When I was a kid we lived with my great-aunt. She was great at many things but one thing that stands out in particular is that every year before Christmas she would set up an epic nativity scene. In her mind, Jesus deserved the very best and she would create a beautiful scene filled with decorations and the occasional random figurine that she could add as worshippers in the manger.
Now as an adult, I cherish decorating for the holidays, and setting up our own nativity scene is always part of the experience. And every year as I set up the baby Jesus and the other figures I can’t help but think of the Innkeeper.
The reason why I think about the Innkeeper is because if we’re not careful, like him we can miss the miracle of Christmas that’s right in front of us.
As we move from fall to the Advent season it seems like there’s a weird shift that happens where we go from the warm, slow pace of fall and get thrust into the craziness of the holidays. And if we’re not intentional, we can miss the true meaning of the season.
This year has been different to be sure, but there is still a tendency to fill the holidays with activity when what our hearts truly desire is not things but peace, simplicity, and meaningful moments with loved ones. I believe there are two ways we can approach the holidays.
1. We can approach it like the Innkeeper, which is what I call the “half-hearted” approach.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7
Mr. Innkeeper was so busy but he felt bad for the lady (Mary) so he tried to make a little bit of room in his barn.
Sometimes with the busyness of holiday there is little actual room in our schedules for Jesus. We want to make room for Jesus but... there’s so much to do. Maybe we can just find a little corner somewhere to squeeze Him in.
The problem with this approach is that we really limit what the holidays are about. Christmas is about Jesus but often we only give Him a little bit of room in the inn of our hearts. And then before we know it, Christmas has come and gone and even though our homes might be filled with more “stuff,” our souls are left feeling empty.
2. A second way to approach Christmas is more like the Shepherds. I call it the “wholehearted” way.
The shepherds were out in the fields when an angel of the Lord appeared to them and shared the great news of what was happening.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12
When the angels left them, the shepherds hurried off to find Mary and Joseph with the baby. The shepherds were also busy working, but they were willing to drop what they were doing and head over to find the baby right away.
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:13
The difference in their response was the posture of their hearts. The Innkeeper had little room for Jesus, other things took priority. The shepherds followed after Jesus wholeheartedly, they allowed space for divine interruption.
This season, how can we position our hearts to receive the best gift ever and share Him with others?
Here are 5 practical tips for a wholehearted holiday season:
- Keep our expectations in check:
Unmet expectations can really wreak havoc on our hearts and the holidays can exacerbate that. This year in particular has not gone as expected so holding expectations lightly leaves room for the unexpected blessings God may want to present us with.
- Protect our joy:
Name what brings you joy and prioritize those things, then be willing to set up boundaries to protect it.
- Focus on gratitude:
We all have something to be grateful for even in difficult seasons. Let’s focus on hearts on being grateful for the BEST gift ever - JESUS! Consider creating a gratitude list instead of or in addition to a wish list.
- Cultivate time for rest:
We live in a crazy busy time and if we’re not careful the amount of activity in our lives can threaten to rob our joy. Carve out some downtime and make sure to engage in life-giving activities so that we can be able to love and serve others well.
- Trade in to-dos for meaningful traditions:
Instead of trying to do it all, think of some traditions that are meaningful for your family and prioritize those. In addition to setting up our nativity, we also listen along to Handel’s Messiah as part of our Advent devotional.
My great-aunt went all out with her nativity scene because she knew Christmas was about Jesus and celebrating His birth. He’s the King and deserves the praise of all creation and her heart reflected that.
Keeping Jesus at the center of Christmas will ensure our hearts are turned toward Him and He promises that if we seek Him with our whole hearts like the shepherds, we too will find Him.