seeking Jesus in the stuff

Photo credit: Mick-Haupt-Kf7e-AD67vk-unsplash

Who is all this gift buying, cookie making, and light stringing for anyway?

I experience this tension each year. I enjoy the warmth of the white sparkles intertwined with evergreen boughs while breathing in deeply the aromas of cinnamon and citrus, and pine. I shop for individualized gifts that I hope will surprise and delight loved ones. I eat too many sugar-dusted and chocolate-covered cookies. I hang the treasured-memory ornaments on the tree and set out the nativities from countries around the world.

But I ask myself, why am I doing all of this? What is the purpose of these things?

Christmas is about Jesus. Not a birth-record birthday, but a set-apart day to celebrate His birth – when the God of the universe voluntarily took on a limited human form to be with us. Jesus, who grew up in a somewhat ordinary way for those times with family and friends so we could relate to Him. AND He did miracles and demonstrated that He was more powerful than death so that we could believe His promise of eternity in heaven and receive His gift of transformation and hope for our every day living.

I don’t want to miss Jesus in all the decoration and all the crazy of the season.

This year is a quieter holiday for me – no week of family-gathered activities, very little baking, and less décor. Sometimes that feels empty and sad, but at other times, like now, it feels good and right because I have space to seek Jesus.

When I have less to do and fewer people around, I can turn my eyes towards Him. I can rest in His forever presence with me, and I can turn my thoughts to following Him and becoming more like Him.

You may have superhero inflatables in the yard, or a houseful of sugar-coma guests, or a full schedule of carol-singing on repeat, or a just-me-and-my-cat-in-front-of-the-fire style of Christmas planned. No matter what your Christmas is like this year, I pray that – in some way – all of that stuff, or the lack of, might help you seek Jesus.

Christmas is His day, and I’m sure He’d like to share it with you.

What helps you find Jesus in the many season distractions?

loving (this) Christmas

I have always loved Christmas.

Christmas
My parents created Christmas traditions full of wonder and surprise. Christmas didn’t arrive at our home until Christmas Day… because Santa brought everything! After the little ones set out Santa’s cookies and milk and went off to bed, Mom and Dad began the gargantuan, all-night task of filling the stockings, setting up and decorating the tree, assembling the toys, and placing the mountains of gifts in individual piles. I don’t know how my parents ever functioned the next morning, but I know steaming cups of coffee were essential as the children tore into the over-stuffed stockings on Mom and Dad’s bed. When we finished opening our stockings, and Mom and Dad were semi-awake, we anxiously crept down the hall to wait expectantly at the closed living room door. After an eternity passed, Dad slowly opened the door to the magical world of Christmas! I can still feel the awe of that first glimpse of the huge, glittering tree and the enormous collection of bright, shiny gifts that waited for us.

With my own family, Christmas came with greenery and berries wrapping staircases and pillars, outdoor lights on the awnings and windows, and decorations in every corner of the house… entertaining, rice bags to keep out the cold, cut-out sugar cookies decorated in varying styles of creativity as young children grew to teenagers, and traditional cinnamon rolls eaten leisurely on Christmas morning while we opened stockings and gifts one-by-one. We also had a big tree – but we sanely began a new routine of setting it up with everyone’s help weeks ahead of time. Since we lived in Mexico, we sometimes added Christmas Eve dinner, hot chocolate, and late-night piñatas. Christmas Eve candlelight service and a collection of nativity scenes helped remind us of Jesus in the midst of the craziness.

This year, we live in Orlando, Florida in a small apartment. Most of my decorations were given away in the move; the days-long decorating tradition lasted only a few hours. It is warm and sunny outside; snowmen and frosted trees seem strangely out-of-place. There are no children at home, no stockings to fill, no piles of gifts under the tree, little motivation to bake sugar cookies that we shouldn’t eat.

So I wonder… what is Christmas really? Is it children’s delighted wonder at glitter and toys? Is it pretty decorations, gift shopping, and favorite foods? Is it special family time, traditions, or church services? All are good, and through the years I have enjoyed it all… but none are the true essence of CHRISTmas. This year as so much of Christmas normal has been stripped away, I realize that I have actually received a wonderful gift — the opportunity to focus intentionally on Christ: His story, His life, His example. There are so few distractions, so there is more peace and more time to learn from Him. I know we will attend parties and events, shop some, and bake (to give away :)), but I am especially excited to spend quiet, not rushed, special times with Jesus this year. I think this may become the kind of Christmas that I love most.

What do you love about Christmas?