Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Past, Present, & Future

 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13

The other night I enjoyed a nice evening out with my husband finishing-up our Christmas shopping and dining at one of our favorite spots in Lawrence, KS--the town we consider, "home."  I have written many times of my love for Lawrence with all its quirkiness and unique appeal.  It is a rarity to see a town of its size thriving with such a sublime dichotomy of old, hometown charm mixed with hipster art, music, diversity, and culture.  It seems there is always something interesting happening in Lawrence and the other night was no exception.  As we walked down Massachusetts Avenue, a pack of about 150 people were on what they call, "The Jingle Jog."  This group was running up and down "Mass Street," as it is typically termed, while festively adorning all sorts of Christmas attire--from Santa hats to battery-powered Christmas lights and Rudolph noses.  One guy was speed-walking and wearing one of those head-light hats.  He was emphatically reading aloud from Dr. Seuss' famous Christmas work, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Right as he breezed past me he read the line, "Mr. Grinch, the words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink, stank, stunk!"  I died laughing.  It was a good reminder that though I am a bit overwhelmed right now with the approach of Christmas and how behind I am with pretty much everything, I need to watch my attitude and remember the real reason for this season.

I have since thought about some of the other beloved Christmas stories that I read as a kid.  Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol, came to mind as I worked on my Christmas cards the other day and pondered Christmases past.  In working to finally update my new address book, I shed a few tears of grief at the awful reminder of so many special people who have gone on to be with the Lord since my last updating.  Even in just the last year, there have been several changes of lives lost, as well as, family members and friends who have moved, and those who have, "moved on," so to speak.  As we all know, things change, people change, and we just lose touch with each other at times for various reasons.  Life happens.

I know I am not alone when I say that this time of year brings to mind all the memories of the past year and of prior Christmases, as well.  Perhaps it's a natural tendency for us to reflect as one year closes and another begins--or maybe I'm just a sap!  But many of us do find ourselves thinking of all the memories of Christmases past--good and bad.  We also desire and work ourselves silly in hopes of giving our loved ones a wonderful Christmas-present (both the literal and figurative).  I came across a poll the other day which found that American women spend approximately 86-hours preparing for Christmas during the month of December, and American men spend approximately 67-hours preparing (and I found myself wondering who those men are--sorry, guys)!  But obviously, we all work very hard to prepare for this season and bless those we love in great and memorable ways.

Why do we do this?  To impress people with how Martha Stewart-like we are?  To wow our family with our creative, gift-giving abilities?  To over-compensate for our failings during the rest of the year?  God forbid!  Our motives to bless our loved ones, friends, and the less-fortunate should be wrapped-up in one person--the Person Who is the true reason for the season, and Whose name the season bears--Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus, this holiday is pointless and meaningless.  The commercialism, the chaos, the stress, and the pressures just aren't worth it without Him.  But if we know Christ, and if we make Him the center of our focus for this holiday, suddenly it all makes sense--we show love to others because HE first showed love to us.  When we place all our hope in Him, we can easily share joy, love, and blessings with others because we know a Savior Who was born just to die for us.  Regardless of how our actual Christmas turns out, it's already a fantastic one with that free, priceless gift from above (2 Cor. 9:15)!  I recall a friend (one who happens to sadly have, "moved on"), telling me that religious Christmas music was depressing because not everyone feels joyful at Christmas.  My first thought was, All the more reason to relish that music and cling to the Person for Whom it was written.

As I thought about those whose names I did not rewrite into my newly updated address book, I took great comfort knowing that they are all in heaven celebrating a Christmastime unlike any we have ever had here.  They have not had to wait in long lines buying things that won't be given a second thought in a month.  They have not battled illness while attempting to cheerfully serve in ministry capacities. They have not felt loneliness, sadness, or exhaustion at a time when they should feel only joy and peace.  They are WITH the Person for Whom CHRISTmas is celebrated.  What a grand and perfectly glorious time they must be having!  As I think about Christmas-future, I not only pray for many more blessed Christmases with those who remain in my life, but I look so forward to the day when I can celebrate with the actual Birthday Boy.  I am convinced that Christmas-future is where it's at!  God bless and Merry Christmas to you all!