Freedom from a Mechanized Christmas

One of my most-anticipated Christmas traditions is a personal ritual. Our family is often at my grandma’s house on Christmas morning, and she has a large barn with a great hayloft. Each year, I try to find a moment when the coast is clear and slip out to the barn for a few minutes of quiet reflection.

If you’re not familiar with barns, let me tell you, there’s not much in a pile of hay to inspire awe. Really. It smells good (which is nice), but I’ve never been one to worship hay. But on Christmas morning, when you settle into a pile of loose hay, rest your back against hay bale, and read the Christmas story with the light coming in from the crow’s nest above…it evokes worship. It brings a fresh realization that God was born into…of all things, hay. He chose to enter our world through a stable. It’s humbling. It’s a stirring reminder of the depth of Jesus’ love.

I wish every Christian I know could experience Christmas morning in the barn.

It’s easy—more accurately  the norm—for the month of December to turn into something like a grueling marathon of activity and exhaustion. December is rich in activates and overflowing in opportunities for outreach. Parties, ministry, shopping, family…it’s all wonderful. But it makes for a challenging schedule. And if we’re not careful, we can move through it like machines—going through the motions of the Christmas schedule.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of the Christmas season is what should be the highest priority—taking time to worship Jesus.

There was nothing romantic or storybook-ish about the stable when Mary gave birth to Jesus. But Mary had a habit that allowed her to experience even this with awe and wonder.

She pondered.

After Jesus was born, after the shepherds came and left, after the stable settled, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Christmas wasn’t just a story for Mary—it was her life! It wasn’t just a heartwarming remembrance—it was marvelous.

And so she thought about it.

A lot.

We have more reason than Mary to meditate on and rejoice in the wonder of Christmas. We know more fully than she did how Christ’s birth fit into God’s loving plan of redemption. But we don’t give ourselves the time, space, or quiet to ponder—to think.

And so we have mechanical Christmases.

You don’t need a barn to experience the awe of Christmas. It’s not the hayloft or the stillness, or even the sound of the horses shuffling below that make my grandma’s barn a place of worship. It’s just that it’s the place where I stop to ponder.

Do you want to bring a childlike wonder and awe back into Christmas? Take time to ponder—on Jesus.

Focus is a choice of your heart, not an outcome of your location.

Ask Mary. She pondered when barns weren’t sentimental.