The Great Gift Of Christmas

With my husband’s new business prospering, God be praised, through the change of seasons and my eldest son preparing to move to the Seattle area just after the holidays, it’s been a little busier than usual around Mix Manor, and I haven’t posted as much as I’d like to. But now that I’ve finished several important tasks and the semester is winding down for Anthony — such that the intangibility of breaking his mother’s heart has been replaced with the tangibility of finding an apartment and beginning his student teaching — I have a bit more free time. So more Prevailing Winds will be blowing your way as 2010 comes to an end, and 2011 should be downright blustery.

(And yes, I’m aware that my son isn’t responsible for my heartbreak. Still, if he weren’t such a wonderful, kind, brilliant kid, it would be a lot easier . . . )

Anyway, much of what’s been occupying my time lately, as I imagine is true for most of you, is Christmas stuff — buying gifts, organizing them in my designated “gift closet,” and preparing for our December 23 trip to Western Washington, where we’ll spend that night, designated long ago as “Christmas Adam,” decorating cookies, drinking wine, exchanging gifts, and watching the Singularly Authorized Version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the 1952 film with Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. It promises to be a good time, if a bit hurried and frosting-filled.

But there is a background to all of this that I need to keep in mind, perhaps a little bit more this year than others, and one of the most elegant reminders I’ve read recently of the true meaning of the holiday is in a devotional compiled by Norman Shawchuck and Rueben Job, “A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God.”

“As we learn more about the created world, we understand the unknowability of a God who has authored a creation billions of light years in size and growing. Our minds cannot grasp the vastness, the energy, and the complexity of such a creation, let alone the Creator who brought it into existence. Were we left with just the creation and the sacred texts, we might feel that God is distant, uncaring, and unapproachable. When Jesus appears as revealer of this transcendent God, God becomes near, loving, and approachable . . . The enormous truth of Christmas rests in the revelation of God’s self to humankind. At last we can talk about God in terms we understand, in human terms.

Because of Jesus, we can make sense of our lives and understand more fully who we are and where we are going.” (Norman Shawchuck and Rueben Job, Upper Room Books, 2003)

“Because of Jesus.”

The enormity of those words, the profundity of the hope and truth expressed in Him, and the intimacy of promise brought by Jesus’ Incarnation is, apart from grace, far too much for me to comprehend. But by the Spirit, I can know, by knowing Him, who I am and where I’m going. This time of year, some of us begin to wonder if who we are is defined, however vaguely and vapidly, by the gifts we receive, the guests we entertain, and the goings-on of our December calendar. My prayer for all of us is that the gift of the Emmanuel is fully expressed, richly lived out, in the hearts of all who seek Him — not in the cheap imitation of tinsel-and-glitter, gift-wrapped stuff.

Some preach that “stuff,” material, tangible “stuff,” best announces this Hope made real, this flesh-and-blood Incarnation of God with us. It doesn’t. It’s the stuff, the things, the gifts and ornaments and fudge and hot buttered rum, that can masquerade as a celebration of Emmanuel by seemingly representing, in tangible form, the tangibility of God made human. But they become distractions — idols, perhaps, to some of us — and falter in their mission. The true herald of Christmas is a heart softened and turned toward God, and the true call for each of us is to plow through the stuff and hold tightly to the Son.

May each of you know, in Christ, who you are and where you’re going. I pray that every step of the journey is made with eyes wide open, focused not on the things around us, but simply, solely, on Him.

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