Archive for ‘Christmas’

2013/11/30

Wonder

WonderRecently I was honored to be asked to go to Grandparents & Special Friends Day at a local private school as the special friend of a young lady from our church. I was doubtless filling in for grandparents who did not live close. Plus, when I thanked the sweet girl for her invitation, she honestly said, “We don’t know many people around here.” At least I am blessed to be one of the few.

The day entailed a sweet program where each grade did a musical presentation before we were given tours of the school. The program was progressive from the youngest grades up to eighth grade. As I watched the kids, all uniform clad and many eager to share their hard work, I started noticing more details about the students. The uniforms did not hide the occasional student with unkempt hair, or an untucked shirt here and there. They couldn’t hide the weariness in some kids faces, or the students that didn’t smile as they sang.

I sat there realizing that adults are more like kids than we like to admit.

There’s a commercial out right now which features a dad and his son eating pudding. Dad starts talking about his adult life, and the kid’s imagination takes him into the scenarios he hears described. Suddenly we see the son is balding with a small suit on. He goes through the day, fighting traffic, dealing with jerks in the office, and so on. By the end of his dad’s explanation of why he needs pudding, the son simply hands his cup of pudding over saying his dad needs it more than he does.

It’s cute to see the kid in the commercial walking through his dad’s paces. We adults sometimes like to think we have it all together because we have learned stuff along the way. But in reality, we are messy, and we get hurt. We fall down, and we make mistakes every day. In those ways we are very much like kids.

We sometimes have to deal with bullies in the form of bosses or mean people. We don’t always choose good and faithful friends. We forget to take our lunch with us, and someone has to spot us until we can pay it back. Then we spill the lunch that we had to borrow money for down our shirt and we don’t have an extra one at work. We are like kids.

If only we could capture the playfulness, wonder, and the spirit of joy that kids have this time of year. 

We are at the beginning of Advent, and the new year in our church life. The story starts again–the most amazing story every lived. And we do have the chance to act like kids. We have the chance to approach the next few weeks with childlike faith and wonder as we visit the manger and think about how God changed the world forever with a little baby.

Yes, there will be mall traffic, and school programs, and decorating, and family functions, and so much more to navigate. But let’s act like kids this year as we focus on the coming of our King. Let’s anticipate His arrival by (at least inwardly) jumping up and down, just like kids at Christmas. Who’s with me?

2010/12/25

Arrival

Baby Emma's arrival

A couple of days ago as I drove down the road, I passed a Christmas tree lot.  There were men taking down the proverbial big white bulb strings of lights that outlined their outdoor store.  A few forsaken trees lay toppled on the ground around them.  Whether satisfied with their sales or not, it was two days before the big day, and they were packing up.  Time to head home and perhaps trim the leftover trees.

This image is just one sign of what now has finally come.  Ready or not, Christmas has arrived.

Arrival is a great word.  Arrival is often the culmination of something eagerly anticipated—like a package in the mail, a plane carrying a dear friend, or the birth of a baby.  I have two friends that gave birth this year and one that is very ready to have her baby though she will have to wait until next year.

It’s been fun and a little strange to witness the life-changing event of a baby coming take place all around me.  I had Emma more than 11 years ago this year, yet some of my friends near my age are just starting their families.  My parenting skills span over a decade while they are learning how to change diapers and fuss with car seats.

But then again, Emma wasn’t planned.  No couple in their right mind would get pregnant while the wife was the sole bread winner and hubby went to school full time working on his masters.  No, that wouldn’t make sense at all.  But that’s exactly what happened.

We were limping along financially like many seminary couples around us, and I was on the road a bit promoting dramatic and musical resources for the company I worked for.  On one particular trip, I was very tired.  I had flown to a conference in California, so I thought I had a major case of jet lag or something.  I was downing coffee and mochas from the hotel café like nobody’s business.

Some of the ladies with me on the trip listened to me complain of my exhaustion and watched my coffee addiction increasing by the day until one of them finally said, “I bet you are pregnant.”  “Ha!” I confidently said, “I don’t think so.  Not me!”

But she had planted a seed—or maybe more of a weed.  And that weed of thought took over my brain until I was able to get home to take the pee-on-a-stick test.  Sure enough, while unknowing daddy-to-be sat trapped in the bathtub next to me (he had failed to notice that there was no shower in the apartment he picked out for us), I made the grand announcement: “We are pregnant.”

Happy panicking took place shortly there after.  We were in shock.  There were a lot of schizophrenic “yippees!” and “what!?” and “how will we…” and “let’s call our parents” all at the same time.  This was not in our plan, but the countdown to an arrival had already begun.

Much has been written about the arrival of Jesus into our world.  Yet the amazing birth that we celebrate today is still pretty hard to imagine.  The circumstances were complicated, the setting not even close to ideal, and two anxious first-time parents were ushered into a life they were unaccustomed to.  And on top of that, they were now mom and dad to the ruler of the universe, the Messiah.

Last week, I attended a service called Silent Night at my church.  I decided not to join my choir for the music, but to rather sit and listen and pray.  The service was focused on healing and hope, recognizing that many people do not have Happy Holidays or even anything close.  Many of us looking at the year behind wonder how we made it to Christmas at all.

At that service, as the message wound down, the priest asked us to close our eyes and use our imaginations for a moment.  He read us a story about a boat.

The boat comes from a distance towards the shore.  You are standing on that shore waiting. The passengers: Mary carrying the baby Jesus in her arms as they cross the choppy water. The vessel drifts in and then comes to a gentle stop; you go to meet the boat. Mary looks up at you and then lifts the swaddled baby up asking you if you will hold Jesus.

You reach out and place one hand under his head and one hand under his back until he is safely in your arms.  Holding baby Jesus next to you, you look down at his sweet face.  And he looks up at you.

Christmas is in your arms.

If you’ve ever held a baby, I’m betting this scene isn’t too hard to imagine. The simplicity and the beauty of Jesus coming as a baby never gets old.  The genius choice God made to come in this way is easy for me to understand as a parent because, no matter the circumstances that bring them into the world, babies are wonderful blessings.  We just sometimes fail to recognize that in our broken world.

So this year, whether it’s been a good one or a hard one, whether you have a new baby to enjoy, new dreams to pursue or you’re just struggling to get by, I hope that you will be able to focus on the one thing that matters.

The journey of another year almost over, let’s find ourselves at the manger reaching in to hold him–perfect joy and salvation in our arms–as we walk into a New Year filled with mystery and promise.

Merry Christmas everyone…