Monday, December 22, 2014

A Season of Holy Nights

Christmas. "Jesus is the reason for the season." I have seen this sentiment thrown around more and more each year, often in the same breath someone is rattling off their to-do or have-done list. Christmas has become exhausting. But this year, I needed it to be different. I needed to be on my knees, in that manger, adoring the King who put on flesh to be among us. My soul was weary and my heart heavy. I really needed Jesus to be the reason this season.
I love lists. The joy I get from crossing things off is sad. The whole holiday season (Thanksgiving to the new year) carries so many "have to get dones" that I make a list as second nature as I take a breathe. But this year, the Lord has been teaching me to embrace the present and be present and to pour out myself as an offering in my daily life, serving Him and those around me as best I can.
I came in to December with high hopes. Being in a major metropolitan area, there are tons of options to see beautiful lighting displays. I wanted to soak a few in. I also had high hopes to make a ton of baked goods and pass them out to everyone I knew. I wanted to make each weekend memorable, with hot chocolate and Christmas movies and cookies. Our gingerbread house decorating adventure this year would be homemade and beautiful and delicious. My list just grew and grew. We had to do Christmas right. So I started with studying the scriptures, observing Advent. Then, He spoke in to my heart.
What would this season look like if I looked to Him instead of at this list? What if my primary objective this year was to be thankful for His promises instead of trying to do it all- all the things we feel like make up Christmas time. Those things are not BAD. Lights, cocoa, bows- small pieces of His grace and goodness evidenced here on the earth that we can share together. Things that can lead our minds to Him, His hand in creation, becoming creation. They can lead us to Him if we focus on Him instead of focusing on the many shiny things. 

So, I let those ideas go of what a "perfect" Christmas looked like. Instead, I embraced taking a few extra minutes on our drives to and from the house to see the lights in our own neighborhood. I enjoyed decorating a prebuilt gingerbread house. We have watched our favorite Christmas movies when we have a moment to. But mostly, I've dug in to His promises. I've spent moments praying that the Lord would change my heart to be like those Magi who followed a star for a King they heard about, a King swaddled in an animals feeding trough that they gave luxurious gifts to.

Christmas parties and presents and stockings are fun and happy and joyous. But all things should ultimately lead us to that humble place where Jesus came to live among us and ultimately die by our hands. Light the candles and sings the carols. Read the story of truth and hope. These are the things that have filled my soul this season. No lists. 

I have experienced more joy this year than any other year. A husband who embraces these same thoughts has been an enormous portion of that. Someone to reflect and give thanks with has made the difference. The availability of books that go along with scriptures have also been a blessing. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, a daily devotional to work through during the month of December, has been challenging and eye opening. Our church also has an Advent guide to work through weekly as a family that corresponds with lighting the Advent candles and it has made for a sweet time between The Mister and me. There are numerous other daily advent readings available that are wonderful and truth filled.
Now my prayer is that I carry this desire to know Christ more instead of follow what the world says should be done through every other season. May we be people who rest on His promises daily. May we remember that Immanuel came- our Savior God among us. All the wrappings and ribbons and holly cannot compare to the beauty of a baby in a manger. Let us be like Mary, treasuring all the truths of God coming in her heart.

 "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

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