Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Magic, Christmas Miracles, Christmas Mystery

One of the ways God reminds me the He's in control is by asking me to trust Him when He asks me to be flexible. In general I'm a planner and in general God uses my strategic approach - after all, He made me this way. But He knows I can easily treat my list and plans as masters instead of servants, and become enslaved to a schedule. Over the years I've grown used to schedules that change, unexpected interruptions that turn out to be divine appointments - you get the idea.

What I wasn't expecting was yesterday's sudden change of Christmas plans. Potential inclement weather in our area changed our Christmas plans from Christmas Eve to Dec. 23. I could deal easily enough with the practical logistics of the change - I managed to get out the door quickly and only forgot one item. What took a little adjustment was getting internally aligned with God's plan for our extended family's Christmas celebration.

While I know in my head that Christmas is all about Jesus, and that it's just a date we choose to celebrate because we don't know when He was "really" born, and that the traditions sometimes distract us from the main focus of the season, the reality of this human heart is that much of what we call "Christmas magic" is wrapped up in those traditions. Certain foods cooked certain ways ... attending services at certain times with certain family members ... listening to specific stations when traveling because you know they have the best Christmas music ... late nights spent with family members in a cozy living room ... none of it bad, all of it precious, all wrapped up in those "Christmas magic" moments for my family. You have your own "Christmas magic" moments.

Yesterday it took some work for "Christmas magic" moments. Most stations along the way weren't playing Christmas music exclusively (making me appreciation 101.1 KLRC all the more!). I forgot and left our reindeer antlers behind (one of our traditions is wearing them into gas stations and restaurants at our stops along the way to make people smile). We had already finished our traditional Christmas novel. The trip was, by necessity, rushed. And yet at the end, it was just perfect. Precious time with family, a gift from my brother of Handel's Messiah which gave us the perfect music for the trip home, reading some Christmas short stories, just being together.

As I've reflected today, though, I realize that "Christmas Magic" moments are always tenuous at best. Looking back over my life, many "Christmas Magic" moments have changed. The grandparents who used to be a big part of that for me are now with the Lord. I no longer pretend to believe in Santa Claus so my little brother doesn't get disappointed. There are no Christmas light tours with Pawpaw, pretending that I believe the airport navigation light is Rudolph's nose. My parents don't live in the house I grew up in. New "Christmas Magic" moments have arisen in their place, precious traditions that we've grown to love such as attending a Christmas Eve service with Bob's son and wife. Yet as this year reminded me, even these traditions are subject to change.

Ah, but the Christmas Miracle. That never changes. As I've refocused away from the Magic and onto the Miracle, I've been reminded of the awesomeness of the story. It's not just a sweet tradition. It's the Greatest Story Ever Told. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory." Immanuel, God with us ... the One who, although He existed as fully God, emptied Himself and took on flesh. Not just any flesh - but a lowly baby of a poor family in a forgotten corner of the world. A birth unheralded by the world but so important to God that He sent angels to announce it and a star to mark the location. Like any proud Father, He wanted the world to know all the vital facts about His Son.

And there enters the Christmas Mystery. How could Jesus be fully God and fully man? How could all the fullness of the Godhead dwell in this infant's body? Why did God choose this method for salvation? As a contemporary Christian song says, "This is such a strange way to save the world." Strange, but true. And for those who believe, the Christmas Mystery never loses its awe.

You may be struggling today at feeling the "Christmas Magic". Whatever circumstances have you down, wherever service to God's kingdom has led you that may not feel a bit like 'home', remember the Miracle and Mystery of His birth. Our human attempts to make this holiday special are only dim reflections of the heart of God who heralded His birth like none before or since. He will give you a way to make this day special.

Merry Christmas!

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