One Christmas a husband put an assortment of beauty products in his wife’s stocking. She tried one of the facial masks. She explained to her 8 year old son that it was a present from his dad and it would make her beautiful. He patiently waited as she rinsed and patted her face dry. “Well, what do you think?” she asked. “Oh, Mom, it didn’t work!” he replied.

My hope is that Christmas will make a change in your life. But often Christmas brings stress and trouble. It is hard to keep Christ in Christmas.

December is upon us and it often about this time that the craziness of the holiday season begins in full. Shopping has begun and the stress levels of what to buy for each person on our list begins to rise. Something doesn’t seem right about that, does it? I mean this is the time of year we should be rejoicing and celebrating Jesus, not stressing out over what to give someone or who to visit. It seems that we lose focus about what Christmas is about and instead focus on the stuff we give and get and do.

How can we keep Christ in Christmas?

To keep Christ in Christmas we need to begin where we should always begin – with Jesus. Let’s look at a few people involved in the first Christmas and see what their Christmas involved so we can learn how to keep Christ our Christmas this year.

Joseph obeyed.

“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost… Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.” (Matthew 1:20, 24)

Joseph did what the Lord commanded him to do through the angel – he married Mary. To worship the Lord fully, we need to be obedient to His commands. Sometimes those commands will be hard to follow, but God works powerfully through our obedience.

Those of us who have heard the Christmas story every year may think, “Big deal, he took Mary home as his wife.” But realize that she is at least 3 months pregnant and Joseph finds out shortly before their actual wedding day. Imagine on the eve of your wedding that your fiancé is 3 or 4 months pregnant and it is not by you. In fact she has been visiting relatives for the last 3 months before and she hasn’t been around you. People are going to do the math and know that the child is not yours. Your whole world is rocked and you have a dream and in the dream an angel says it’s ok to marry her. Try explaining that to family and friends. But Joseph believes and obeys immediately. That is worship. God used Joseph to be the earthly father of His only begotten Son. Wow! Do you worship the Lord through your obedience? Are you doing the things He has commanded?

What about missions? What about service? What about ministry? Do you want Christmas to be meaningful? Do you want your life to be meaningful? Obey the Lord even in the things you don’t fully understand. Believe that He is leading you and I guarantee your life will have eternal impact.

Mary submitted.

“Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus…. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:30-31, 38)

Mary submitted herself to the Lord’s will. Isn’t submission the same as obedience? No. Obedience is an outward action; submission is an inward attitude. Obedience is doing what you are told to do. Joseph obeyed. Submission is voluntarily placing someone else’s will above your own.

A boy gets in trouble from his mom for doing something wrong. She tells him to sit in the “Time Out” chair. After a couple of minutes, the mother walks by and sees her son still sitting there, but he is obviously mad. So he tells her, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” The boy was obedient, but wasn’t submissive.

Mary worshiped the Lord by submitting her will to the will of the Father. She knew that God’s will was best even though it was not as she would plan. She knew that God’s will was best even though it could result in some bad circumstances. It could get her killed. It would probably ostracize her from Joseph and her family and community. She could spend the rest of her life without a husband and no friends. But she worshipped the Lord by submitting her will to His will.

Are you worshipping the Lord by submitting to Him, not just obeying, by willingly placing His will above yours?

The wise men sacrificed (Matt. 2:1-2, 9-11).

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him…. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-2, 11)

These wise men sacrificed a great deal to worship the Lord. They sacrificed their time. It probably took months to prepare and take this long journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, 1,678 straight miles. Their time could have been spent comfortably enjoying their wealth. Are you willing to sacrifice what you want to be doing to worship the Lord, to do what the Lord is leading you to do?

They sacrificed their treasure. There is not better use for our money than for worshipping the King. God doesn’t need our stuff. It’s all His anyway. But we bring Him glory when we sacrifice our stuff to give to the His work and those He lays on our hearts. We worship fully when we give what we have. We trust the Lord to meet our needs, not in money or stuff.

We will not escape the trap the way the world celebrates Christmas with the stress and bills and desire for it to be over, until we are fully focused on the Lord and worship Him fully. Worship Him fully by living obediently, submitting your will to His, and sacrifice your time and treasure.

The day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco. Pastor Mike was looking at the nativity scene outside when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing from the figures. Immediately, he turned toward the church to call the police. But then he saw little Jimmy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus. Pastor Mike walked up and said, “Well, Jimmy, where did you get the little infant?” Jimmy replied, “I got him from the church.” “And why did you take him?” With a sheepish smile, Jimmy said, “Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to little Lord Jesus. I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it.”

Maybe Jesus isn’t missing from Christmas this year. He’s just waiting for you to put Him where He wants to be – in your life.