Christmas Journey

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The “Reason for the Season”, the “True Meaning of Christmas”, cliches I constantly hear this time of year. Discovering Christmas is a journey for me, and each year I seek to be a little more wise as I travel and lead my children to the manger. Each year we arrive a little less weighed down by extras and a little more free to see the gift that awaits below the star.

(December 2005) It was two weeks to Christmas; not much time really considering I hadn’t even thought of baking a cookie, taken the family picture for the card, written our Christmas letter and still had much shopping to do. I should have been in panic mode, but I was not. A few years earlier I began taking in some valuable lessons on being a parent during this season.

The lessons started on Thanksgiving, I learned that the holiday meal will taste no less delicious if your five year old comes to the table in sweats she has worn for three days and a pajama top. I had asked her to go dress for dinner; this is how she dressed. She had helped to set the table and prepare part of the meal, and had done it all with a huge smile. I decided to overlook the fashion faux pas; what was important was what she had brought to the table, not what she wore to the table.

Another lesson came through a question posed by my seven year old after gifts had been put under the tree. “Why do we get all the presents if Christmas is about Jesus?” Such an big question from such a small boy. In fact, the year before I had wondered the same thing on Christmas Eve as I surveyed all the gifts under the tree. If its all about celebrating Jesus, what have I done by adding all this stuff? It suddenly didn’t seem right to give so much to each other but come to the King so empty handed.

That year we talked about a gift we could each give to Jesus. Something meaningful that we could lay at the manger. Ideas were reading our Bibles, praying, making wise choices. We each wrote down our gift, put them all in a box with a pretty ribbon to be tucked away and opened again the next year.

The following year we opened the box to see if we had indeed honored the gifts we had intended to present to Him. Some of us did better than others, though none of us gave the perfect gift. Which gave us an opportunity to talk about how God’s grace would cover our shortcomings and that those shortcomings would not stop us from offering another gift that year.

One distinct lesson came directly from the Wise Men; it was to travel in the right direction. We have several Nativity sets and when the kids were small they would each pick a set to call their own for the season. They would set up the manger scene at the beginning of Advent and start the Wise Men far from the Nativity. Every night they would move their Wise Men closer and closer, arriving to worship and bear gifts to Jesus on Christmas.

As the Wise Men moved closer to the Jesus, sometimes I felt as if I was moving farther away, usually unaware; just too busy to think about where I was in the Advent journey. But that year I moved with the Wise Men closer to the manger. It was simple things that kept me focused that year. I felt content to sip coffee from a favorite Christmas mug in the morning, I felt happy to watch Frosty the Snowman with the kids, deliberate as I shopped for the gifts, which were fewer that year.

I read an article once that said there never has been and never will be our “picture perfect” Christmas. The first Christmas was dirty, cold and smelly. What makes me think I deserve more than that?

There will be years when I lose sight of that. There may be years in which we travel non-stop, there are bound to be meals in which I demand proper attire, days in which I am baking like crazy; occasionally I will feel crabby and overwhelmed.

But more and more I seek to revel in the moments of the season. Making efforts to be intentional about the direction we are taking, taking time to marvel at the absolute wonder that took place in a barn (or more likely a cold, dark cave) as we make our way to the manger to come and adore Him.

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