Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celebrating A Perfect Savior Imperfectly

I hope Jesus comes back before I have to celebrate Christmas without my parents.
Truly, they do Christmas like no other.

Many years ago, I mentioned to my children that I thought we might have Christmas at our house in Las Vegas that year.
"It's tradition, Mooooom. We aaaalways go to Colorado. We aaalways go to Grammy and Papa's. We haaaave to go, Mom."
Thank goodness. That's the answer I was looking for. I want to spend Christmas in Colorado too.

My mom masterfully weaves old and new traditions into our Christmas holiday.
She faithfully bakes all of our favorites. She joyfully focuses us on the true meaning of Christmas. She wholeheartedly gives all of herself during the week. No mess made by us is a bother. No late nights preparing for the next day are ever mentioned. She loves Jesus and loves her family and uses this time to bring us all together.

My dad decorates the house for all of Colorado Springs to see. The pine tree that used to be small enough to be decorated by him standing up on a van is now so massive it requires a cherry picker. The lights twinkle from miles away. My brother and I used to help him. He does it all himself now. He gives generously and unselfishly and tends to all of our needs as we walk through the week. The snow is cleared, the gifts wrapped, and the surprise "visitors" always planned.

Together, they are quite a team.

We've tried to weave Jesus, gifts, family, and food all together into our Christmas holiday. We always wonder if we're doing it right. Are we honoring you, Lord?

We have some friends in Tucson that give their time, energy, and money to a local family during the weeks leading up to Christmas...anonymously. They give up their Christmas. They say that doing the holiday this way is more fun. They secretly bless and joyfully meet the needs of some other family. They love Christmas. They give of themselves. That must honor Jesus.

Some work in soup kitchens. Some welcome lonely people into their homes for the holidays. Some give sacrificially. Some go on vacations. What's the perfect way to celebrate Christmas? Is it all okay?

Our family gives gifts, we spend time with family, we go to our Christmas Eve service, we eat. We play games, we drive around and look at Christmas lights, we go to zoo lights (tradition, Matty!), we sing Christmas carols, we laugh. We welcome people into our home (actually into my parents' home), we take a picture with Santa at the mall, we bake, and then we eat some more. Is this okay, Lord? Are you okay with us giving gifts, lighting a Christmas tree, singing "Jingle Bells"? My brother added a fondue feast on Christmas Eve. My sister-in-law's new contribution to tradition this year was presenting three anonymous gifts to the kids. The kids got three secret gifts representing the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, given to Jesus. I love the idea. Our improved version of Santa. Of course, our littlest actually call this Santa. Are you okay with this, Lord? He knows our hearts. We want to honor Him.

But this year...even with my parents doing all the Christmas preparation and pointing us to the Savior, even with friends around me focusing on the true meaning of Christmas, I hardly prepared myself or my children for the celebration. Truly, until we got to Colorado--only three days before Christmas--I had relied solely on those around to point my children to our Savior's birth. I was distracted. Going through the motions. Anxious to get the holiday over. In fact, the first time I read the account of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the month of December was the night before Christmas when we were reading Luke. The foundation had been laid for us to truly worship our King---we just had to show up and rejoice---yet my heart wasn't in it. I hope my kids were more focused.

I sat through our Christmas Eve service trying to rein in my thoughts. Our little guys were busy. The two-year-old cousins were having a heart to heart chat through the service. The toddler babble was cute...but it wasn't about Jesus. It was about jingle bells.
"Jingle bells in my home."
"No, jingle bells in my home."
"Oh. I have jingle bells in my home. You no have jingle bells in your home."
"Yes. I have jingle bells."
On and on. Back and forth. It was so cute.
I was in the mood to be distracted anyway.

As the pastor ended the service, I heard him mention something about imperfect people trying to celebrate Christmas.
That totally struck a chord with me.
Imperfect people celebrating Christmas.
Sinful people trying to celebrate the birth of their Savior and honor Him in the process.

As I pondered our imperfect efforts to honor our perfect Savior, I found great peace in the fact that the whole reason for the season was our perfect Savior. Our efforts to honor our Lord may bring him glory, but they aren't the focus.
He's the focus.
The REASON the baby's in the manger is the focus.
He earth...wrapped in swaddling clothes...because WE AREN'T PERFECT.
Our imperfection brought Him to earth.
And we probably aren't going to celebrate that perfectly.

I know I didn't this year.
I wasn't completely moved by my Savior's birth.
Christmas has come and gone and I'm just now in the holiday mood.

Blessed are all of those who joyfully gazed at the Lord this Christmas season.
That baby in the manger is for you.
For me...distracted, slightly irritable, and selfish...
That baby is for me too.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift.
The gift that I truly have no idea how to worship.

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