It was our second vacation to Saint Augustine, FL. This is quite possibly my favorite place on earth. Thus, further cementing the truth I am 35 going on 75. The day was classic September in The Old City. Perfect. That morning, Becca and I spent time walking around the farmer’s market. I visited a small folding table in the shade and joined the St. Augustine Beach Civic Associate – I would late learn, apparently $5 buys you al lifetime membership. A little while later we would have our turn at bocce ball on the nearby courts. Our own version of a Norman Rockwell. The sound of the waves crashing and the gulls squawking. “Snowbirds” come down from New York, with their gold chairs weaving through tufts of exposed chest hair, could not help but flirt with my wife. Can I blame them? I laugh to myself as I politely decline for the second time a cigarette from a white-haired, leather-skinned lady from New Jersey.
Have you ever been on a sailboat? That night, my wife and I had a really great time enjoying a sailboat ride off the northeast shore of Florida. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. Whenever I scheduled the chartered excursion, I remember thinking to myself, “Those guys on The Bachelor don’t know real romance” and I set out to prove it. After a picnic dinner, but before the sun completely set, the captain of the sail boat asked if Becca or I wanted to sail the boat. What was not surprising was the ability the strong Atlantic wind had to move the whole boat with great strength and often without warning. The captain warned us of this. While it was also true, if you were not paying attention, the gentle intercoastal breeze could cause the boat to drift off course. “She doesn’t care how pretty the shoreline is at sunset,” the captain said, “the wind, man.”
December 26th can be a lot like that sailboat trip. The unseen, unrealized winds of society can blow us away from the true joy of Christmas. Without warning and without notice we drift back into our busy schedules and self-centered priorities. We weakly ask ourselves, “Is it possible to have the Christmas Spirit all year long?!” then turn around and break our necks trying to keep everyone, including ourselves, happy with all the wrong things. In part, what makes Christmas so wonderful is our commitment to take our eyes off ourselves. Push pause on the influences and winds of culture. We realize what we have in our hearts is more special than what we have in our hands. We let our sails fill with the incredible, soul-cleansing winds of Jesus. The tragedy is the speed in which we stop setting our hearts on Christ and allow our boats to drift back into the chaos.
Revelation 17 gives a descriptive warning of such an experience. All the later chapters of Revelation are rich with colorful language and sometimes difficult principles to understand. However, this truth hits home with us all. The prostitute John writes of is not the human prostitutes of which we might think. The reference to Babylon in verse 5 and the reference to seven hills in verse 9 – which First Century listeners would know that as a reference to Rome – is a vivid description of two places where men and women had abandoned their love for God and passionately pursued the things of this world. God, our great bridegroom, left at the altar while we satisfy ourselves with lesser gods.
In the days after Christmas, may we find ourselves still in love with the baby born in a manager. May we commit to staying in love with Jesus beyond the holly and the ivy, the gingerbread men and the manger. He came to bring us life, hope, and peace that cannot be found in anyone or anything else. Let’s fight the urge to be distracted and to allow the winds of society, pleasure, and influence drift us away from the presence of Immanuel – God with us every day, not just at Christmas.