where are you Christmas?

"We love each other because He first loved us."
1 JN 4:19

I read an entry in my drafts from this time last year when, quite frankly, I was feeling a little more than disenchanted with the whole Christmas "thing". I had left it unfinished in my drafts folder, largely because it was still unfinished in my heart. I was rambling over how trite it had all become - how the baby in the manger was about as relevant as the elf on the shelf. I was still struggling with just what to do with Christmas, again, wrestling with the conviction over all of the compromise, pondering whether I should continue allowing a fictional Santa to share in the glory of my non-fictional Savior...

Over the past couple of years, since surrendering my life to Christ, I've often found myself struggling with how to live in this world and yet not be of this world - and I could feel that familiar twinge of conviction already creeping in after Thanksgiving this year. Fortunately, I stumbled upon the most precious blog that suddenly stopped my incessant fretting over what we would do with this daily chaotic Christmas season and had me praying simply, "what could we do"? Thankfully, lillightomine.com was full of practical ways that we could be intentional with daily sharing and giving and...

well, turns out, we're really good at making goodie bags...

Several boxes of candy canes and bags of Hershey kisses later, we we're armed and ready with our bags of treats that we would begin sharing every day for the month of December. And just like that, all of my fretting, all of the chaos and compromise of Christmas came together in one simple verse that would become the theme of our Christmas: "We LOVE... because He first loved us."

Parker couldn't wait to get started. Later that night, even though it was bedtime, he begged to go to the gas station - just so we could give the clerk a treat. I couldn't resist - and I really did need to get gas, so as I stood at the pump, he ran into the station. It was late on a weeknight and she was working alone. I watched through the window as Parker handed her the bag - he came running across the parking lot to me with the most joyful look I've ever seen on his face. Through teary eyes, I could see her looking out the window, alternating between smiling at us and looking back down at the little bag and then back up at us again, almost as if she were slightly, though joyfully, bewildered. "Mommy! I 'wove' doing this!" My five year old had made the connection of what it meant to "light up" someone's heart with kindness and said that it had lit up his heart, too. I told him that what he felt, that amazing joy in his heart, was from God - and in giving, in just one small act of kindness, God had used him to share His love and His joy with someone else. And that feeling, that inexpressible joy, is a gift... one that we are free to receive and share every day, in every season, through random acts of kindness.

And there, in that teachable moment, the Lord was teaching me a similar, invaluable lesson. Sometimes, I think way too hard and for way too long and worry way too much. There is a reason He desires us to maintain a childlike faith. There is so much freedom in the simplicity of doing the two things that Christ Himself said were most important: loving God and loving people.

When we do that, even in the simplest of ways, something very strange supernatural starts to happen: we suddenly stop seeing the absence of Christ in the midst of our cultural, consumeristic Christmas, and instead, we begin to see His presence - and the fruits of His Spirit - in everything - from the lighting of the tree, to the lighting up of hearts, and yes, even to the elf on our shelf.

He truly is the reason for this season.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
Romans 11:36


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