What? Christmas is over? How did that happen? One minute I'm mulling over the meaning and significance of Thanksgiving and then . . . POOF . . . it's January 2012.
Well, did you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year? I did. At least I'm pretty sure I did. I have a bad habit of cramming too many activities into the time around Christmas and taking on more things than I can actually finish. That would explain the unsent Christmas cards laying around my study that could be dated like fossils back at least eight years. My intentions are good every year, but it always ends the same. My list of "must do's" for the season serve only as a reminder that I'm consistently too optimistic about my organizational abilities. Oh well.
I did have a great Christmas with family and friends, and I hope you did too. I love Christmas and look forward to it every year. I went into it this year hoping and praying for some real moments of awe. Do you know what I mean? I asked God very specifically to somehow hit me over the head this year, to let me understand and experience the significance of Christ's birth in a way I never had before. I wanted more meaning, more movement and change in my heart. I really wanted to understand God differently after this Christmas season. Truth be told, I guess I was hoping for angel sightings, or ghosts in the middle of the night, or at least something that would make a good country music song. What I got was exactly what I needed and exactly what God had been preparing me for.
While driving to work one day, I'm trying to meditate on the birth of Christ, that night in the stable, the wonder of a baby that would change the world forever. In search of "awe," I was thinking about the fact that we celebrate God sending his son to earth because of his love for us, and it hit me, like a baseball bat to the stomach. I had just weeks before sent my very first son off to college, halfway across the country, for the first time. It had just about killed me and I was still reeling emotionally. I worried about whether he would be safe, whether people would be nice to him, whether he would have enough to eat. I missed his company, his presence in our family, and the comfort of the way it used to be. As I was still experiencing those painful emotions, I thought about God's cost in sending us the world's greatest Christmas gift.
It got worse from there (or better). While I was sad and missed my child, I was also hopeful and excited for him. I was actually pretty sure he was going to be well-liked, happy and safe. Then I thought about what God, our Father, anticipated for his Son when he allowed him to leave heaven and come to earth that fateful night. God allowed his Son to leave his side (no, sent him) knowing exactly what awaited him when he came to earth, knowing every minute of Jesus' thirty-three years of humanity. He sent him to the stable that night knowing he would be worshipped by shepherds, angels and kings. He also sent him to the stable that night knowing he would be called names, spat on, beaten, tortured and murdered. Believe me when I tell you there is NOTHING in this world that could entice me give my son up for anyone or anything, if I knew about my son's future what God knew about his son's.
Maybe it's not anything new. I've always known that whole story, but I've never felt it the way I did this year. The gift of Christmas, God's gift to us at Christmas, cost him what I could never conceive of paying. Christmas is only Christmas because Easter is Easter.