Friday, December 21, 2007

What I love about Christmas

It was not the presents that stuck in my childhood memory so much as the smell, the sights and the sounds of Christmas. We had a scratch-n-sniff book that had pages with cinnamon, peppermint, chocolate...and cardamom bread Christmas morning...mmm. The sound of Orson Wells narrating Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" on an old vinyl LP, scratches included. I heard carols sung late into the night with guitar and piano and little voices squeaking to reach the high notes on Joy to the World. I saw all the Christmas lights around town as we drove through neighborhoods with big houses. How did their Daddies get all those lights up? It was amazing to me. Sure, we opened our jammies on Christmas Eve and had two or three presents to open Christmas morning, but it was the ANTICIPATION that made it all worthwhile.
How do I give my daughter a similar experience? How do I shield her from the rampant commercialism, the blatant consumerism, the loss of value associated with tradition...? This year she plays with the baby Jesus in the manger. She knows what Santa looks like (but hasn't sat on his lap). She loves the music and lights, already. The smells are all too familiar at our house (thanks to Daddy and his passion for baking goodies). We tell stories by the tree and reminisce about years past. I guess that's where it all starts. The baby Jesus. The fat man. The lights and music. The smell. The memories.
Merry Christmas everyone. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Angels Say "La La La" and other things...

16 months and one week old...
As much as I love my little princess, she certainly can try my patience. Matthew and I have decided that she is a "strong-willed" child. It's only just beginning to manifest itself, but I have to say she's quite good at it! No is her favorite word as long as it's not directed at her.
Fortunately, she has other favorite words like popcorn, bubbles, and amen! I could say right now she's passionate about just about everything, but especially somersaults and blocks. And Daddy. And E-I-O (Old MacDonald). And music. And Baby Einstein Videos. And other children. And her blankie. Like I said, she's passionate.
I love a lot of things about my daughter, but the greatest thing about June is what she teaches me about God. How awesome is our Heavenly Father that He made the story of His son all about things children love? Kids love babies. So, God sent His son as a baby. Jesus wasn't sent as a grown-up to teach grown ups about grown up things. He was sent as a baby to teach grown-ups about baby things like loving, sharing, living day by day and faith. Who knows faith better than a child?
God also made the story of Jesus all about animals. It's almost like He said, " what could I do to make this story really fun for kids? I know, I'll surround the Baby with animals!." So, this baby was born in a barn, surrounded by sheep, goats, chickens, cows, lions, crocodiles and owls. Ok, so maybe we own the story in an unusual way at our house. But she really loves animals! Oh yeah, and kids love music, right? So, God sent angels. They sing. In fact, I don't know if you know this, but everything has a sound. Cows say "moo" sheep say "baa" and angels sing "la la la" (according to June).
Matthew 18:3 (Msg.) says, "Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, 'I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.'" I don't think I need to say much more than that. All I know is that God really values children. What does this tell you about God?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nearing Christmas

Enter freely…Reflections on Hebrews 9

Today June followed me into my bedroom, the laundry room, the bathroom (twice), her bedroom and the kitchen. She follows me around. This is really cute because she’s only 16 months old. I think she just likes to know where I am at any given moment. According to the experts, children at this age are able to remember when they leave something in another room, but they like to check occasionally to make sure it’s still there. Most of the time I’m that important thing she likes to check on. Me and her Blankie. It’s because I’m the MOMMY. I’m all powerful! I provide food, shelter, clothes, clean diapers, a place to sleep, comfort and a clean, washed Blankie once a week (or so). She loves me and I love her and it was meant to be that way. No one can love her the way I do, so I like it that she follows me from room to room. I’m glad she feels free to enter wherever I am. In essence, she has standing permission to go where I go unless I arrange otherwise. Even then, she is never really barred from entering my presence.
Does this sound familiar? Our Heavenly Father loves us this way. Because of Jesus, we are able to enter freely into God’s presence whenever, wherever, however we want. If God went to the bathroom, we’d be allowed to barge in on Him just to play peekaboo if we want. The old model was pretty complicated: you couldn’t enter directly into God’s presence, you had to have someone else who was perfect walk in for you. Someone else had to go in to tell God you’re sorry or that you need something or that you’re sick and need His healing. That’s because God’s perfect and I’m not. Now, if I were perfect and June were not, it would be the same way with us. I wouldn’t be able to tolerate her snotty nose, her poopy diapers, her imperfect speech. I would have a mediator stand between us and wipe her nose for me. I see that person as Super-Nanny. Fortunately, we don’t have to live life like that or it would get really complicated. “Nanny, could you please go kiss June’s boo-boo and tell her Mommy loves her?” “Mommy, June just said your name for the first time, isn’t that sweet?” It’s all a little sad. You can imagine how God felt when He couldn’t just reach down and touch us and love us and kiss our boo-boos for us. No wonder He seems just plain cranky sometimes in the Old Testament.
Fortunately, God knows something we don’t. That’s why He set up the whole model of the Temple, the endless rules, the ridiculously impossible requirements; He wanted us to see just why we need Christ. He wanted us to understand our fall from grace and how that grace is big enough to scoop us right back up again. All we have to do is accept that we are not perfect, that God is, and that we desire to be more like Him. Then, we accept that the only way to get close enough to God to learn from Him, is through His perfect son, Jesus Christ. Jesus essentially broke down Daddy’s door for us so we can enter freely. Jesus carried our sin for us into death and left it there, forever. He cleaned us up so what God sees is a perfectly whole you and me…the ideal that lives in each of us without all the other junk. Then, our Father invites us to go where He goes. A standing invitation, an open door policy, from the Creator of the universe. I don’t think it gets much better than that. And believe me, where God goes has nothing to do with diapers and laundry. The adventure that awaits each of us begins with bursting through a door, running into the arms of our Father, and saying, “Daddy, I love you! I want to go where You go.” What are we waiting for? Run on in there, squirt.