Is a shift necessary?
Even at the most elementary level a shift is necessary right now. The house is decorated with pilgrims, pumpkins, cranberries, turkeys, all in seasonal browns and oranges. The leaves and folded hands and cornucopia provide a fitting backdrop of traditional gratitude so that our one day of thanks can be described as a season. Then there's a massive shift. The fall motif must yield to the colors and symbols of Christmas. In many places it actually happens in the lead-up to Thanksgiving. But, at least by the closing seconds of the last football game the shift is programmed. Just as it transforms the living space to yuletide brilliance this transition should also happen in the being space within us. That is, it should happen. You know, in the heart.
Most often the transition that defines us and the season is one from a semblance of contrite gratitude to the blatant commercialism of the holidays, black Friday being the new port of entry. Seasonal greens and reds overtake the more majestic purples and golds that should proclaim the birth of Christ. It's why a heart shift is so necessary these days, even among the most observant believers. The humble nano-seconds holding hands around a lavish Thanksgiving feast are frequently passing ideals because we're so ready and willing to welcome the spirit of the season. Well now, what spirit is that exactly? Oh yes, Olive the other reindeer, the spirit of giving, peace on earth good will to men, frosty the snowman, round john virgin, and jolly old St. Nicholas. But, that's why the heart shift is needed. You see, Christmas is about gratitude too. The national holiday of Thanksgiving should soften us in preparation for the ultimate expressions of gratitude in the worship of God's greatest gift, Jesus Christ the Lord.
Worship of Christ, then, is the heart shift that is necessary as we prepare to turn the pages of our calendar to December. The few quiet moments of thanksgiving last Thursday are typically prelude to our most self-absorbed thirty days. Most of us add a facade of holy warmth to the whole thing by making it about others, giving to mission causes, providing necessities to those less fortunate, and attending the Christmas cantatas at all of the local churches. Once again, those are good things and do add a measure of goodness to what could be a totally secular fiasco, the happy holidays and all of that. Some of us flinch at the new cultural twists our politically correct world has imposed on the Christmas experience. But, few of us make this heart shift that should transform this entire season to the worship of the Christ.
Maybe it's sixty-seven years of Baptist conditioning but worshiping Christ hasn't been the center of my Christmas heritage either. Those earliest years involved singing Christmas hymns beginning on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, hearing a message about Christ's birth, no room in the inn, or what the angels' said to the shepherds while they were sore afraid, and hearing a choir musical. There was an annual church Christmas tree when all of the children received a brown bag with an apple, an orange, a tangerine, and a couple of candy canes. Us free-church Baptists didn't do Advent, and it was only as an adult that we started attending an occasional Christmas Eve service. Worshiping Christ wasn't an agenda item. Giving, serving, missions, and others were the by-words. Receiving wasn't verbalized but it was expected.
Then, there are the wise men. Matthew wrote about them---
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it
came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they
rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child
with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their
treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:9-11, ESV
Their first response to the baby Jesus was to worship him. Several of the other human niceties we attach to Christmas were there too, their extravagant gifts, rejoicing with exceeding great joy, perhaps a sense of wonder at the heavenly guidance they had received. But, when they saw him, "they fell down and worshiped him."
Matthew's Gospel records several other times when people worshiped Christ. Each was a moment of clarity for the people recognizing him for perhaps the first time---
And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:33, ESV
And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took
hold of his feet and worshiped him.
Matthew 28:9, ESV
And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
Matthew 28:17, ESV
Each of them is noteworthy and is a lesson for me, and perhaps many of us. They were each occasions when people became aware of his true identity, his divine nature, his Lordship over them. The disciples saw him calm the seas, the women met him after the resurrection, and the eleven disciples encountered him in the Galilee. At each occasion they worshiped him.
That's the heart shift that needs to happen as we move past Thanksgiving into the Christmas season. It is the recognition that He is Lord of my life. And, that moment of acknowledgement should be so overwhelming that the only expected response is to fall down and worship him.
Is this shift necessary? It is for me.