He continued, “Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!” [Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)]

christmas starThe countdown has begun and it’s just two weeks until Christmas. At this point in December, we’ve probably made ourselves and our families crazy while preparing for this wonderful holiday. The word “holiday,” however, doesn’t come from “holler-day” as in holler at your family because you’re over-booked or over-drawn, nor does it come from “hollow-day” as in feeling drained and exhausted. A holiday is not supposed to be a “horrible-day” either! The word “holiday” actually comes from the words “holy” and “day.” Its original Old English meanings were “religious festival” and “day of recreation.”

As we prepare for the upcoming holiday, we want to remember to keep the day “religious” which means keeping Christ in our Christmas festivities. But what about that other meaning of the word holiday: a “day of recreation”? Perhaps it’s time to stop the madness and do some refreshing and recreating. Try taking a break from all the holiday prep and listen, truly listen, to the beautiful music of the Christmas season. Ponder the words, “joy to the world” or “tidings of comfort and joy” and let them fill your heart. Sing along with the carols’ words and let the hallelujahs, glorias, and fa-la-la-la-las echo throughout the house. (FYI: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Santa Baby” are not Christmas carols!) Put your feet up and read some Christmas stories or poems—the first two chapters of Luke are a great place to start. Perhaps you’d prefer O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, Max Lucado’s The Christmas Candle or even The Grinch Who Stole Christmas! Watch a holiday movie, drink a cup of cocoa with marshmallows, sit quietly by the fire, or make a list of things for which you’re thankful instead of things you need to do or want to purchase. You’ve probably spent hours decorating the house but have you paused to enjoy the decorations or think of what they represent? Notice the star on the top of your tree and imagine the magnificence of the star of Bethlehem. Take the time to look at your nativity scene and think about the people depicted in it. Remember the purpose of all this holiday hubbub: the celebration of Christ’s birth. The Jews were told by Isaiah to clear the way for the Lord. Have we cleared the way for His presence in our hearts, not just during the holiday season, but all year long?

Father, as we busy ourselves with preparations to celebrate Christmas, keep our hearts and minds focused on the real meaning of this holiday—the loving gifts of salvation, forgiveness and restoration brought to us by the Christ child.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. [Dr. Seuss]

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken! [Isaiah 40:3-5 (NLT)]