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Releasing the Burden

Matthew 3:3

Pastor James F. Wright

Fourth Sunday in Advent
St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Sun, Dec 23, 2001 

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  Matthew 1:21

In the name of the King who comes to save us.

Imagine God walking up to the door of your house on Christmas day.  Outside strings of lights are falling off of the eaves of the house, extension cords trailing everywhere.  Inside he hears the shouts of kids fighting over video games because you brought the wrong ones and they haven't learned to share. There's wrapping paper strewn everywhere.  The Christmas tree is lying on its side right where the cat climbed up and rode it to the ground.  The dog is at the vet's after he got electrocuted chewing a strand of lights.  Smoke pours out from the kitchen where the ham is burning in the oven.  Your wife is crying because last year's Christmas dress won't fit anymore and the stores are all closed.  And you are crying because you are holding the latest Visa and Master Card bills in your lap.

But there, over in a quiet corner of the house sits the manger display.  In all of this chaos the baby is still there.  So is the potential for the perfect Christmas.  God is smiling.  You would be also if you thought for a moment about what that manger really means.

We have allowed Christmas to become a burden instead of the joy it really should be.  Why does this happen?  It happens when we get carried away by the traditions and forget the meaning behind them.

There is a great deal of pressure for women especially.  You expect to provide the family with the "perfect Christmas."  You do the shopping, prepare the meals, invite the guest, and provide the comforts.  Meanwhile, you worry.  Will everyone get along?  Will the kids stop fighting long enough to notice what you've done?  Will everything be perfect?

Women, you should give yourself a break and stop thinking that by overworking yourself you can bring peace to your family.  Only God can do that.  Go ahead and be a blessing to others, but don't take on yourself the burden of making sure everyone has the perfect Christmas.  A Christian Christmas isn't just about meals, toys, entertainment and everyone getting along.  Christmas is about Jesus.  God came down to earth to bear our sins and save us from evil.  If your family has an appreciation for this, then Christmas will come in the best way.

Fathers can be burdened by their own expectation that they must provide all the expensive trimmings to Christmas, namely by supporting the ballooning credit card bill when it comes.  For this year the damage is already done, but we have that uneasiness that if someone doesn't get everything they want, we let them down.  Christ did not come down to earth to burden us with a load like this.  He came to set us free.

He came to release the captives, to set the prisoners free.  It is wrong for us to allow ourselves to be burdened again.  The bills will be paid.  God will provide for his people.  We men have to remember that Christmas is not about us meeting everyone's needs.  It's about God the Father doing that by sending his Son into the world.  If we could have done it, he wouldn't have sent Jesus.  Fathers should work to turn the family's attention away from dependence on goods and entertainment and on to the joy and contentment of Jesus Christ coming into our lives and remaining with us through everything.

Have you make the family Christmas complete by taking the children on your knee and telling them how much they are loved, not only by you, but by our Father in heaven?

Children also have to learn that Christmas isn't about getting entertained, but about getting saved.  Kids, if you wake up on Tuesday and there's no X-Box or Game Cube under the tree for you, don't be disappointed.  Can that video game bless you with peace in your heart?  Can it forgive you for the many black sins that stain your heart?  Does it watch over you night and day for the rest of your life?  When you die, can that game raise you up from the dead and make you live forever?  Don't allow yourself to be burdened with the love of things and lose the love of God.

Instead, when you wake up on Christmas morning, be thankful to God loves you.  He has blessed you with people who love you.  He brought you to be born in the richest country the world has ever known.  Remember the kids in Afghanistan who never have enough to eat and have no games but blood and violence every day of their lives.  Thank the Lord that he has given you Christian parents who teach you it is foolish to worship toys, clothes, entertainment and money.  They taught you to know that Jesus is the person who loves you and blesses you with what you need to live forever.

As we gather with out families on Christmas Eve, remember those who can't be home because God is using them to protect us from evil.  I'm talking about soldiers and their families, about doctors and nurses caring for the sick, and the police and firemen who protect us.  Give thanks that we have one another.  Remember the people who have no family to spend the holidays with, those who's loved ones died when the towers fell.  Thank God for blessing your with the people you have around you.

Christmas is an opportunity for us to remember once again how precious every single person is to God our Father.  When we turn the blessings into burdens, he does not cast us away and start over.  He comes among us in a humble way, teaching, loving, forgiving, and leadings us to see how much he loves us.  He takes away the guilt we are not strong enough to carry.  He takes it on himself and bears it all.  We are his people once again.  He is our God forever.

The best present a person can receive this Christmas is the power to believe that what the angel of the Lord said to Joseph has come true.  Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sin.

Copyright 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.

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