Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve: Skipping Christmas

John Grisham's short novel Skipping Christmas touched a nerve with many people when it was published a little while back. He told the story of a couple, tired of all the hustle and bustle, who chose to avoid the holiday altogether after their daughter went away for a year to serve in the Peace Corp.

“How nice it would be to avoid Christmas, he began to think. A snap of the fingers and its January 2. No tree, no shopping, no meaningless gifts, no tipping, no clutter and wrappings, no traffic and crowds, no fruitcakes, no liquor and hams that no one needed, no "Rudolph" and "Frosty, " no office party, no wasted money. His list grew long. He huddled over the wheel, smiling now, waiting for heat down below, and dreaming pleasantly of escape.”

‘Tis the Season to be cynical’ for many of us.

Someone once said that a cynic is a passionate person who doesn’t want to be disappointed again. There have been many disappointments in our past Christmas’s, haven’t there?

Who of us hasn’t contemplated skipping Christmas?

As a parent of young children we have constantly battled the materialism, consumerism and clutter of gifts.

It's not just Christmas clutter that concerns me, though. Somehow TTMOC (The True Meaning of Christmas) eludes us all.

What is it all, about? When I was five, I drew a picture for school that had Jesus being crucified because the authorities wouldn’t allow him to exchange presents with others!

Is Christmas about gifts, office parties, crowded malls, getting drunk and feeling alone?

Are we literally home alone here on planet earth? Left to our own regard?

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Have we understood it?

Even the Grinch got it in the end right?

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?" How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Luke 2:1-20
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

What’s often missing is something called God’s glory. When you're missing the Glory of the Lord, you search for it in other ways- gifts, relationships, and alcohol, whatever.

"Kabod," is the Hebrew concept that means "the crushing, heaviness of God and His Character." He is other than we are, and whenever someone comes into communication with Him directly, they fall on their knees.

We are not usually falling on our knees at Christmas; we usually call Jesus "my best friend" or find Him to be a solution for some mundane problem, rather than having this overwhelming sense of His weighty character.

When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the shepherds come running to tell the story of what had happened, and the Scriptures says that the Glory of the Lord shown around about them, and they were "terrified." They were so afraid.

The angel tells them to ‘fear not’. Good thing, because then a great company of the heavenly host appeared. These aren’t a bunch of flowery, wimpy angels. This is God’s army in some regards.

Those last verses are the responses that challenge us. Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we must make some space in our heart for the arrival of Jesus, of God in the flesh. We must create space to ponder what this requires of us. Like a clothes drier that gently tumbles again and again, we ponder the God of the universe coming to visit us, you and me.

We also take the route of the shepherds, being sent back to from where we came, our families, our neighborhoods, our jobs and place of recreation, in order that we might tell others of our encounter with God. In doing so we spread the message and grow to love and become more like this God who came to see us.

Where are you headed? The shepherds knew to follow the star, to undertake the journey.

Who are you journeying with?

Why are you here?

What are you working for?

Lets make sure that this Christmas if we skip anything at all we skip the peripheral stuff.

Let’s ensure for ourselves, and our families that we hold onto TTMOC. On a night so long ago, the God of the universe came. And He’s here on this night, too. O Holy night speaks of our time right now. Let’s sing it together…

O Holy Night


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