I’m surprised by Christmas this year.
Not the “Wow! I didn’t realize it’s Christmas already!”, but “Wow. I feel closer to the manger this year.”
If you were to step into our house this year, you would not find a freshly sawn 8 foot Fraser decorated with strands and strands of white lights accented with handmade country ornaments as in previous years. Faux-evergreen garland would normally wind around the banister, adorn the top of our china hutch, and hang over the slider. Every room would have something “Christmas-y” in it. (Of which there is always some decoration who doesn’t get on the flight back up to the attic come January.)
This year… there are three little trees on our coffee table: a red, a green and a pink one. They were carefully decorated by little fingers from ornaments saved for them from previous years. There is one strand of lights (which is half lit) draped over and around the trees. A beautiful poinsettia decorates our dining room table, and the much requested box of Christmas books has been opened and given a prominent place with easy access.
The piece de resistance of this living room is under the three little trees. If you look there, on the bottom shelf of the coffee table, you will find The Christmas Box. Inside are the stuffed figures who tell of the magnificent promise, the humble manger, the rowdy shepherds, the tender couple and the precious Baby.
Make no mistake, there are 3 large tubs filled with decorations still sitting in the attic. The tree is still attached to its trunk somewhere in the woods. There are strands of lights that all work in some store. But last year, all of those things were amazing and beautiful but in the end, brought me no closer to the manger.
This year, I am filled with an awe that no decoration can take credit for. Before you jump to the conclusion that Christmas decor is an anchor weighing down your very soul, I do not believe that those things (in and of themselves) are bad – at all! They are beautiful expressions of celebration. The catch is to remember what and Who you are celebrating.
The thrill of my evening came as I’m dishing out Blueberry Buckle and watching the kids open the Christmas Box. They were giddy!! Jonny took each of them out and organized them by size (like any good engineer would). Chloe looked over them to make sure they were all there and that Michael hadn’t tossed one of them behind a couch yet. But as they handled them, their eyes got that “far-off” expression as they remembered the Story.
Isn’t that it? Story. The Ultimate STORY!
I don’t know about you, but I love it when someone tells me a story. But the BEST part comes when at the end the storyteller punches it with “this really happened!” I sit there in amazement replaying the story in my head, reeling with “This wasn’t just a story – it really happened!” Somehow it makes the story even more special! The characters and setting, plot and device, villain and hero were real people.
There are many “stories” that float around this time of year. Great stories, funny stories, but mostly they are fiction – maybe even inspired by fact – but at the end of the day – fiction.
I am fixated with the Story.
The perfect (not one sin – ever!) Baby in the filthy dirty animal feed trough, the new mom who had to figure out the mothering thing as she went along, the young husband who took a huge leap to marry his pregnant fiancée and couldn’t even touch her for 33 days after she gave birth so he could fulfill the Law, the hotel manager who was so busy with the mundane of his little life that he missed out on the supernatural, the unforgiving law that forced a pregnant woman on a difficult journey, the rough and tough fight-off-lions-and-bears-with-just-a-stick yet no one wanted to associate with them shepherds, the king who saw himself above the law, the wise and discerning star-gazers who were sensitive to God’s direction, the elderly man who spent every day of his life waiting expectantly to see The Promise before his very eyes… the most amazing story, is it not?!
But wait… the BEST part? It’s ALL TRUE - each and every bit actually happened in a little place called Israel!! This is not just a nice religious legend so that old ladies can feel comforted. That perfect Baby really came - fully God and fully man. He came for one purpose and one purpose only – to be my Savior. Before the beginning of time, His Father knew we’d screw up His perfect world with this nasty junk called sin. He knew we were hopelessly lost in mire of our own making and worse? separated forever from Him.
He planned that His perfect Son would be the only payment we’d need for our awful sin. Even when we hated Him and we’d eventually curse Him and kill Him on a cross, He loved us and died for us.
It’s MY Story! The payment that guarantees me eternal life through nothing I could ever do came at an awful cost. The Father gave up His beloved Son for me.
The very least I can do is push the mundane junk of my day aside, huddle close to the manger, worship Him, and long for the day when I can see His face.