Monday, December 5, 2011

Where Christmas Begins

--

♪  "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . " ♫ 

Okay, so maybe this isn't what Christmas looks like on Christmas cards and in story books and where I grew up, but this is what Christmas looks like where I live now.  No snowmen, no sleigh rides, and no caroling after dark with snowflakes floating down like big downy feathers--I miss the snow so much, but thankfully Christmas finds it's way to me anyway in vivid living color!

It's funny, some people lament long and loud about how soon the stores start putting up decorations and they groan at the first strains of Christmas music--Bah! Humbug!  At the opposite end of the spectrum are the ones who can't wait to get started on their own efforts (some of them have even finished already!) to deck their halls and bake Christmas treats and they have been listening to Christmas music since the 4th of July!  Still others go all out to decorate in a big way but complain the whole time about how much work it is--they dutifully play their Christmas playlists but they never hear the music.  I have to be honest and say I have found myself, at least partially, in all three of these positions at various times in my life.  Sometimes Christmas gets lost in the trappings, not to mention the honking horns and traffic jams.

How do we find it again?  Let's go back to the beginning, shall we?

Maybe part of the trouble is that we think the Christmas story began in the manger in Bethlehem, or maybe we even start a little further back when the angel appeared to Mary, giving her the good news that she had been chosen to bear the long-awaited Messiah who would save her people.  We start with the familiar part about the announcement of a baby to be born, or the part with the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, tiny and helpless in a dark stable.  Does that have anything to do with why WE feel helpless to stand against the torrent of have-to's, must-get's and can't-afford-to's we face at Christmas time?

What if that isn't the beginning of the story?

What if these humble beginnings were not beginnings at all, but the continuation of a story that actually started in majesty and fanfare and glory?  Would that change the way we see Christmas?  Would that keep Christmas from becoming garish in its commercialism?  Would that fill up what has become, for some, little more than an empty ritual, a chore, an obligation, something to be endured?

"In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.  . . .
. . . So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."
John 1:1-4, 14 NLT 

" . . . he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.  . . ."
Philippians 2:7a NLT

  THIS is where Christmas begins.  

Long before the Christ-child in a lowly manger, Jesus was, as I can still hear Phillip Keller say, "God-very-God," the all-powerful Creator of the universe, the Life-Giver Himself. Then, in a story-twist no one but God could have written, Jesus emptied Himself of every prerogative of His power and authority, taking on for the rest of time, the form of our humanity--He became one of us!

Why would One so great give up so much?  Why would a member of the Godhead permanently pour Himself into human skin and subject Himself to human experience and human limitations?  Why would He in His perfection, come to earth and give Himself to die in our place, the rebellious people who deserved only wrath?

It was   LOVE   that made Him do it, and   JOY   that made it all worthwhile!

See for yourself in John 3:16 and Hebrews 12:2!

Christmas is not just a nice story about a baby in a manger, shepherds and angels and wise men.  Christmas is not contained in the perfect vision of snowmen and sleigh rides, beribboned boxes, twinkling lights and sticky candy canes. These are all good things we think of at Christmas time, some of them mere traditions we enjoy, and some of them part of the true story of the way our Savior came to earth.  In all these things, and in all the effort we will put into making this Christmas memorable for the people we love, I pray that uppermost in our minds will be the real beginning of Christmas, the Incarnation, the putting off of divine privilege and the putting on of human vulnerability--there has never been another act of love like it!

If we keep this our focus, we'll actually get to hear the music,
and not even holiday traffic will be able to steal our
    JOY!  

Have you ever lost sight of Christmas in the clutter of the trappings?
How does it help your Christmas to know Jesus before the manger?
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#926-940
926. A crescent moon and the ghostly outline of the rest of its sphere
927. A hard-won finish
928. New Linky at Jennifer's that is right up my alley!
929. Helping She So Sweet with her French homework
930. Guitars that are still there when you go back for them
931. Iridescent blue butterflies showing God's amazing handiwork in the halls of our community college, and the personal tour of the exhibit by Drummer Boy
932. The chance to go out and play with my camera, trying to capture autumn leaves on a windy day
933. Getting a few shots worth keeping
934. Great big rubber bands
935. Making homemade French fries with sea salt for the kids, and Hero Husband saying he couldn't have made them any better
936. Hanging out with She So Sweet at Guitar Center
937. Reconnecting with old friends over a championship football game
938. Getting to see #28 play ball and remembering him as a baby
939. Powerful sermon and getting a fresh look at water into wine!
940. Knowing the Father heart of God will help my little girl through big girl sorrows.

   Beauty in His Grip Button

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