Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Manger Seen

“Hurry to the manger!” Asa chanted under his exerted breath. 

Up the lantern-lit path, into the woods he ran ahead of me. I followed after, straining to see which way the dark, leafy trail would turn next. 

I could have lost sight of him in the night, had he not felt compelled to pause at every single lantern. Peering down into each sand-filled paper sack, his face gleamed at the flickering candle, “Another Light. More lights.” Then back on task, he would race to the next one, “I wanna see the manger!”

In anticipation, we walked with a random group of friends and neighbors through this live nativity. The winding trail offered several narrated scenes commemorating the first Christmas.  

At each stop along the way, Asa would work his way through our small rambling crowd to see the action, and hear the Word. He wanted to see the angel. He wanted to pet the sheep. He wanted to be the announcer! In his excitement, I repeated my hushed reminders of being a good listener and keeping our voice down. He did his best;) *And when we lingered too long in one place, he experimented with dead leaves and open flames. It’s fine. 

At last, we rounded a cluster of rocks to see a manger aglow by a tree-mounted flood light. There were Mary and Joseph holding a mysteriously small, motionless bundle. But the quasi-realistic staging still somehow whispered, “Messiah has come.”  On cue, three costumed shepherds rose from their rock and entered the scene. 

“And the shepherds said to one another, ‘Come let us go to Bethlehem and see …” 

And there they went - all four of them. The last little shepherd boy, kneeling before the infant king was much smaller, and dressed in an Old Navy hoodie and his Bass Pro Shop hat.

My prideful preference for a two-year-old to behave and be subtle was overshadowed by the divine beauty of it all. Despite all my self-consciousness, I could not possibly rip him away from his curiously pure worship. After a moment, it was those standing quietly at a distance who seemed almost inappropriate.

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” 

On an evening, where I set out to show my son something about Jesus, Jesus had something to show me through my son.

How often do I sincerely search for glimpses of glory? Do I consistently pause to take in the wonder of Light shining in the darkness? When have I rushed to discover and share the place where Jesus rests? What crowds do I need to edge my way out of in order to get a clearer perspective? What is my part to play? Why do I stay back too often … placing premium on propriety? 
Perhaps my intentions should be to BEHOLD instead of to BEHAVE. 

*Beholding is becoming, then behavior follows supernaturally.

At Christmas, and every day …
I pray we find our way … to the Way … from light to light. 
From glory to glory, I pray we are changed.

I pray we light the way for others. “Another light. More light.” 

Offering peace while the world around us strives and contrives, 
Promising hope where darkness crowds, and 
Showing love when so many are in need. 

May this season reveal surprisingly beautiful aspects of His story in and through us. 
May we chase toward the meaning and purpose of it all with humility and reverence … 
and receive the selfless courage to step in and bow low.  

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Joy of My Desiring

I like to believe I live a reasonably contented life. There are very few things "I want". But one exception comes to mind.

There is a nativity set that I have seen in stores for years. It is absolutely lovely. A new character is created and introduced to the collection each season and they never go on sale. Every time I see it, I stop and worship for a moment. Then I walk away - grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty again. I love it and want it so badly, but when it is on display, my attention and monies are usually already allocated. No time to splurge...

Two weeks ago, a large, mysterious package arrived at my front door. I opened it and began to weep. The UPS box contained dozens of smaller cardboard boxes. Every available piece of my longed-for nativity set! I continued to cry. The kids asked me what was wrong. "I've wanted this forever!" I sobbed. "I could never afford to buy this. It's so beautiful. I love it." Luke said with bewilderment, "Momma, I've never seen you cry happy." Over the next half hour, the kids helped me unpack each figurine. They carefully displayed them in the stable while placing the stars and angels in "just the right spot".

As I stared in adoration at the cast of nativity characters, the extravagance of the gift overwhelmed my heart with gratitude and joy. When I called the mystery sender, she was careful to explain, "This is not because of any of the wonderful things you do. It's not because you're such a very fun girl. It's just because I love you and you are special to me."

From now on - until my grandchildren come gather around this nativity scene and worship the King - I will have this precious memory of lavished love in my soul. The clarity of strong desire. Knowing for certain what would bring me joy, but not being able to meet that need on my own. Knowing the sadness of living without, then surprised and humbled to receive the gift that I could never repay. And from now on I will remember those priceless words on the telephone.

The Christmas message that comes straight from the Father's heart: "This gift - the life of my own Son -is not because of anything you do, not based on whether you're bad or good. It is just because I love you and you are special to me."

*originally posted Christmas 2008