Are you ready for Christmas?

The closer the big day looms, the more frequently those very words are uttered. Are you ready for Christmas? 73063_10200132888625462_345328533_n

It’s quite the loaded question, really. We love to be busy about Christmas. We love the frenetic shopping, the baking, the parties, the clothes. Making magic and meals and mastering the art of all things festive.  Are you ready for Christmas?

I am not ready for Christmas. Not one little bit.  The shopping has not even been started. Admittedly, I don’t even have a list, rather a distant, vague understanding of my family’s wishes. The Christmas tree is still waiting – down the road, with all of the other Christmas trees at the Lyon’s Club fundraiser in the local grocer’s parking lot. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get the tree, I assure my hopeful wee ones. Christmas decorations? Yeah, there are a few out and about but most are still stuffed in their boxes, barely put away from last year’s extravaganza. The Christmas lights were all deported to the local landfill, useless, shorted out, burned out, and dead from the flooded basement after last winter’s blizzard. The cookies are not baked and the meals are not planned and I haven’t the faintest idea where the leftover wrapping paper has gone. In this season of preparation, I am not too well prepared. And that’s ok.

In the Lutheran tradition, Christmas Carols are not sung until Christmas. Instead, only Advent Hymns echo through the church, melodiously proclaiming the coming birth of the baby Jesus, and the return of Christ, the King. It is a season of preparation. Preparing our hearts to receive our Savior, preparing our lives for the return of the King.  Are you too busy celebrating Christmas to celebrate Him? Or is your heart getting ready to worship, ready for God to do something new in your life, ready to accept the challenge of living for Him in the new year ahead? Let me ask you, are you ready? If Christ came today, are you ready?

If His return were today, or tomorrow or the next, what would He find? A bustling family battling for bargains and begging for gifts or contentedness, service, and hope? It’s prep time, for sure, but are your prepping your presents or prepping your heart? I have a lot of prep work to do. My heart is too busy, my days are too full, and the noise in my life is just plain loud and threatens to drown out the beautful strains of Christmas joy and the Savior’s love. If I am not intentional with prepping my heart to thank and praise and worship Jesus this time of preparation will slip right by. And once the cookies have left behind nothing but crumbs and the presents are unwrapped and ribbons are scattered and the pine needles are dropping from their Christmas boughs, will my heart be satisfied? Or will I be longing for more of Christmas that can only be filled by the gift of God’s Son?

Let me ask you, just once more, are you ready for Christmas?

 

 

imageA heavy darkness seems to pervade these January days, like a chill that hits the bones of my soul. Only some of that darkness belongs to the early sunset and shortened days, some a dark shadow cast by the brightness of the Christmas season that has just passed. Doesn’t the dimness seem to rise up as the sparkle of the Christmas lights come down? House by house, and yard by yard, the Christmas brightness simply goes dark. My Christmas decorations have been put away, ornaments hidden in their protective crates,  the dying tree sentenced to the compost pile, and the stockings stuffed in boxes instead of stuffed with surprises. The boughs of greens have withered away, leaving a straggling needle or two in their places. The twinkling lights have all gone dark, save one. I wasn’t ready for the darkness. I left the snowflake shining on the porch, a gleading reminder of fun filled days and Christmas joy.

When I awoke in the middle of the night, the house was flooded in the cool blue light of that last holiday decoration, filtering through the bay window and seeping across the floor. A few sparkles glittered in my room and down the hall. The children’s rooms seemed bright in spite of the deep winter dark. It was tranquil in the sweet blue light, the house warmed by the last of the fire’s embers while I checked on little children tucked up dreamily in their beds.

Even the smallest of lights can chase away the deepest dark. Isn’t that what we are called to be? Just a little light, passing peace and warmth in the dark and the chill. It doesn’t take a spotlight to brighten up the dark, but the quiet, gentle embers of a soul warmed by the love of the Messiah. It is the love from Christ that fuels our light and stands guard against the dark, a beacon that is our eternal hope and unquenchable joy.  His love that connects us,  fills us, strengthens us and reflects through us. His love is our light and today I’m plugging in.

Shine bright, little light, shine bright.

 

 

 

 

 

Advent – that glorious time of year where everything sparkles and shines and smells of cinnamon and spruce. That time of year when we hustle around, surviving on coffee and spurts of shopping-frenzied adrenaline and perhaps a sticky bun or two, and squooshing and squeezing in one more thing before we have to be at that next one. When, now more than ever, we are beckoned, courted, and teased by all manner of delightful, stuck-in-your-head-forever Target ads, provoking us to empty our wallets for all those lovely, sparkling trinkets that our beloved little people simply cannot be without.  Advent – the time of waiting, seems to be the time when we are never still, but instead, constantly juggling the added responsibilities of pageant practice, and children’s choirs, and school programs, and Christmas parties and all of the fun and all of the mundane that takes up our every spare second. Advent – the time of year when we stuff our homes to the brim with hidden gifts, waiting for the opportune moment to be given.

This season of Advent is also the time when the church lays aside it’s typical worship music for something of a more traditional fare, carols steeped in nostalgia and restyled for the new styles. Where typical Advent sermons, I find, are heavily laden with sincere, heart-warming, stories, practical advice, and Scriptural helps to keep us keeping Christ first  and in the forefront at Christmas. And we need this!  More than ever our hearts long to be tugged by anecdotes, like the often recounted account of the widow who surprisingly received a puppy for Christmas from her late husband, giving her a reason to celebrate the season when she thought she had none. The time of year when we are taught and groomed and reasoned into putting our focus on the Christ-child, the baby born in a manger. Emmanuel, God with us. And it never, ever gets old, no matter how old we get, because the baby in the manger was born for each and every one of us. And we who believe will never forget the joy of the earth in that moment. We can’t forget, we shouldn’t forget the moment that Peace came to earth to be our Emmanuel. But as I reflect on the Christmas story, I think maybe we did forget something. Or at least, maybe I did.

At Christmas, we seem to forget that baby isn’t in the manger anymore. That tiny baby, God with Us, that gave up the glories of heaven to be with us in a whole new way isn’t just a baby all wrapped up and tucked in the hay. That God who became flesh isn’t helpless, or frail, or even new. The baby that we celebrate grew into the God-Man that walked among us. That healed us. That forgave our sins. That baby was crucified and rose again – not as a baby, but as our Savior and King. And He did it all to restore a broken world – to restore a broken me and a broken you – to redeem every mess we ever made, to reshape our bottomed out hearts and breathe new life into our tired, weary existence. He became a baby because He loved us. But He didn’t stay in the manger.

This Advent, don’t forget God with Us. The baby doesn’t lay still as a tiny wooden idol beneath our sparkling trees, or tucked neatly into manger scenes dressing up our altar tables. He’s not just the God with us, He is the God who is STILL with us. He is the God who is with us when we are hustling and bustling, and shopping and serving, and cooking and cleaning. He is our Emmanuel our God with us when we feel Grinchy or giving. He is the God who is always with us when we are singing Christmas carols and sweeping up Christmas cookie crumbs and when we are weeping for Christmases and souls gone on.

Don’t just put the baby first this Christmas. Put the baby who became our Savior first this Christmas. Jesus Christ, our Messiah, our Healer, our Hope. Our Friend, our King, and our Savior is with us. And we need Him.