Advent Sneaking Up

Every year, I say that I will experience all the fullness of Advent and Christmas and not one little moment slip by, yet increasingly each year I find that the days in December slip by so quickly that I hardly have a chance to catch my breath before it’s all over.

I don’t feel ready or prepared, yet Christmas Eve is only 9 days away. Back when I was a kid, 9 days would last forever, but these days when I sneeze, 2 days go by.

The first Advent and Christmas snuck up on people. Those living in Israel were expecting a Messiah, but almost none of them were looking in the right place at the right moment when He arrived.

Few would have ever suspected tiny Bethlehem to be the birthplace of the King of the Universe. Fewer would have expected Him to be born in such a lowly place — whether it was a stable or a room for the animals attached to a house– and had His first crib be a feeding trough.

It seems we’re still missing Him today. He gets crowded out by lights, gift wrapping, tinsel, and all the hustle and bustle that comes with the season. These are all good and well, but not when we’ve forgotten the reason why.

It’s good to make time to be still and meditate on the true meaning of Christmas, remembering that the Child we celebrate lives in the hearts of people not just one day a year but in all the days of all the years (to semi-borrow a line from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol)

“Lord, sometimes You come quietly and with no disturbance. Babies threaten no one, and no memorials are raised to mark their significance. May my life bring Christ quietly into the circle of human need so that those who need You will not be frightened by Your presence but enveloped in it” (Calvin Miller, The Christ of Christmas).

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Stepping Inside a Movie

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the 1954 Christmas classic White Christmas. It remains my absolute all-time favorite holiday movie ever.

Each time I watch the part where they get to the Vermont Inn run by the General, I wish for a moment that I could step into the TV screen and live there.

I know it’s not real. It’s most likely a set built on a sound stage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Still, it looks and feels warm and inviting.

It’d be amazing if there were actual places like this. They’d almost have to be in the New England area or it would spoil the illusion.

Anyway, now you know my little secret. I want to live inside the movie White Christmas. With or without the floor show.

Thankful for Being Well

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“Health is the thing that makes you feel that now is the best time of the year” (Franklin Pierce Adams).

I’m slowly but surely on the mend. The fever’s gone, the energy’s returning, and the cough . . . well, as the great philosopher Meat Loaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad.

I never fully appreciate my good health until after I’ve been sick. It’s a lesson I have to re-learn over and over. The pattern goes like: 1) me taking my health for granted, 2) me coming down with a nasty fever, 3) me feeling like death warmed over and wanting to hibernate until spring, 4) me finally mending and getting well, 5) me being grateful for my heath– for a little while.

Then I read about someone who’s way more sick than I ever was. Or someone who’s been fighting chronic illness for years. Or someone who’s life expectancy went from years to months or weeks or even days.

In a culture where we have some of the most advanced medical technology and knowledge, it’s the norm to not give a second thought to your health. It almost feels like a given for most of us that we will live out our 80 years in relative comfort.

But lately, it seems like death has touched so many of my friends’ families. Even some of my friends and family. Sure, some lived to a ripe old age, but too many departed this life much too soon.

So, thank you God for my health. I’m grateful for each day, knowing that tomorrow is neither guaranteed nor promised. I will do my best to appreciate and enjoy and savor this one life as much as I possibly can and never take anyone in my life for granted.

 

At the Right Time

“But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance” (Galatians 4:4-7, The Message).

In this Advent time, it’s good to remember that for thousands of years people were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Many trusted in faith and died without seeing what they hoped for fulfilled, yet they still believed.

We are on the other side of history, looking back toward that blessed event. How much more should our faith increase at this time of year, knowing that the promised Messiah has come and the Kingdom He spoke of is here?

Still, for many of us, this is a difficult season. For some, it’s a reminder of lost loved ones. For others, it’s a season where life goes from busy to insanity.

Still, this is the season where we are reminded of Emmanuel– God with us. Advent means that God is still here with us and won’t ever leave us. Ever.

 

 

Taking a Rare Sick Day

I took a rare sick day from work today. When I woke up with a temperature of 102.2, I decided then and there to stay home. For one, I felt crap-tacular. Also, I didn’t want to risk spreading whatever I had to the other people in the office.

Believe me, I’d have rather been at work than home sick.

I didn’t watch much of any TV because I really didn’t feel like it. I took a nap around 1 pm, which was nice.

I rarely get sick, so sometimes I forget how much it sucks. You have no energy and that fuzzy-headed feeling when you have a fever is definitely not one of my favorites.

So I’m following the protocol for getting well. I’ve rested, taken lots of Vitamin C, took Ibuprofen every few hours, and basically thought positive.

I just hope I sleep better tonight than last night. The irony is that when you’re sick, you need sleep and you often don’t sleep well at all. At least I don’t.

I look at it this way. It could’ve been so much worse. Compared to what so many others are suffering through, what I have feels like an inconvenience.

I guess I’ll just be a little more thankful for good heath when I get well.

 

The Stocking for the Child Born in a Manger

“All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. Its his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share–loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth” (from The Bishop’s Wife).

With all the commercialization of Christmas, it’s easy to forget the real reason for the season. I was reminded of that as I watched The Bishop’s Wife, one of the movies that falls under the required holiday viewing category for me.

I’d say that we could all use more loving kindness, warm hearts, and that stretched out hand of tolerance. I see so much hostility whenever I read comments on Facebook posts. No one is allowed to voice a dissenting opinion, or disagree, or sometimes even state their own preference.

But Christmas is about peace on earth, good will to men. It’s about how a Savior has been given to us, and one of the names He will forever be known by is Prince of Peace.

My prayer is that you can receive this gift that came so long ago in that manger in Bethlehem. That you know that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

Hopefully, in all the crazy insanity of the Christmas shopping season, we can all be a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more grace-full.

Oh, and it doesn’t bother me whether you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” nearly as much as it used to. What good is a “Merry Christmas” if it’s followed by greedy impatient selfish consumerism? Again, words are cheap, but what really matters is how you live out your faith.

So, let’s be mindful of that empty stocking and be intentional about what that Child in the Manger, now Savior of the World, would want from us this Christmas season.

 

A Prayer for December 9, 2017

“Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Living God,
You breathe in us
on all that is inadequate and fragile,
You make living water spring even
from our hurts themselves.
And through you, the valley of tears
becomes a place of wellsprings.
So, in an inner life with neither beginning nor end,
your continual presence makes new freshness break through. Amen” (Brother Roger of Taize)

God is still in the business of making all things new and restoring what once was broken beyond repair. Including me. Including you.

Amen.