The Surprise of Christmas

 

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It is easy to be surprised by how quickly Christmas seems to creep up. I am not sure why this is, since we are reminded about it daily for quite awhile. It isn’t as if the retail stores have tried to keep it a secret for the last two months! I am also always surprised how it blows by, as I attempt to grasp for it and snatch the Christ in Christmas. This can feel as elusive as trying to chase a blowing leaf on one of these windy, cold days. This “gust” of Christmas always seems to surprise me each year.  Somehow, I think it will come in quietly like a lamb, remain peaceful and leave again with more peace and goodwill. Right now some are completing exams, tiredly finishing projects or making plans and preparations for the holiday. Cookies are being baked and presents shopped for. Some, I know, have the extra burden of sickness or the sorrow of death lingering and the reminder of the brokenness of life itself. I think we all have a hope of the true beauty of Christmas filling our homes, our families and our lives instantly–making everything better. I hope during the next several holiday writings to draw our attention to the beauty of Christmas.

Grab a cup of coffee or hot tea, push play and enjoy.

The Hush of Winter

When I was a child living in northern Missouri, I would gather up my ice skates, bundle in layers, slide on my boots and track a mile through the icy woods to a nearby pond. I would have checked the newspaper that morning to make sure that the ice on the pond was thick enough for ice-skating. I first walked through a small portion of the field behind our home, imprinting the pure, newly blanketed snow with my steps. The woods, bare now, slept the sleep of winter, having shed their summer growth and fall leaves. It was the same wood, but it felt very different as I slowly walked through it. The sparse wood now gave me a view of the dull, gray winter sky and of the far side of the wood, normally blotted out by the full, green foliage. The quiet seemed to softly gather all noise to itself, leaving a natural stillness. It was as if time stood still and whispered, “hush, listen.” Everything looked and felt different dressed in the winter snow.

My destination, the icy pond, was one of my favorite places to visit in winter. As soon as I reached my pond, I experienced the overwhelming silence of the hush of winter. How beautifully quiet and still it was. It did have a magical quality, shimmering as if diamonds embedded the sheet of ice. I could imagine elves dancing here in the light of a full moon. The pond became a frozen wonderland encapsulated by freshly fallen snow upon layers of snow covering the banks, lining and encircling the ice, as to keep its magic protected.  The expanse of snow around the pond and through the woods absorbed all the noise of traffic, dogs barking, and children laughing. It seemed as if I was the only person around for miles. It was not an eerie or lonely quiet, but a peaceful and wonderful quiet like slumber.  As the silvery sunlight through the dim clouds glistened on the ice, it welcomed me to enter this fairly land. Here I experienced the loveliness of snow, peacefulness on earth, and space and time for thoughts. As I skated, hearing only the slight scrape of my skates, I would sail along in the winter wonderland, absorbing and relishing the beauty of the hush of winter.

The quiet on the pond gave room for me to pretend, wonder, dream and think. I had space in my thoughts to be mesmerized by the creation surrounding me, awed by the stillness, and filled with the goodness of the day. As the sound was absorbed, the quiet on my pond absorbed the busyness and chaos of life.  Going to the quiet, gave me stillness. I so desire the same effect as I look for the peace of Christmas. As I search, I once again find it is in the quiet pause and times alone with God, whispering me to Christ. It gives me expanse in my crowded mind and thoughts to find Christ and His coming. I stop. I sit. I listen. And, I wait.

Indulging Well

Those last few words seem contrary to the overindulgent Christmas that whips by me and encircles me weeks on end. Party after party, band performance, holiday project, baking, and planning, all fall within only a week after Thanksgiving. I do love the cozy Christmas season with parties, festive lights, clothes and decorations. However, somewhere in the overindulgence I feel a lack, an overpowering pull to lose the Christ I long for in Christmas. Overindulgence seems to do this to me, numbing and almost callousing me. My mother-in-law makes wonderful chocolate chip cookies. When she makes her addictive cookies, she makes them in a bowl so large you could bath a baby in it. There are dozens of cookies to feast on. I love chocolate and I love chocolate chip cookies, and I love her cookies. Nevertheless, after eating cookie after cookie, I begin to be oblivious to the sweetness or the satisfaction that one bite brings. I have overindulged and now the chocolate chip cookies no longer feel so wonderfully fulfilling. My overindulgent Christmas season never fills me with the hush and quiet of Christmas that I long for–the Christ in Christmas. Overindulging always leaves me wanting.

Recently, Colossians 3:16 reminded me of a satisfying indulgence that fills me and blesses others.  It says,

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

I desire Christ’s word to be rich in my life, in other words, even indulgently at home in me. Can I intentionally pause in the middle of Christmas life, as I did at that magical pond, and experience the beauty of Christmas? A quiet pause becomes then a refuge for indulging in God’s word. I cannot force the peace of Christmas into my home, celebration or into my family, but I can bring it with me as I find Christ in my time alone with God. It seems to change the season for me, making it very different from what is blowing in the wind.

Finding Christ in Christmas

It is funny to me how a quiet pause can make everything different. It was the same in those woods years ago. Everything became different–the hush seemed to be speaking and pointing, if I listened and watched. The snow seemed whiter. The woods were quieter. The air was refreshing and crisp, instead of unbearably cold. The pond was not a pond, but a frozen skate land. The busyness of the season wants to rob me of the hush of Christmas. Time alone with God during this season makes its impression–giving time to reflect, time to read the Christmas story, time to remember the greatest gift given, time to anticipate, and time to keep perspective.  It becomes a shelter for remembering that Christ is my life. As Christmas is upon me, I desire to make room for being alone, even little snatches of time, allowing this time to absorb the distractions, the busyness and finding Christ instead. The Christmas season wants to strike us, but we need to find it. The surprise I found was that Christmas is experienced and more pronounced in the hush. I think a surprise of Christmas is that the indulgences of Christmas do not make it fuller, but like the rest of the year, the simple presence of Christ in my life is what gives fullness. Christ in Christmas begins, as I pull away into my quiet place and find Him. I hope and pray this would be true for both of us, and would overflow into all facets of this Christmas season.

Share the beauty of Christ in Christmas, and consider “giving” this post to others.

poppyOverflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others

 How do you feel right now?

How are you going to take time to sit, listen, and indulge in God’s word?

Take time to listen and read the passage below.

John 1:1-18

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him

And now we wait …

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  1. Amy McGuffey
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