Casting Crowns – “Bethlehem” (Devotional)

(Matthew 1:19-23)

Bethlehem

Several years ago, I had the splendid idea of buying a live Christmas tree for our family. My idea. My tree. Big plans. Bigger splash. And Mark becomes everyone’s hero.

I drove to the tree lot, purchased the most gorgeous tree I could find, and drove home with a big grin. When I lugged it to the front porch, my wife, Melanie, was waiting. She raised an eyebrow.

My heart sank. It usually sinks when Melanie raises an eyebrow because that means she’s about to tell me something that had never crossed my mind.

“Have you measured the tree?” she asked.

Ummm.

I labored until I was sweating on a cold winter’s night. I had to trim it evenly so it still looked like a Christmas tree but was small enough to fit through the door.

I quickly realized why such a beautiful tree was still on the lot just a few days before Christmas. It was massive. I’m not a tool guy, so I didn’t have a way to shorten the tree or trim its branches. I called a friend and borrowed everything I needed, but it was almost midnight when I got back home with the saw and clippers. I labored until I was sweating on a cold winter’s night. I had to trim it evenly so it still looked like a Christmas tree but was small enough to fit through the door.

Once I finally dragged the tree across the threshold, I shaped it a little more to take care of some of the damage I’d just created. That’s when Melanie spoke up again.

“Hey, babe?” she said. That greeting is like her arched eyebrow. I always know I’ve messed up again when she calls out to me that way.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“You know where the lights are, don’t you?” she asked.

“In the attic somewhere.”

“Nope,” she said. “Do you remember last year when I told you that you should take off all the lights and store them, and you just didn’t want to do that? You wanted to throw the whole thing away and get new ones for this year, remember?”

My heart sank again.

“You’re going to Wal-Mart now.”

My decision of convenience the year before was costing me now. Somehow, I had let the tyranny of the moment overwhelm God’s real heartbeat for the Christmas season.

My decision of convenience the year before was costing me now. I sighed and grabbed the car keys. The local Wal-Mart was open 24 hours a day, but by the time I got home and finished my masterpiece of artistry, it was 2 a.m. There I was, scheduled to speak at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event early the next morning, and yet my head didn’t hit the pillow until the wee hours. Somehow, I had let the tyranny of the moment overwhelm God’s real heartbeat for the Christmas season.

Every passing year, it seems that more and more people lose focus on the real reason for Christmas.

Every passing year, it seems that more and more people lose focus on the real reason for Christmas. Don’t you feel the hustle and bustle like I do? Instead of thinking about gaudy house decorations and ornate Christmas trees, maybe we can think about a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Instead of dwelling on the highest-priced gifts we can afford, maybe we can sing glory to God in the highest. Rather than turning to a store that can offer us savings, maybe we can turn to a Savior born to save us.

Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world, and the miracle of God come to Earth in human form in the tiny Jewish hamlet of Bethlehem is the greatest story that cannot and will not ever go away—no matter what the world says.

Jesus Christ is our only hope for joy, peace, and salvation. Let your heart be God’s Bethlehem again this Christmas.

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