i will admit, i have spent some christmases overwhelmed with trying to point my family (and myself) to the true reason for the season. but i am competing with toy catalogs and a continually jolly man who is able to land 8 tiny reindeer on a steep and slanted rooftop. my children have witnessed me struggle with the not so magical act of pulling my suv into a crowded mall parking space. and, without doubt, i am nowhere close to continually jolly. i typically welcome a little competition, but this battle was something for which i wasn't fully prepared. i thought it would be easy to blend it all together. easy to hold close the christmas stuff, while beholding the Christ. in fact, i thought that was what we were doing with some success. that was until the 4th born, years ago, explained to me that he thought we were celebrating santa's birthday. what? gasp! where had we gone wrong? terribly, terribly wrong.
after my initial shock, my next thought was hoping no one else had overheard his irreverent and horribly misguided statement. i couldn't believe we had somehow failed our son, failed to hammer in the fact that christmas was about the birthday of JESUS. not santa. JESUS. baby Jesus. baby in the manger, Jesus. no crib for a bed, Jesus. glory to the newborn king, Jesus. what child is this? Jesus. i mean, with five kids, we certainly do miss our share of details. it is possible some things get lost in translation-- lost in the chaos. but this was a biggie. hadn't he heard us singing christmas carols? hadn't he noticed the nativity scene set up on the coffee table? hadn't he, at the very least, been paying attention in sunday school? that was the year we started the tradition of baking a birthday cake on christmas eve. we haven't missed a year since. (i don't dare). and each year i CLEARLY write, happy birthday JESUS.
a couple years later, this same 4th born boy, had a few more questions for me. he was great with the birthday cake thing and had no problem switching out santa for Jesus in his mental christmas pageant. BUT, there was something else bothering my boy -- something else he needed to unload on his frazzled-doing-the-best-she-could mother. "if it is Jesus' birthday, why aren't we giving Him gifts? why are we the ones getting them," he asked. i could tell he wanted to say more, like, "by the way, it's totally cool with me if we have to be the ones getting presents. i'm good with that plan. i don't mind stepping in for Jesus and helping Him out a little." he didn't add all that...but i knew what my son was thinking.
and honestly, his question was a good one. what would we add to our lists if we went shopping for our Lord? could it be something found on the sale rack at macy's or in the long lines at the mall? i'm thinking no. but what gifts can we possibly bring Him? the wise men came bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh. now i don't know about you, but i haven't stumbled upon any frankincense on the shelves of target recently. i am not exactly sure what frankincense even is. and though it may have been the perfect gift for newborn baby lying in a manger, i am pretty sure it wouldn't be on Jesus' list today. so what does He want? what do you buy a king?
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~ Matthew 25
can you see how that fits? i am amazed by the beauty of these words. what does Jesus, our King, want from us? -- especially in the month of december. i think he gives us his list in matthew 25. he wants us to feed the hungry. clothe the cold. visit the lonely. serve the sick. His message is so clear, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." this is the Jesus we serve. this is the newborn King we adore. this is the Christ we behold. it is easy to love a sweet baby and it's an honor to serve a holy king, but can we love the least? can we serve the hardened? can we embrace the ugly? can we hold the broken? but this is exactly what Christ has on His christmas wish list. He isn't asking us to run around and shop till we drop. He isn't asking us to wrap things up in pretty paper and sparkly ribbon. He wants our hands and our feet and our hearts, humble, small and dirty as they may be, to come serving in this season of love.
oh...this is hard. hard. hard. hard. please don't think, for one minute, while reading this, that my family does this well. we don't even always want to. i mean, certainly, if we asked our kids at the end of a family devotion what should we do, they would give the good sunday school answer (well, maybe not the 4th born) and say something like, "help others. do something good for those in need." but then we rush right back to our candy canes and our catalogs and our jingly-jangly kind of christmas-y things. we rush right back into our dreams of shiny and new and nice.
each year at christmas, we try to do something for someone in need. there really is no excuse, is there? i mean everywhere we look there are opportunities to do for others--at our churches, in our cities, on our very own streets. it is about opening our eyes...opening our hearts. it is about listening to the words of that baby Jesus, who grew up to be Holy King, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters...you did for me."
maybe it isn't about what we buy or what we can bring, but about how we behold. how we behold the King. ...come, let us behold Him.
O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
recommended reading: the king's christmas list. by eldon johnson
* my post was inspired by this children's book i was reading to the kids a few nights ago. a perfect christmas read!