As I have been researching and thinking about what happened in the years of Jesus life that are not touched on in the Bible, I have been overwhelmed by this simple fact: the reason that the authors of the Gospels didn't devote much space to describing that part of Jesus life and ministry is because they wanted to focus our attention on what they thought was most important: His ministry, death, and resurrection.
And, despite their best efforts, we have found a way to get around that.
This article is really about a moment about a month ago (it is now July) when I walked into a local fabric store in search of foam only to be presented with a display of Christmas decorations. Christmas in June! This was not a clearance table left from last December or even some special Christmas in June sale. They were trying to get a seven-month jump on the Christmas marketing!
Not two weeks later I saw a post on twitter from a friend bragging that they had gotten a jump on their Christmas shopping at which point I wondered how I was ever going to be able to get my shopping done in the remaining six months.
In American culture, Christmas has become a distraction for many Christians, for others it is an all-out idol. Rather than spending some time focusing on the important fact that God came to earth, every waking hour from sometime in, well apparently, June is spent obsessing over the perfect ornaments, gifts and sweater. As ridiculous as it sounds, a holiday that celebrates Jesus has become a distraction from him. Something that is good has turned bad.
That can happen with any good thing. I have seen people become distracted by a number of seemingly positive, spiritual things.
There was the man whose quest to be a good steward of his money became the driving focus of his life causing him to miss the opportunities for ministry that God was offering. There was the woman whose focus on living a life of constant prayer made her inaccessible and hard to converse with eliminating her opportunities to talk to people who weren't Christian. Then there was the guy whose church volunteering transformed into another way for him to neglect his family responsibilities, and the mother whose focus on her family and being a good mother ended up blinding her to the need to be an incarnational minister in her community.
These good things become bad when we begin to focus on serving them instead of God. When our life centers around stewardship, church service, family, and even prayer, instead of Jesus we have allowed the good to become a distraction.
The call of Jesus isn't to perfect some piece (or all) of our life, but to follow him down the messy paths that leads us into places other people think we shouldn't go, talking to people we shouldn't talk to and offering help to those who might take advantage of it. I am trying to make my life look more like that this week.