Three events are banging around in my head and causing me to think seriously about life. That is quite a feat considering I've been going through my life at warp speed not really pausing to think about much. I've only been thinking about what to buy, what to cook, what to clean, what to wrap.
First, my friend Jill from college (who am I kidding, she's really like my sister and I thank God continually for her) had to leave her home of six years abruptly. When I spoke with her she was pondering what to pack (suitcases on a plane are limited) and what to ship. And, what to simply leave.
She pointed out when they moved from Las Vegas to Russia six years ago, they sold their household goods in a garage sale for $2,000. As she said "It's just stuff!!!"
The real difficulty, the gut-wrenching cut to the heart part is that they had to leave behind two precious children they've been loving on for over a year. Two children that they thought by now would be adopted as part of their family.
Second my friend Matt's (and Jana) grandparents home burned to the ground recently. Just typing that makes me want to sit down in a heap and cry. I can only imagine how that must have felt to watch your home crumble before your eyes. Granted I don't know them and have never met them, but I know their grandson and I know his character. Therefore, I know even though they are grieving the loss of their home and their possessions, their eyes are fixed on Jesus.
And finally, yesterday morning we found out that some friends from church came home Thursday, opened the door to their home and realized their house was on fire. Thankfully, they were able to put out the fire, but there is considerable smoke damage to their home. So, they are in a hotel for Christmas and are sorting through the rubble. It just so happens that their daughter and Clara play soccer together, so this family is well connected to our heart.
So three stories, if I heard them on the news I might think, "Oh, that's sad". But, since these are real people that I know personally, people I care about, I'm camping out here. These events are converging together in my mind and are really changing me.
It's changing my approach to the holidays. Last night there were about a hundred things I could have done, but I chose to sit down on the couch with three of my children and watch a movie. And I mean by sitting down with them, we were all not just on one couch, but on one couch cushion....serious snuggling (I'm glad I picked an intense movie). This season is an opportunity to slow down, relax, spend time with those we love. Why do I allow the commercial aspect to rob me of the joy of my family?
It's changing my approach to the stuff. Good grief, the last thing we need is more stuff. No I'm not boycotting Christmas and we do have presents wrapped under the tree, but this season is NOT about these gifts.
It's about the greatest gift!!! The gift of a baby born in unsavory cirmcumstances, in a less than perfect environment. His parents weren't at home when he was born, they were in a stable. It wasn't a perfect night. It had to have been quite difficult for Mary and Joseph.
Real emotions. Real fear. Real hardship. Real difficulty. Real labor. A child wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
What about the witnesses to this miracle birth...shepherds living in the field nearby keeping watch at night. They were minding their own business All of the sudden an angel of the Lord appeared.
That might freak me out a bit. It also said, "The glory of the Lord shone around them." In the darkness the glory of the Lord shone around them. Then a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests".
So of course the shepherds go to check it out. I suppose if that happened to me I would go check it out.
They find Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. Doesn't seem like that would inspire what came next. "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what they had been told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told him. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
The reality of his birth probably more reflects the experiences of my friends....hardship, heartache, difficulty, fear, tears, stress. And yet the glory of the Lord shone around them. And yet God was praised. And yet Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The difficulties ended in Joy..Jesus was born!!!