Merry Christmas – Now Get Out of My Way By Jon Noto

 

It was December a couple years ago. We had just moved into our first house and had a newborn at home. I was working in full-time ministry and had a part-time job on the side. It was a snowy weeknight and I had just finished a holiday-themed event for job number 2. The text message arrived a couple of hours earlier that my wife had not gotten around to dinner or even eaten anything herself because our baby was so upset. I was driving through the snow and a bit of an upset baby myself. I was frustrated at my hunger, the traffic, the long hours, and whatever else I could think of. I finally arrived at the grocery store to grab something quick when I encountered a challenging obstacle: The Salvation Army bell-ringer who had positioned himself directly in front of the store entrance and wanted to have a conversation with every person who walked in. Choose your own adventure: Do you play nice and have a conversation with a stranger? Pretend you’re on your cell phone? Walk in behind another customer so they get stopped and do a nice bit of blocking for you?

It’s that time of year again. Christmas music permeates every square inch of retail space we dare venture into, Starbucks offers 6 dozen new holiday drinks, lights and inflatable snowmen pepper various yards in our neighborhoods, and we realize that between our family members, we have 22 different holiday events to attend. Amidst all of this, does church slow down? Quite the opposite! Everything heightens during the holidays.

We have entered the December Time Warp.

Every year our family does some sort of pep talk gathered around the kitchen table or on the couch after we’ve set up the Christmas tree (traditionally done in the Noto household the day BEFORE Thanksgiving just to really throw a wrench in things). We ask ourselves, “how do we want to do the holidays this year?”, or, “what’s really important to us this time of year?” It’s as if we’re going into the fourth quarter and nervous about how the game’s going to turn out. Have you ever felt this way?

It makes sense if you think about it. We have all woken up on the other side of New Year’s thinking to ourselves, “what even happened last month? That’s not the holiday I was hoping for.”

Dallas Willard once said, “you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” I can’t think of a time of year when hurry more easily crops up. Everything – family, ministry, team celebrations, group get-togethers, volunteer appreciation – all become equally important simultaneously. It is all too easy to start believing the lie that I can do anything and everything if I just focus a little more. It is in this spin-cycle-velocity living that we miss the very things we are starving for and that Christ came to give us.

Anything new we do this year will pale in comparison to what Jesus has done for us. Anything we receive is nothing next to what we have already received freely and undeservedly. The connection and warmth we try fervently to create is already ours in deeper ways than we could ever manufacture.

Paul heard the words “my grace is sufficient for you”(2 Corinthians 12:9). We are talking about a much different context, but the same truth applies. Hillsong captured this sentiment when they penned the lyric, “Christ is enough for me.” If that is the way I want to live my life then I need to do more than talk the talk. I need to walk the walk. Christ’s grace is sufficient, it is enough, and I am hoping and praying that this very truth is reflected in my schedule, my celebrations, and my family this year.

Do your groups tend to model “Christ is enough” or “Go, go, go!” this time of year? How do you and your staff interact with that? What does your schedule say about the way you go through this time of year?