November 26, 2012

What I'm Giving Myself This Christmas

If I'm not careful, this Christmas season will be what this past week was: a blur, a quick prayer of thanksgiving, lots of doing stuff with little true gratefulness.

Every year, even though I tell myself to slow down, to simplify, to create space for stillness, to enjoy the season, I usually rush through it all and simply settle for a faux celebration. And then I tell myself that the next year will be different, that I'll do it right then.
Here I am again, and I'm choosing that this year will be different. I don't want a cultural Christmas, or to try to make myself feel like it's Christmas through music, decorations, or a fire in the fireplace. I don't want the religious rituals, like the ever-present lifting of the candle on the last stanza of Silent Night.

I want real Christmas, to know God With Us, to anticipate His arrival as if I were Mary in the last stages of pregnancy, to watch eagerly like the wise men searching for the fulfillment of prophecies.

Each year, I am more and more coming to an understanding that Christmas is simply anticipation, not of what lies covered in wrapping paper under the tree, but an anticipation for Christ as if I did not yet know of His birth. Christmas, I am finding, happens when I experience and delight in the birth of Jesus as if for the very first time, right alongside Mary and Joseph, the stable animals, and the exulting angels in the sky.

I place myself in the 400 years of quiet, when the prophets were silent, and God was too. I try to enter into that time, where God's promise for a Savior has been given but the fulfillment has not happened for years upon years.

And then I think about this Child coming into the world and what glorious promise came true. I think about the explosion of grace and worship as Heaven observed this mystery of God as human babe. So this is how it will happen.

And I consider if He hadn't come. What if we still lived under law? What if we weren't extended this grace? What if He had come to rule an earthly kingdom, as the Jews hoped, and not come to be a Savior? Reflecting on these makes me long for and enjoy the gift that was given.

So this Christmas, I am giving myself the gift of anticipation. I'm allowing myself time to think and reflect so that anticipation can build. I imagine that it will not only help me prepare for the Christ child, but make me long for the Warrior Christ's return.

Won't you join me?