Archives for posts with tag: presents

stars and angelsUneducated shepherds were doing a menial job and were interrupted by angels. They found God in the middle of the night in a manger in their hometown. The Wise Men didn’t hear from angels; they saw a star. They felt compelled to travel hundreds of miles in a time when travel was dangerous and difficult. Their education and curiosity led them to leave where they were and follow a hunch to see where it led them. They found God at the end of a long, tedious, intentional journey.

Every once in a while, we see evidence of God in our world. Our awareness can come as an unplanned event that takes us by surprise, or it may be an intentional choice to pursue our faith in God, rather than focusing on our circumstances. Sometimes we “find” God when we’re not looking for Him. We are going through the motions of our lives, doing what must be done as best we can, when God interrupts our schedule and unmistakably calls us to Himself.

But sometimes finding God involves our commitment to keep looking. It may be a long journey from where we are and what we know to the place where we understand and see Him face to face. We may have to keep our focus on what we believe as we journey through all that will lead us from where we are to where He is.

The shepherds could have decided that a decent night’s sleep was more important than traipsing off into town. The Wise Men could have easily justified simply recording the appearance of an unusual star, rather than sacrificing a substantial amount of time and money on what could very likely be a wild good chase. But they didn’t. Their hearts were unmistakably stirred, and they ignored common sense and beheld the face of God.

We don’t know what happened after they left the Christ child and went home. Were they permanently changed by their encounter with God come to earth, or was the thrill temporary? Did they spend the rest of their lives telling the story of the moment they saw God, or did their circumstances and schedules retake control of their expectations? Was Christmas a one-time event for them or was it a turning point in their lives?

Our culture has tried to reinvent Christmas into something less than God intended it to be. Receiving the gift of the presence of God is too often eclipsed by the frantic search for presents to buy. Anticipation of His presence and blessing gets lost in the preparation and parties. We’ve made Christmas into something we do, rather than a celebration of the God who never forgets a promise, whose incredible love continually calls us into His presence, the one who left Heaven to come live with us.

Whether your invitation looks like an angelic interruption or the nagging hope of a star that draws you to seek Him, follow your heart into His presence. Find Him amid the to-do lists and demands of your Christmas. Immanuel, God with us, wants relationship with you. Let that bring you hope and joy that transforms the event of Christmas Day into a turning point in your journey with God.

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presents 2

I’m to the age where opening the presents on Christmas morning isn’t near as important to me as the precious people who gather with me, even if only by phone, at the party, around the tree, around the table. The people who make relationship with me, who make my presence their priority, are an incredible gift that makes me feel valued and loved.

There are all kinds of presents. There are presents that meet my needs and others that bring me delight. There are some that are given in gratitude, and some that are given in unconditional love. Charities give me “gifts” of address labels and notepads because they want me to contribute to make a contribution. But the people who really matter, the ones who really love you, give you their presence.

God gave the present of his presence to an undeserving people. God sent his only begotten son to the mess and the struggle of earth because relationship with us right now is his priority. Being with us was more important to God than the perfect praise of heaven or protecting his glory. He had already given us all the riches of earth, but on that first Christmas he gave us his physical presence for the first time since Eden. God loved and value us so much that sent his only begotten son to be present with us because he values and loves us.

May you know the presence of the ones who love you during these holidays. May the presents you receive bring you joy. And may the presence of Immanuel, God with us, fill your heart and your home with strength for your struggles, with joy for your blessings, and with gratitude for his love.

gift

Gift wrap matters to me. Wrapped presents under the tree increase the expectation for Christmas morning, and are part of the decoration in my home.  Somehow the color and beauty of the wrapping and bows and the process of peeling them away escalates the anticipation of the gift inside.

Sometimes gift wrap can be deceiving. My dad used to put a box in a box in a box until a tiny gift loomed large under the tree. My Sunday School class does white elephant gifts at our annual Christmas party, and the silliest, ugliest presents are often hidden beneath the most beautiful paper. There were times when my boys were small that the wrapping on their precious gifts for me used more tape than paper.

Wrapping is scriptural. David described God as “wrapped in light”. (Ps 104:2) God took the holiness and divinity of his son and wrapped him in human flesh when he sent him to earth for that first Christmas. Mary wrapped that baby in cloths and placed him in a manger. Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus from the cross and wrapped him in linen before placing his body in the tomb.

The gifts under my tree represent planning and shopping that I hope will bring joy to the recipients. But the bottom line is that the wrapping is just the presentation. By the end of Christmas morning, crumpled paper and torn ribbon will be stuffed into trash bags and thrown away. It is the gift itself that matters. What determines the importance of a gift is not whether you like the wrapping; it is what you do with the gift once the wrapping is gone.

Christmas is our reminder that God loved the world so much that he gave us the incredible gift of his son, wrapped in the form of a human baby. (John 3:16) What will you do with the meaning and purpose of Christmas once the celebration and wrapping are gone? Let God’s gift that became Christmas bring you new hope and joy as you chose to celebrate his presence, throughout this season and until you see him face to face.

Much Ado about....what?

So much of life, especially the big events, takes so much longer to get ready for than it does to actually do it. Christmas pageants and concerts have tens of hours of rehearsal for a performance that usually lasts only one. Unwrapping presents takes a tiny fraction of the time it took to plan and shop and wrap each present and craft beautiful wrapping and bows to decorate them. I may spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal that will disappear in 20 minutes. Months go into planning a wedding that usually takes no more than a few minutes. The women’s ministry team at my church is hours away from our 10th annual Christmas Tea. This year we will have 248 women. Months of endless details and hard work by so many go into planning a tea that will be only a memory two hours after it begins.

Is it all worth it? What is it about the preparation? Is all this “Much Ado About Nothing”, or is the preparation as important as the event? God thought it was. He spent six days preparing the place he would give to man. Whether you believe that was six 24 hour periods or six spans of time, he took the time to make it perfect before he created humans. He promised to “go before” his people into the Promised Land and into their future, and Christ has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us.

The time we spend preparing for what is to come really does matter. Anticipation of the event can be as exciting as the event itself. Rehearsals build relationships and memories, and hopefully lead to a performance that draws those who come to watch into the truth and beauty of what is presented. Each gift under the tree is evidence that someone is loved and special. My boys work and are rarely at home for dinner, so when we can all gather around the table, it is an increasingly rare pleasure. I want the meal to be delicious, but mostly I just want us to savor our time together. The details of a wedding may fade or become fun stories, but that wedding is the start of a marriage and love story that will hopefully last a lifetime. The vast majority of ladies who will attend the Tea have no concept of the complicated, time consuming details of tickets or door prizes or logistics of food preparation. They don’t see the chaos of the kitchen and the near misses of the servers. They just see an exquisitely decorated dining room and most think all the details were perfect. When family and friends find gifts under my tree, a meal prepared just for them, or a seat at a wedding or the Tea just for them, what I hope they understand is that they are loved and belong in this place I have prepared for them.

God is never hurried or frantic. He doesn’t stress or express irritation over details that just won’t seem to fall into place. Adam was created when Eden was ready. Jesus came in “the fullness of time.” (Gal 4:4) And in his great mercy, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. When we get there we will find gifts specifically designed for us individually. There will be a wedding and a feast. Your invitation is in your Bible. He wants us to know what is to come, so that we may joyfully anticipate its coming. The details will be magnificent, and we’ll have all of eternity to celebrate and share fellowship with our God, and with each other.