

This year, however, I only hung up about two-thirds of my ornaments. Also, many of the holiday knickknacks that I normally display I left remaining in their boxes. I didn't even run to the store to replace two strands of twinkly, white lights that quit on me while I was wrapping them around the tree. No, I just made do with what I had. And I was okay with it.

In fact, I decided that I like seeing some more of the Christmas tree. Negative space is good, and I don't need to cram ornaments and white lights into every nook and cranny where there's some green showing. Know what I mean?

Up until now, I wouldn't have believed that I would have been okay with the above two paragraphs. I was compelled to put out everything I owned that had a Christmas theme so it would all be on display. Then, I had to purchase several ornaments each year to augment my collection so that it was always growing and featured the latest and greatest in holiday decor. 

But this year, something is changing inside of me. And I think I'm finally learning that Christmas is really more about less...

  • Less of me and my perfectly displayed decorations
  • Less of me and my "impressive" gift-giving to family and friends
  • Less of me and my attendance at see-and-be-seen holiday parties 
  • Less of me and what I want for Christmas or how I want God to bless me

It's more about what God has given to all mankind...

  • More of Christ and what his coming to earth means to us all
  • More of Christ and my response-the giving of my life-to him
  • More of Christ and sharing the gift of the Good News and not burying it beneath other gifts around the tree
  • More of Christ and making time for others, as my words and deeds are a reflection of him

The prophet Isaiah foretold it: "Immanuel ... God with us." And then Matthew quoted him years later in the New Testament. But what does knowing that God is "with us" really mean to me?

He lives in my heart, but I wonder how differently I would feel if God was sitting on his throne in my very own home-right there in my living room, where I could see him. If he was visible, in all of his splendor and blinding light, I would certainly take notice. I would live differently, wouldn't I? My priorities would surely change. I probably wouldn't care about anything else this holiday season: the decorations, the baking, the gifts, the parties. I would just want to sit at his feet and worship him.

I am reminded of Mary's response to Christ in the story of she and her sister Martha in Matthew 10:38-42:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

"Immanuel ... God with us." What more does Christmas need to be to me? To you? All we need is Jesus. He is more than enough this Christmas. Let us ask him to help us focus less on our holiday agendas, as we spend more time at his feet worshipping Christ, our King

Intersecting Faith & Life: Are you caught in the web of "more is more" this Christmastime? Try scaling back in one area: decorating, baking, gift-giving, parties you attend, etc. And then add in some time for reflection. Meditate on Matthew 1:23: "Immanuel ... God with us." What does this mean to you? And how should you respond?

Further Reading

And the years they come,
And the years they go,
Though we may forget somehow
That the child once born in Bethlehem
Is still among us now.

Emmanuel, God with us,
Emmanuel!
Emmanuel, God with us,
The son of Israel.

"Emmanuel, God With Us"
Composers/lyricists: Amy Grant, Chris Eaton, Robert Marshall