Monday, December 23, 2013

this Christmas.

This Christmas is different in many ways. I've spent the majority of the Christmas season in the Fraser valley, a place very different than where I call home.  The valley did a nice job of decorating main street, and placing a beautiful Christmas tree at the base of Winter Park. Beyond that, it was hard to tell the Christmas season was upon us. Faces were still downcast. "Merry Christmas" was rarely in the vocabulary. And stores didn't change much (stores mostly meaning the grocery store). The valley didn't invite a lot of celebration.

And then I found myself in the Denver International Airport which eventually led me back to Green Bay, Wisconsin. This city has exploded with Christmas. Many department stores are extending their hours or not closing at all until Christmas Eve. The sound of the Salvation Army bells are everywhere. And Christmas lights illuminate neighborhoods. 

To be honest, it's very easy to fit in to one of these "attitudes" of Christmas. We can put up a few decorations and let the season pass slowly, or we can go all out and indulge in the expectations of Christmas.  But I think there's more than that. There's more to the season of Christmas. 

This Christmas I've been more mindful of the holiday we put so much energy into. I pondered the reasons we celebrate and what it means for our lives. And I realized this is no small miracle. I think of the way life must have been then. For 400 years God was silent. All his people left to figure life out on their own. No comfort. No love. No grace. And then an angel comes to Mary to tell her she is going to give birth to the Savior of the world. The Comforter. Prince of Peace. God with us. He has not forgotten! He is coming to save!

A few months later Mary and Joseph, like so many others, are traveling to Bethlehem. They're tired, worn out and frustrated they didn't make it to the inn before it was full. They settle for a barn down the way because Mary can't go any more. And in the middle of the night, Jesus is born. In an instant, everything changes. Light has come. Hope has arrived. But everyone is too busy to notice the miracle. Everyone except the shepherds. Awake and alert, an angel went to them and delivered the good news. They listened. They went. And they praised God.  

It's easy to overlook the miracle. The innkeeper did as he tended to the needs of his guests. The merchants did it as they restocked their shelves. And I do it as I hurry through the mall. But what if we didn't overlook the miracle this Christmas? What if we hung lights with hope, remembering the hope we have in the light of the world? What if we wrapped presents with love, remembering the gifts the wise men brought to their Savior? And what if we gathered with the ones we love with joy, remembering the gathering of the shepherds? How would this Christmas look different? 

My prayer this Christmas is that we wouldn't just let Christmas pass or that we would indulge in the expectations of Christmas. But I pray we would be like the shepherds... aware of the miracles all around us, whether it be a child born, family returning home, an unexpected gift under the tree, or a soft snow falling on the trees.  These miracles are just simple reminders of the greatest miracle of all. A Savior born unto us. 

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given, 
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
                                                  {Isaiah 9:6}

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