Merry Christmas! It seems impossible that it’s already time to share that greeting with our family and friends, doesn’t it? It seems that somehow, we missed being able to say, “Happy Thanksgiving!”. And yet, we’re only weeks away from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many of us already have our plans made and even have our Christmas tree up, decorated, and proudly displayed for all to see. Many of us are busy shopping for the gifts we’ll share with those whom we love … and some of us who are “hard core”, have already finished.

Christmas is truly a wonderful time of wonderful celebration of the most wonderful gift ever given – God’s gift of His Son, Jesus. I wonder though, how many of us will intentionally take the time to, “embrace” the wonder of Christmas? How many of us will discipline ourselves to enjoy Christmas, rather than endure it? It’s so deceptively easy to get so busy, so preoccupied, and so frustrated and flustered during the Christmas season that we miss the joy of making treasured memories, enjoying our family and friends, and even, the true meaning of Christmas. Researchers tell us that only one in ten of us will actually hit the “pause button” and come into the “moment” of this incredible celebration of Christmas.

It’s not a story that’s associated with Christmas, but it’s a story that directly addresses our dilemma. Jesus had no closer friends that Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. I have to think that their home, in the small town of Bethany, was an “oasis” where Jesus could relax, charge his “batteries”, and enjoy being with his close friends. On this particular visit, Martha busies herself preparing what was surely a delicious meal. There’s no biblical evidence to support my theory, but I’ve often thought that Martha probably served fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, some type of greens, biscuits, and chocolate pie for dessert. Since I would love that meal, I’m pretty confident Jesus would too!

But while Martha is frantically cooking, Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet. The New Living Translation reads this way: “Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.” Realizing this, Martha comes into the room and obviously, she’s more than a little “ticked off.” “Lord,” Martha said, “doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” I think we all know how Martha expected Jesus to respond to her question and demand.

But Jesus replies: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” It wasn’t the response Martha expected or wanted but as always, Jesus was “spot-on”.

Unintentionally, Martha was missing out on what was so important and so precious – time with Jesus – because she was, as the Bible says, “…distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.” And if we’re not careful, we too can become so distracted that we miss all that this Christmas can mean to us and hold for us.

Let me suggest two, very practical things that you and I can do, so we can fully enjoy this Christmas. First, let’s replace what seems to be so urgent, with what is genuinely significant. The “Urgent List” includes shopping for those gifts, wrapping the gifts, planning and preparing the meals, cleaning the house, making sure that everything is just right. On the other hand, the “Significant List” includes realizing that you’ll never have this moment, this Christmas, this special time of the year, ever again. You may be blessed with many more Christmases, but if you’re not intentional in grasping what’s significant, this one will pass and you’ll have missed it.

And secondly, let’s replace the physical preparation for Christmas, with spiritual preparation. In no way am I against Christmas trees and decorations and delicious meals and beautifully wrapped gifts. But I’m afraid that too many of us become so preoccupied with the physical preparations that we miss what’s most important: the fact that God wants to do something for us and in us, spiritually. In other words, we can become so consumed and overwhelmed getting ready for Christmas that we forget what Christmas is really about: when God, in human flesh, engaged the humanity He created. God will engage each of us this Christmas, but our spirits must prepared for that life-changing engagement.

So, when the carols are no longer played, the tree is down and put away for another year, the company has returned to their homes, and that beautiful wrapping paper is ashes or in the garbage bags, what will you be left with … the regret that you missed another Christmas, or memories that you will treasure for the rest of your life? It’s a choice only you can make.

Faron Rogers is Senior Pastor, Clinton First Baptist Church