Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Simple, Focused Christmas

Displayed in the entry way of our home is a small Nativity scene. There is nothing fancy about it, and I have often thought of replacing it with a nicer one. But this year, I have decided I rather like it. This Nativity scene is simple, and I find that it reminds me of the very first Christmas. Mary, Joseph, Jesus, a stable and a manger--simple. We have way over complicated Christmas. This year I long for a simple Christmas.

Yesterday morning in a fit of photographic expression, I took this picture of our Nativity scene.

You may not notice, but in this image there is only one figurine in focus. I intentionally shot the image so that only the Baby Jesus in the manger would be in focus. This Christmas more than ever I want my focus to be on Jesus.

This year I desire a simple Christmas focused on Jesus!

"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 clothes and
lying in a manger."
Luke 2:11-12

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of Righteousness!
Light and Life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Wishing all of you a simple, focused and very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Forgotten Gift

Driving back from Houston, I started revisiting Christmases from when Chad and Shane were little boys. One memory popped into my head that made me chuckle. This particular Christmas, the boys were into Batman and Robin. I had been out shopping and bought them some figurines for stocking stuffers. When I got home, I hid them up on the shelf in the closet, where I forgot about them. A few months later I pulled something off of the shelf and the figurines fell at my feet. By this time the boys had moved onto something else and did not have much use for Batman and Robin. I am sure that I am not the only person to forget a Christmas gift and won’t be the last.

The tradition of exchanging gifts stems from the Three Wise Men bringing their gifts to Jesus. We see the scene every year played out in Christmas pageants and nativity scenes. In honor of this tradition, we get up early on Christmas morning and watch the paper fly. A lot of the gifts we receive are put on the shelf and forgotten about. I am not sure whatever became of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh but I am sure Mary and Joseph did not set them aside and forget them.

Think about it like this, of all of the Christmas gifts that you have given, how many do you remember? Or, of all of the gifts that you have received, how many do you remember? If you are like me, the gifts you remember are the ones that cost the most. I don’t mean from a financial perspective but the gifts that people put some thought and effort into. Yet, when we look at the manger, we tend to forget the most important and costly gift that was there. In all of the rushing, planning, and parties that have become Christmas we have put it up on the shelf and forgotten it. The gift that I am referring to is the one that the babe in the manger brought. That babe in the manger brought with Him salvation for all mankind. A gift for all of us that all we have to do is accept. At this time of the year we do not want to mar the clean pristine images of Christmas with the ugly images of a beaten and battered Jesus hanging on a cross. When you see the babe in the manger this year, think about what He came to do and what it cost Him.

This Christmas, if you have already accepted this gift, then give Jesus some extra praise. If you are someone who has accepted this gift but has put it up on the shelf, why not make this the Christmas to take it down, dust it off and embrace it once again? If you have not accepted the gift of salvation, why not make this the Christmas to accept this very special gift that will last for eternity?

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Psalm

I have been reading a book where the author comments about the importance of personalizing scripture. After having delayed chemotherapy for the second time, I prayed that God would prepare me for yet a third time, and I felt led to begin reading ten Psalms each morning and underlining parts that touched me. I then read back the underlined portions to God as my morning prayer. I am surprised each morning at the prayer that emerges from the verses. I have yet to make it through a single prayer without weeping.

There are other Psalms that I will replace a few words, and these are becoming the Psalms that God is using to prepare me for my upcoming treatments. The Psalms of David are the ones that seem to translate the easiest. David was tormented by his enemies and his own sins, and he always poured his heart out to God. One morning Psalm 27 was in my reading, and as I read the first verse a few new words popped into my head. My new Psalm reads like this:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
What shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
What treatment shall I dread?

So with these words on my lips and in my heart, God is preparing me for the next leg in this journey to defeat cancer. Only He knows what lies ahead on this path, but I am assured that He has gone before me and is my light and defender.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Christmas Wish

Christmas time is here again. Time once again for all of us to be blessed by the children’s Christmas pageants. The one character in the play that no little kid wants to get stuck with is that of the inn keeper. Who would want to be the person to tell Joseph that there is no room for them? However, I think if we look at Jesus’ birth a little differently, we might see that we have more in common with the inn keeper than we think.

Mary and Joseph had traveled a long way. They hadn’t been traveling because they wanted to; they were going to the City of David because Caesar had ordered a census and they had to travel back to Joseph’s home town to be counted. What a long journey it had been; Mary, nine months pregnant with her first son Jesus, was ready to give birth. What a time it must have been for them: Their first son would be God as a baby. What roads lay ahead of them? They were unsure; all they knew was that their lives were going to be changed. But for now, Joseph needed to find them a place to stay.

They went to an inn and were told that there was no room for them there, but they were welcome to stay in the stable out back. I wonder what would have happened if Joseph would have told the inn keeper that the Son of God was about to be born. Would the inn keeper have asked all of the other boarders to leave and go sleep in the stable? Or would he just have asked the people staying in the best room to stay in the stable? I’ll never know because Joseph didn’t tell the inn keeper that a miracle was about to happen, and so Jesus came into the world having already been turned away.

As I think about Jesus’ birth in the stable, I wonder if we, some 2000 years later, are any different than the inn keeper. We go to church, read our Bibles or a special story, and something, even for a brief moment, touches our hearts and Jesus knocks. “Is there room for Me here?” He asks. We tell Him no, we can’t make room for Him, but He can stay out back. We don’t want to give up any of the rooms in our hearts, not the rooms where the ambition stays, or where our desires reside, or the dislike for that neighbor or any of the other secret rooms. Those are our rooms and we like them the way they are, and so we turn Jesus away.

Much like the inn keeper, we miss something really big. We are willing to sacrifice what Jesus wants to do because we do not want to be inconvenienced with a little house cleaning. This year I have a simple Christmas wish: When we feel Him knocking, let’s make room for Jesus.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and he with me."
- Revelation 3:20