How does Christmas motivate you? How does it shape your calendar during the final weeks of the year? Is it a time filled with activity, or a time for you to stay out of the fray? Each year when Christmas is on the horizon, we anticipate the emotions which come with the season. We see Christmas in our future, and what we foresee Christmas being like determines much of what we do.
As human beings we tend to be motivated by perceived outcomes, whether positive or negative. If an exciting outcome is possible, we can work tirelessly towards that end. Conversely, if we expect something painful might occur, we can expend huge amounts of energy worrying, doing preventive maintenance, or holding our emotional breath until it passes. Some see Christmas as a time of celebration, so calendars are filled with exciting activities. For others, Christmastime opens wounds from the past, so the activities become places to hide or things to avoid altogether. Perceived outcomes shape desire and desire motivates. We pursue most strenuously that which we most desire.
According to the Bible, the Christian life is like this, but with a twist: we are to motivate ourselves according to God’s desired outcomes, not our own. We are to make his will our desire. Thus we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Of all the saints we could point to in Scripture, perhaps no one exemplifies this more than the Virgin Mary. When the angel Gabriel comes to her explaining she will be the mother of Jesus, she says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
What did the angel tell Mary about her future, which motivated her to lay aside her dreams and live her life according to God’s priorities? The answer is Gabriel did not tell Mary very much about her future, but instead revealed who Jesus will be: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). She saw that having this baby would not only change her life but the future of everyone who has ever lived. We see this later in the same chapter of Luke where Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:46-50, emphasis added). Seeing her life as part of God’s great plan did not result in fear, worry, or regret but in worship and rejoicing. She realized what God had planned was the best plan for her and for the world. For this reason, she could rejoice. Mary was not alone in this kind of response. The shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna, all of these were given a glimpse of who Jesus is, and they responded in worship.
How does hearing about Jesus motivate you? What fills your schedule this Christmas season, or the year 2020 for that matter? Have you given priority to God’s purposes and laid aside your own, trusting that the best will come of it? Can you rejoice in the plan of salvation that God has for the world in the gospel of Jesus Christ, because you see that plan for you as well?
The Lessons & Carols services at Tenth are intended to motivate us to make Jesus our priority this Christmas season and throughout the year. In these services God’s plan of salvation through Christ will be set before us in the reading of the Scripture lessons and a homily by Dr. Goligher, and we will have opportunity to respond in love and praise together as we sing carols and hear the choir sing anthems proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. O come, let us adore him, Venite Adoremus, Christ the Lord.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Colin Howland. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org