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Monthly Archives: December 2010

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Immanuel Still

A baby arrived and they called Him Jesus. God called Him God With Us. Immanuel. God revealing Himself. And sticking around.

All of humanity needed a Savior. So He came. The only One fit for the job. And while here, He revealed Himself and showed us all that He is. All that we aren’t. All that we need. God With Us.

He left and His Spirit came to lead us and show us the way to live, all the truth we need for real living. And God is with us. Because Immanuel came.

He came for the joys. Like the birth of my daughters. God with us.

And for the sorrows. Like the subsequent desperate pleas of this clueless mom who feels so inadequate. God is with us.

I drive through the path that the mercy storm left last fall, and still cry for beauty that was lost. For the mercy that was shown. And God is with us.

I read an e-mail and discover that death has turned a friend’s world upside down two days before Christmas. But God is with us.

The bad news grows: a friend of a friend, another husband, a wife and mother. And God is here.

Because that’s His name. Immanuel. God with us.

That’s what God named Him before He even got here. God revealed.

Sometimes the pit gets slipperier and harder to climb out. But God is with us.

Tonsils are removed. Healing takes weeks. God is with us.

A car crashes into a family whose lives are instantly and forever changed.  God is with us.

A marriage falls apart and children are fatherless. Still, God is with us.

Because that’s what He does. Never leaves. Always loves. Always holds. Always Immanuel.

So we celebrate His birth. We get trees and hang wreaths and make cookies and candies. We give each other gifts to celebrate His coming. We even change up the radio lineup for a few weeks and sing songs specific to this special celebration. And God is with us.

But Christmas ends. And we take down the tree and eat up the cookies and put away the gifts and return to the songs of November.

And God is with us!

Still.

Missing Christmas

They were looking for regal, so they missed His arrival.  They’d been given fair warning that He was coming.  And still they missed out.  Sure, they didn’t have an exact date, but still they knew.  Or at least they should have known.  For they had heard rumblings from prophets of old that the King would come.  Still they missed Christmas. 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  -Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

They were looking for stunning, spectacular, stately.  But that’s not how He came.

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
   a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
   nothing to cause us to take a second look. -Isaiah 53:1-3 (msg)

Instead of majestic, they got a poor baby whose parents couldn’t even get a room.  And their expectations made them miss the whole thing. 

It makes me wonder about the whole Christmas chase.  Are we missing Christmas because of what we think it should look like?  The perfectly wrapped present.  The most beautifully decorated tree.  The most amazing amount of cookies and candy canes and Christmas cards.  The best parties to attend and church Christmas programs. 

I’m on the way to understanding this whole crazy thing we call Christmas.  And I’m pretty sure this is not what God had in mind when He sent huge crowds of angels, some shepherds and three really smart men to spread the news of the King’s arrival on earth.  I have more to grasp, but I don’t believe that God’s idea for Christmas included stressed-out grumpy moms yelling at overworked retail clerks about Zhu-Zhu Princess Carriages.  And I’m starting to think that Satan must be having a hay-day with the whole thing.  You know, just enough giving to make us think we get the real meaning of Christmas . . . only not.  Just enough joy to make us chase our idea of perfection to the point where we miss the joy and go right to the greedy.  Just enough grace to make us feel like we’re serving our Master while crossing it off our list, begrudgingly wondering why we bother.

Please understand I am so all about the celebration of Christmas.  I love the beauty that the celebration inspires.  I just think that somehow we’ve gone from inspired beauty in awe of what God has done to uptight obligation in light of what we think Christmas should look like.

So I am taking measures this year to enhance the joy of the season for real.  And I am totally believing that this time I will not miss Christmas.  Not even when it’s over.

Chasing Christmas

I have always loved Christmastime.  Everything about it.  The trees and songs and bells and pretty lights and mistletoe.  I even like the hustle-and-bustle of it. 

So last week I was wondering why this year feels different.  Because my happy doesn’t really feel much happier this time around.  And I think I made a breakthrough discovery that will forever change my view of Christmas.  I’m realizing that maybe the Christmas we all work so hard to create is just an illusion.  Like chasing a memory we never really had.  I’m starting to think that for all these years, we’ve just been chasing the Christmas we think we want, never really knowing what that is.  So we chase it through the mall and the Christmas tree lot and the wrapping paper.  We chase it through Christmas party buffet lines and traffic.  We chase Christmas down until the chase becomes the event.  And Christmas becomes an annual frenzy.  And before we know it, the happy is gone and we are none the wiser for it.  So we wrap it all up and call it another crazy Christmas season and put away the decorations for eleven more months when we’ll take it all out and chase it down again.

Then I remembered the first ever Christmas chase.  It looked a lot different.

Three men chasing a star.  They chased it because they wanted to meet a baby king.  The King.  They brought gifts on their chase because they wanted to, not because they were expected.  They went because they wanted to love on the baby.  Because God was making an appearance, and they wanted to see it.  Their advent calendar was not precise.  They couldn’t count down the days, but they knew it was close.  And all they chased was the real live Christmas.  The one where God became baby in a stinky, nasty stable and dirty, poor people were the honored guests.  The one where angels and stars burst with excitement because of the truth of real Christmas — God Himself providing the cure for broken mankind.

That’s the Christmas I want to chase.  I’m done chasing memories and illusions of what I think it should be.  I will chase it no more.  Because the perfect Christmas has nothing to do with pretty bows and fancy clothes.  The perfect Christmas happened about 2000 years ago.  When the perfect God sent His perfect Son in the perfect way to ensure my (and your) perfect eternity.

So when I sit in front of my cozy fire and wrap my presents with their pretty bows, I have decided that I will not stress-out when the cookies burn out or when I notice the tree-top angel disclosing her plastic underparts.  (Yes, that’s parts not pants!).  I will choose to not get upset when that Christmas cd skips.  Again.  Or when the advent wreath candles fall over for the three hundred forty-ninth time.  Because this year I’m chasing the real deal.