I like that Christmas brings not just decorations carefully hung, recipes newly chosen, and family's never-the-same dynamics, but also a new appreciation for the central story which birthed the celebration. I share this year's new discoveries for me.
Our pastor used the Sundays in December to focus on characters in the story of Christmas. On Mary, he emphasized how Mary's obedience taught her sufficiency. She gave up dreams of what marriage would be like and bore the judgment of those who would not understand. She and Joseph together would raise an unusual son whose early understanding of Scripture made him a "Bible nerd" in a way that his parents couldn't relate to. Yet, this son, scripture says, grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. In spite of Jesus' uniqueness, he becomes well-adjusted and well-rounded.
Jesus brings salvation not only so we can experience eternal life with him, but salvation now from fear, regret, shame and turmoil. He is sent to guide our steps in the way of peace. In any darkness of soul, which we all have, he invites us to come and trust him to deal with it. He makes everything beautiful in his time; he knows when to bring it to the surface and to his light. His gentleness makes us great.
Rebekah Freelan's book, His Advent, gave me a new perspective on Joseph, the husband of Mary. Joseph shows his Godliness by obeying God's instructions, respecting Mary and accepting the role of surrogate father to Jesus. Rather than resentment at this intruder, he becomes the father figure who brings training to God's son. Introducing him to the earthly way of gaining God-knowledge through synagogue attendance. Teaching him a career skill of carpentry.
Rather than pushing for his own recognition, Joseph accepted his role of being overshadowed by the real Father of Jesus. He embraced the shadows; a life of uncertainty, a life never dreamed of or one he could have prepared for. Jesus still brings surprises to lives that he claims. I want to allow this true Father to overshadow all that I am and do, so his brightness shines.
Our pastor pointed out Joseph's lineage to David was important because
it gave Jesus a legal representation. Jesus, through Mary, had a blood
line to David yet that lineage would not have been legally recognized without Joseph's adoption.
The season invites us to gift each other as God gave us His indescribable gift of Jesus. Among my gifts was a book by the artist, Carolyn Blish. Great! Another coffee table beauty, for a furniture piece I don't own. I have one of her prints, so my interest was half-way piqued. For bedtime skimming some night, I decided.
Pages of color and youthfulness awaited me. Admiration for the talent of brush stroke and crafted words grew as I turned all 150 pages that night. This women captured sunlight, beach sand and waves, and children's faces in a way that moved me to worship the God of creation, whom she loves and proclaims. One page spread seeped down into that place where emotions hover waiting to be stirred. I named the stirring, Nostalgia. As usual it played with me very briefly before slipping away. On the left side was a full page painting of a small girl in a daisy field with a crown of the flowers encircling her head. The right side page had two small sketches-one a daisy, close-up and the other of a girl handing a bouquet to a woman. Emotion surrounds them. I remembered such gifts of drooping dandelion bouquets, school-made clothespin reindeer
ornaments, and handmade cards with large crooked lettering bestowed on
me by children now grown and receiving their own sweet endowments.
At the top of this page the author-artist shared a memory of presenting a daisy bouquet to her mother and in childlike excitement asking if they were liked. Her mother said, "I love them because you picked them for me."
That's it! I love my gifts, whether practical, questionable or spot on because they were each picked for me. There was joy in selecting the gifts I presented to others, too, because my choices reflects my relationship with them.
Thank you, Father, for showing us how to give by your generosity to us, those you know and love so well. Thank you for coming for the least of us, lying in a manger as your first bed, and welcoming shepherds and animals as your first visitors. "To meek souls who receive him still, the dear Christ enters in." Thank you, for a Christmas story that only becomes more precious as we gain greater understanding of your amazing love and amazing plan of salvation.