Dec. 10, 2011
But Joseph had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
I heard a thought this week about people who observe Christmas and those who keep Christmas. Hmmm … it got me thinking. What is the difference?
Is putting up a tree observing Christmas or keeping Christmas?
Are Christmas cards an act of observing or keeping Christmas?
Are wrapping presents be an act of love or a waste of time?
I quickly came to the conclussion that any part of the western Christmas celebration can be either. It depends upon your attitude and how you approach the tradition.
Christmas trees are green year around and remind us of God’s love for us year around. When we see a lite tree, it can remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.
Yesterday, Rick and I walked down to the local hardware store and bought our tree. It’s only two blocks away, so walking the tree back to our house isn’t very hard. Halfway home, I realized the checkbook had fallen out of my pocket. So, Rick stayed with the tree while I jogged back to the store. It was lying in the parking lot, right where I had bent over to pick up an end of the tree. I’m sure the guy driving away wondered what I was picking up from the ground. Finding the checkbook wasn’t a big deal but it made my day less complex as I pondered what I’d have to do if I didn’t find it.
I love receiving Christmas cards. Unfortunately, there are way to many people from various eras of my life that we only touch base at Christmas. As I complete the cards for each family we send to, I say a prayer for the family as I prepare the card. It’s a tiny way of lifting up those who are important to me that I don’t pray for every day. I pray that they will find peace on earth, not just one day a year, but be guided by God’s peace every day.
Another fun part of yesterday – I received a special Christmas card. The Elliots are a family who used to attend Midland. Chris and Michelle are about my age and have three daughters. How we miss them atMidland! They now live in Illinois, close toSt. Louis. Michelle called me yesterday. We had a great conversation and caught up. She was getting ready to mail our Christmas card and decided to call. Bonus! Now, if I would only take the time to do as Michelle did and phone someone who I would like to have a long conversation with, even if it meant everyone got their card just a bit later.
Rick and I keep our Christmas shopping to a minimum. We stopped last Friday night in Baraboo and did the majority of the shopping. On the way home, I said that I thought we had most of the shopping done. Rick’s response, “I sure hope so!” One night this week, I decided to see what we had here and if there was anything else I really needed to get. As I wrapped the presents we had, I thought about the person(s) the gift will go to and prayed that they would capture the reason for the season moreso than what they were receiving from us. As I went through this exercise, I decided that wrapping presents takes a lot of time. But it also gave me time to think about the loved one I was wrapping the gift for. Scenes from interactions with them from the last year replayed in my mind as I tied ribbon around the packages. “How can I be God’s presence to them this year,” I thought.
I also discovered that I needed two more gifts. On Thursday, I stopped at a store and picked out the gifts. I forgot that this store wraps everything more beautifully than I ever could. Bonus! As I carried the last two into the house, I stopped and thought about the receivers of these gifts. “May their Christmas be more about the Christ child than whether I got them anything significant,” I thought as I placed them with the other gifts.
What is the difference between observing Christmas and keeping Christmas? We decide that individually. For me personally, I pray the things I do this month are a little softer, more intentional and less about me and more about a baby born over 2,000 years ago. I want to arrive at Dec. 24, knowing that my heart has rediscovered once again why we go through this crazy time of the year every year. I pray that your heart will not just observe Christmas and that you will do more than go through the motions. I pray that you’ll rediscover how you and your family can truly keep Christmas.
Dear God: Did the angels simply “do their job” when they went to the shepherds? Or were they so excited to be the first ones to announce the Savior’s birth? How easily the wise men could have gotten discouraged as they probably spent months traveling to Bethlehem! I’m confident that they didn’t feel let down when they arrived. It was just an ordinary night for the shepherds until it was interrupted by a heavenly chorus. May our Advent nights be interupted by Your as You help guide our lives. These were the first keepers of Christmas. May we not be casual observers but determined keepers of Christmas this year. Amen.
Dec. 10, 2011