It Came

I've been tickled at the rivalry between the boisterous and calculating golden heads to post the "Days 'Til Christmas" on our decor. Mostly because it means that I have one less "to do" and because I delight in their anticipation. Closer and closer...more about Jesus, less about cookies...
Challenged by a fellow blogger to really think about the words we sing at Christmas, I began wrestling over verse three of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."
O ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now! For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing
After a little research, I found that minister Edmund Sears penned this five-stanza poem in 1849 per  request for a Sunday School class on Christmas Eve. The world was not at rest and it seems this weighed heavy on Sears who could hardly pen an eloquent poem focused on beauty and peace in Bethlehem while the Christ-child was born within. America was at war with Mexico, revolution loomed in Europe and Sears saw the world in a rage and not wanting to hear the Christmas message: Jesus came once to save mankind and He's coming again.
If we have ears for the Christmas message, we can look forward to the "glad and golden hour" Jesus will return and even now "rest beside the weary road." However, how much of the world is caught up in the rituals and expectations of Christmas festivities, anxiety over a new president, finances, health care...? We can't possibly hear the Holy Spirit speaking to our souls: peace and reassurance, the promise of eternal life in God's presence.
No matter where your heart is this Christmas (I must admit, mine easily gets caught up in lists, cooking, wrapping, shopping...) will you rest and hear the message the angels brought 2000 years ago? This child came to change everything for us. Without His arrival, we were destined for torturous eternal death. Yet, if we would believe that all our sins were heaped upon Him and He satisfied God's wrath toward our sins by offering Himself as a perfect substitution for us, we can be assured of eternal life without fear. This is the "peace among those with whom He is pleased," (Luke 2:14) that the angels sang. Revel in this truth consistently this week.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Maintenance

Somewhere in the midst of a toddler and preschooler, a wise woman shared with me a systematic lifestyle of maintenance. Every day has its task and if you choose to accomplish these few tasks every day of the week, you won't be overwhelmed by a huge task later. These days, that means the golden heads vacuum (if we're lucky) Mondays and Wednesdays and I do the thorough "mom" job on Fridays. (Not that I always vacuum the corners, but I definitely catch a larger percentage of the popcorn crumbs.) So this Friday, sweep by sweep, I began thinking of the value of maintenance. Not waiting until the house is a complete disaster (which maybe the kitchen floor was) to clean but day by day, task by task, maintaining.
What about spiritual maintenance? How do we maintain our hearts? Not our ministries. Our hearts? How do we maintain our relationship with Jesus?
Having moved a handful of times across the country, I can vouch, if you don't maintain a friendship with regular contact, the relationship will fade.
Ever thinking of my resolution to make this Christmas about Jesus, not cookies, I know that He wants a relationship with you and me. Two truths come to mind: relationships are intentional and relationships take time.
And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. 2 Peter 1:4-5a
"Make every effort," or be intentional! Just as I must choose to pick up the phone and call a friend, I must choose to STOP and spend time with Jesus. With Jesus, our time can look different from day to day. For example, you might be wrapped in a blanket, in the dark and just listening; writing; reading a Bible passage; meditating or memorizing a verse; stopping irritated veins at the dinner table and asking Jesus to see them through His eyes with patience and love. He doesn't box us in!
Susanna Wesley, mother of 19 children, intentionally spent time with Jesus and her children knew it. At random throughout the day, she would toss her apron over her head and when she did, her children knew that she was spending time with Jesus.
At this time of year, no one seems to have enough time as our "to do" lists get longer and longer. Even a relationship with Jesus will take precious time. However,  I am learning from a new friend how I take time for granted. I choose to spend time on things that don't matter, things without eternal significance, even things that will eventually trip me up spiritually. What if we chose to do things that matter? What if we chose relationships over things? If we're honest, I'm pretty sure that we'd agree, we can all make time for Jesus.
Whether at home or within relationships, maintenance is important and it's also a choice. Don't let Jesus be a relationship you let go this Christmas while you move onto baking and shopping.

Engage

Walking through the department store, my pulse quickens in delight. The twinkling lights, Christmas music, the smell of cinnamon and cider, the taste of sugar cookies...I love it! But as I stroll through the store, I question, How do I make this Christmas more about Jesus and less about the cookies and presents? 
At the end of chapter 5 in Hosea's prophecy to Israel, God has made it clear that until His beloved people acknowledge their guilt of walking away from Him and seek Him earnestly, He's going to let them sit in their own heap of a mess. In the onset of chapter 6, it would seem like Israel decides to turn to Him, but light-heartedly in order to get what's in it for them. Like Dennis the Menace when his parents tell him he can sit in the corner until he's sorry for shooting an aspirin down Mr. Wilson's throat with a sling shot. And just like that, suddenly Dennis is "sorry now." But of course, an all-knowing God sees right through fake, phony, insincerity and knows that Israel's turning back to Him is short-lived like a dew that dissipates in the morning heat. God isn't fooled and He wants nothing of the sort. Instead God says,  
I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice; the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
Steadfast love means a zeal toward God, an enduring, faithful, lasting love promise with God. God desires an intimate, authentic, consistent relationship with those He created. This is still true today. He sent Jesus to earth so all mankind could know more about who He is and have a relationship with Him because Jesus would pay the price for all our sins if we call Jesus our Lord. 
God's not interested in our attendance at the Christmas Eve service. He's not interested in our money. He's not interested in being our EMT service when we're in a mess and need a quick fix. He's not interested in a once a year confession. He's interested in our loving Him and knowing Him by pursing a relationship with Him.
This is opposite of what the department stores (ready to make a buck) are interested in this year. This is contrary to our culture, caught up in traditions and materialism. This choice will not feel natural. You will feel like you're walking against the current every step of the way. But if it's what your Creator wants most for Christmas, will you do it? Will you choose to engage in relationship with Jesus?