Friday, November 30, 2012

Pause to Prepare for Christmas

"He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder, "Pardon me," he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption."

Max Lucado

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blog Rewind: A Story that Is Made to Touch

It is a beautiful table. A beautiful spot in my home where pretty things are supposed to sit untouched. Near my entry, situated on a red wall, is a wood and iron table that holds pictures of my children, a candle, and something seasonally pretty. I love that spot.

In October, I put a scarecrow there and the whole scene looks so harvest-y. In November, I take the scarecrow down and put a pumpkin with a turkey carved into it. It reads: Happy Thanksgiving! I tell my kids "don't touch" and have them set their many things elsewhere. It can be a battle... but I love to have a little corner that is beautiful in the midst of the fallout of family.

And then comes December. I put the pumpkin away and carefully unpack a simple but beautiful Nativity set. Onto the red wall table go the pieces and before I can catch myself, the words pour forth.

"Don't touch!"

"This is momma's and it is breakable!"

"Be careful!"

And in a moment of thoughtlessness, I have given my children lies.

Let's stand back for a just a second and see it in a different way. Those little nick-knacks so careful displayed on a table in my entry tell a story that is one of the most important stories I will ever tell my kids. And it is not for those who must stand a long ways off... No, this story is one to touch and hold and feel deeply. It is not breakable at all... It is, in fact, a story that shows the Divine Creativity of a God who is overwhelmed with love. He is willing to sacrifice that which means the most to Him to open His arms to you and me. This is not a story of cautiousness. This is an opportunity for us to run with reckless abandon into the Kingdom of God. Those nick-knacks show the way... The Way He used... The Way for us to find what was lost.

In this season of great love and beauty, let's find a way to make the Christmas story real to our families. I cannot let meaningless figurines stand between my children and the truth. Because nothing, NOTHING, is more important than allowing them to come to the edge of the stable and peer inside. Nothing is more important than helping them to understand that all of it is a lesson to us... the animals, the people, the baby... all of it points us to the truth of who God is and how we can find our way to Him.

In the midst of this busy season, let's help each other out. How do we teach this story well? What do you do with your family that helps to draw their attention back to the Biblical Christmas story? I would love to hear your ideas. Please leave a comment below with some idea to share... the title of a book... a family tradition...

Now, let's share some ideas! I am always looking for new ways to celebrate this season with my family. What works for YOU?

Blessings on your day!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stuck Between Thanksgiving and Advent

On my table sit two glass vases. They are rectangular and squat.  Floating in water, half-way up, are beautiful  cranberries bringing color to this ordinary place.  Resting on the berries are floating candles, cream-colored, offering gentle light from above.  These are left-over remnants of our Thanksgiving table... simple beauty waiting to be recycled.

Not six feet from where I sit, stands our beautiful Frasier Fir.  Cut down from a nearby Christmas Tree farm with hands that were chilled to the bone.  Just minutes before we placed our saw on the trunk, our children were running joyfully through the rows and rows of trees.  Friends-who-are-like-family stood by our side and the memory of it is sweet.

But the water beneath the berries is cloudy.  The tree stands bare and dark.  From where I sit, one holiday reminder falls to my right and one holiday precursor sits patiently to my left.  I am in the middle.  And I feel that deeply today.

As the last of the Thanksgiving meal is warmed or pitched or given to the dog, I find myself wondering if I will release the sense of gratitude found as quickly as we ate that meal.  After spending a month deliberately seeking thankfulness, how strange it seems to step into today purposefully switching one season for the next.

And while sometimes Advent follows fast on the heels of Thanksgiving, this year that is not the case.  Though my Advent wreath and candles await, we will light nothing until next Sunday afternoon.  Because, though the message is muddled by commercials and fliers, the Christmas season has yet to begin.  Though Black Friday is behind us and carols abound, the season to come is coming yet.

So, what do we do with this time in-between?  And is there any way to hold the hands of both seasons and see something more?  If I continued to embrace an attitude of gratefulness, what might this do to the wonder of Advent?  If I teach my children that they can continue to give thanks, how might that effect the way they manage the extreme materialism of a culturally-confused-Christmas?  As I sit between two reminders, this question seems important today.

I want to walk carefully ahead.  I want to take with me what I have seen and heard and lived and loved and use it to focus on what matters for us.  I want to remember that the tree in this room is more than a decoration.  It symbolizes a season when we remember what it means to see HOPE incarnate in a baby boy. It helps us remember that we are loved and that the God of all creation sees us, knows us, cares for us today.

Yes, the overlap is there.  Even when my cranberries are gone, I will carry that gratitude into a season of joy.  Because in my whole life there is nothing I am more grateful for than the birth God's Own Son.

Blessings on your day.