Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Christmas State of Mind (Part I)

Last November, a special friend from my past called me up from San Antonio and for who knows why, asked me to speak at her church's Ladies Christmas Brunch. After many discussions with the Lord, I agreed with fear, trembling and great waves of nausea. As I prepared, I knew why He had urged me on to do it. I'd love to share it with you over the next few weeks in hopes of encouraging you in your preparation of your family's Christmas experience.

I’ve always had a thing for Christmas. I believe my Mom had a lot to do with that. Christmas was the time of year my fairly practical Mom pulled out all the stops and to my delight let me help her. Old Christmas music would come out, 2 trees would go up, stockings she needle pointed were hung on the mantle, garland was draped all over the place—I just loved it. Even though she had "constants" in her decorating, she would also try new things. I remember one of my favorite things she did was when I was probably 7 or so. In our breakfast room there was a huge bay window. She cleared it off and found every size terra cotta pot she owned, filled them with sand, placed different sized candles in each one and arranged all the pots at various heights in the window. When she lit the candles, it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen—all the flickering flames dancing with their reflections. I remember asking her every night if she would light them, not understanding why she wouldn’t when it was so beautiful. She also established some simple traditions that my brother and I anticipated all year. Many of those traditions are carried out in one way or another in our own homes. My mom did what she knew how to make our Christmases special and I am so grateful for that.

As I get older, I am learning that the “Christmas” word evokes all kinds of responses from people--everything from the warm fuzzies to full-out panic. I am sure as you read you have some pretty good words floating around in your own head. Much of what I see during Christmas are words fall closer to the chaos side of the spectrum because of all we try to do in a short maddening 30 day period: decorate the house, shop in stores that we never enter the other 335 days of the year, take a family picture, wrap gifts for seemingly everyone we know, make travel plans, pack, cook strange foods, host parties, attend more parties, schedule special outings, attend kids programs, volunteer SOMEWHERE, clean the house as never before, stuff and address cards to our entire address book (and to those who aren’t who sent us a card last year), not to mention just our normal stuff………the dailies. Bring on the straight jacket and padded cell, right?

Who wants to turn the calendar page over with all of this waiting to be scooped onto your plate—or should I say, platter? The thing is, some of it is just reality. Stuff happens between Thanksgiving and New Years that you just can’t skip. However, I feel our job as “Mom” is to help our family navigate through the barrage of activities without losing our focus on the sweetness and the magnitude of this season. Just like me, you want something different for yourself and for your family that God has entrusted to you.

Here’s a taste of the sweetness. It’s from the book of Matthew chapter 2. (vs.7-10) “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Now there’s a word worth tasting. “OVERJOYED.”

When was the last time you were overjoyed? What kind of thing causes you to be “overjoyed”? I love the way another translation puts it, “They could hardly contain themselves.” What evokes this sort of emotion in you? I think we can learn a lot from that mysterious group of men, the Magi.
First, let’s get all the facts in order.
Who: The magi or wise men
What: The birth of a King marked by a special star
When: about 2000 years ago when the Jews were completely oppressed by the Roman
Where: From the east, to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem
Why: To quote the magi from chapter 2 verse 2, “We saw the star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

The “Who” is worth a second look. We know these magi from the east were certainly wise, wealthy, respected and powerful Gentile men knowledgeable in all sorts of areas but famous for their knowledge of astrology and astronomy. “Wise men”, as they are traditionally labeled, show up all through the Bible. I won’t go into all of it, but it makes for some very interesting reading. The ones that entered the scene in Jerusalem looking for the “one who has been born king of the Jews” were most likely of a lineage influenced by Judaism because of their great respect for the Old Testament Daniel and his writings. These guys showed up in Jerusalem thinking that any Israelite they walked up to would know the exact whereabouts of this newborn King of the Jews. They had seen the star....... now, they wanted to see the king. Finding out the baby was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem, off they went. Finally, they saw the star again which had stopped over the place where Jesus lived. They had arrived and “they could hardly contain themselves”. You have to love these men. Overjoyed men. TIRED overjoyed men. Some estimate their travels taking at least 2 years to get to Joseph and Mary’s home. But they had reached the WHY of their journey and were about to get to experience what their mission was all about. Worship the King of the Jews. They were overjoyed because God had revealed Himself to them and gave them the most amazing opportunity anyone could ever be offered. To seek Him, to find Him and to save the best for last, WORSHIP Him.

So here is where I am going for the next 3 "pre-Christmas" posts:
During the Christmas season, our overwhelmed state of mind can overrule any opportunity for us to be overjoyed. Practically, we will look at our state of mind, our choice and the result.

(Picture- My brother and I on our first Christmas in the house in which we grew up and now get to visit with our children. We didn't even have beds in the house that Christmas Eve, so having a tree was a stretch. It just makes me think how excited my parents must have been to have Christmas in their new home.)


Dondra said...

What a great post to get me to thinking about Christmas...and being overjoyed not overwhelmed.
Thanks! I look forward to the others...

Anonymous said...


Alyssa said...

I can't wait to read all of the "installments" in this series! So fun to catch up with you last night.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget the sleigh bells on the roof that 1st Christmas night in the "new" house. Scared the crap out of me. squeez em bsd

TJ Wilson said...

a picture truly worth a thousand words... and your mom's standards on trees is pretty impressive, as this one is " mighty scrawny!" :)

andrea said...

Not sure which one puts a bigger smile on my face, the hairdos or your message?? hmm I will go with your message. Thanks for sharing pics from the past, they are great!