The third example of Dangerous Distractions that can interfere with our ability to actively recognize the true meaning of Christmas is this: the Demands of our Duties.
Remembering our passage in Luke 2, just think about the innkeeper. This man was likely beside himself even before Mary and Joseph knocked on his door. His inn was packed full. There was NO vacancy. Surely he was overwhelmed, and likely asked himself at least some of these questions: How was he going to feed them all? Did everyone have a pillow? Should he have upped his rates in order to take advantage of the crowd in town? Where was he going to park all the donkeys and camels? This man made his livelihood running the inn, but he had probably rarely, if ever, had so many guests at once. And not only the inn, but the entire town was full of people. And let’s not forget that his family had to register, too. There were many duties demanding his attention. And he had no idea what was about to happen.
Sometimes today we are the same way. We let our duties, our jobs, our responsibilities occupy all of our time. We have things to do at work, at church and at home–and more than likely they are all very valid and even very important things. But if we are not careful, they can divert our attention from what Christmas is all about.
In his book God’s Gift of Christmas, John MacArthur writes about the innkeeper: “Not only did he turn Mary and Joseph away, but he apparently didn’t even call for anyone to help a young mother about to give birth. The Son of God might have been born on his property. But he missed Christmas because he was so preoccupied. There is no indication that he was hostile or even unsympathetic. He was just busy, that’s all. Millions of people today are consumed with activity–not necessarily sinful activity, just things that keep them busy. At Christmas, people are especially busy. Shopping, banquets, parties, concerts, school activities, and other things all compete for attention. And in the clutter of activity, many preoccupied people miss the Son of God.”
Thinking of my own current and past experience, I know that December is one of the busiest times of the year. Right now, as a school superintendent, I have a perfect storm of end-of-semester activities, athletic events for winter sports teams that just started their seasons, musical performances for the Christmas concert, and a Christmas program at church. That’s not including anything on a personal or family level. When I was at the children’s home it would have been typical for there to be a dozen choir performances and at least half a dozen Christmas parties between Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus a staff party and things at church. As MacArthur wrote, there is nothing sinful about any of these things, but they keep people busy. And when we get so busy that we lose sight of what Christmas is all about–when the Demands of our Duties interfere with celebrating the true meaning of Christmas–we have a problem.
So this Christmas season, be on guard against the Dangerous Distractions that so easily find their way into our lives.