I try very hard to make Christmas about the birthday of Jesus. Rather than spend money on gifts for my friends at Christmas, for example, I instead celebrate their birthdays. As for me personally, it would be perfectly fine if there were no gifts under the tree with my name on them. I would prefer instead to receive nothing, or for people to spend their money on things like goats and rabbits for people around the globe that need sustenance for their families. After all, it is Christ’s birthday, not mine. (As for my birthday, celebration is welcome — smile.)
Before I communicate some holier-than-thou detachment from this beautiful Christmas season, I do have some things I LOVE about Christmas. I LOVE Christmas cards and I LOVE those long Christmas letters that some people still send. I LOVE Christmas lights, especially sleeping on the couch with the tree lights on all night. (I try to do that one night each year.) I LOVE the time off. College students aren’t doing homework like they are over Thanksgiving break and workloads always seem lighter at jobs between Christmas and New Year’s. The world gets a reprieve, it seems..a hush within the rush of normal life.
And I LOVE Christmas ornaments.
Each year I give every member of the immediate family an ornament that represents their year. In addition, I still receive an ornament signed and dated from my parents each year.
You do the math.
We now have boxes of ornaments and cannot put them all on the tree any longer. I am not bothered by the volume. As each child gets married, I will sort through the boxes to pull that child’s ornaments to use for their first Christmas with their new spouse. That will be such a pleasure to assemble and give…and the volume of the ornaments in my home will decrease.
It has become fun to pick a random box of ornament each year not knowing what we will find. Conceivably now we are handling ornaments that may not have been displayed for a few years, as was the case this year. My husband, son and I put up the ornaments and I thought you might want a peek into some back stories this year.
For those that follow my blog, you know my dog, Doby, passed away this year. I know he is a dog, not a person, but I do miss him and bought myself an ornament in memory of him.
This year we found both the original ornament from when we adopted our black lab in 2000 and the ornament from when she passed away in 2012 — both in the same box — this year hanging side-by-side.
My father picks out unique ornaments each year and signs them. You will note that he calls me Luke. That has been his name for me my whole life. No one else calls me that and I love it.
This is a Waterford china bell from our first trip to Ireland ever. I loved Waterford, Ireland and smiled with memories when I saw it.
I gave this ornament to my husband in 2014 when my book was published.
This is our grandaughter’s little hand when she was one. She just turned 8 this month and rocked it out in a Christmas program last week. She is going to see some more stage time in her life and honor Jesus with her talent.
This ornament was made when our new son was in pre-school. He did not like the first day care we enrolled him in. One day I showed up midday with tears in my eyes, scooped him up, and told him he never had to go back. Still with tear-stained face, I drove to a nearby church daycare and carried my son in…”I know you are full and there is a years-long waiting list,” I told the office staff, “but by any miracle, is there space for my son?”
The miracle happened.
My son loved the second pre-school from day one. I organized the assembly of these wreath ornaments for his class. Holding this ornament makes me remember our son, the kindness of that preschool staff, the miracle space God held for him and the fun I had painting puzzle pieces green and taking pictures of every child in that special class.
One of our daughters loved Cinderella growing up. As I hung this ornament I remembered the TWO Christmases when her ONLY request was for a Cinderella pillow. And then there was the year we waited in line at Disney World for Cinderella’s autograph. My daughter was the LAST child seen before Cinderella had to end the autograph session. After a week of vacationing in the world of “magic,” when asked what her FAVORITE thing was about Disney World, this little sweetheart answered, “Seeing Cinderella.”
Thank you, God, for that autograph!
This sweet, worn out bird first appeared in a floral arrangement at the head of the casket at my brother’s funeral in 1986. She is not looking grand anymore but she is welcome on my tree any time.
Then I happened upon this ornament, which inspired this post. Obviously, I had given Jesus this ornament made of a simple package tag. It’s something I do every year. I give Jesus a birthday gift.
Hmmm, I wondered. What did I give Him that year? It obviously was a give of the heart, not of monetary donation or an action.
I turned it over.
Unfortunately, I did not put the year on this ornament. I am sorry about that. It is clear I had had enough of my complaining that year and had handed God my heart attitude and tongue for His birthday gift. I know it was based off a favorite (and convicting) verse: Do everything without complaining or arguing, that you may become blameless and pure, children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Phil. 2:14-15).
Interestingly, my gift to Jesus this year contains a heart element as well. Though I trusted him with a speaking engagement for his birthday gift, I encouraged the audience to put a dot on a piece of string and tie it to a branch on their Christmas tree this year. The dot represents the brevity of our life compared to eternity (the string). The purpose is to give God our tiny life to use for His grand purposes. Some people will be giving their life to God for the very first time this year, others will be recommitting their life to God. For me, I have been living for His purposes all year, but am increasingly aware of how tiny my dot is. As tiny as I have it in my mind, it just keeps getting tinier. God asks so little of us, and as I grasp that evermore my desire to live for Him instead becomes more fervent. Yes, this life is hard and walking with God in some ways makes it even harder, but God keeps the chaotic hard stuff that plagues each us in a tiny speck of time and gives us perfect eternity in exchange.
It’s the best deal in town. It’s the only deal that makes sense.
I have tied my own dotted string on the tree. Here it is.
If you sense God nudging your heart to give your life to Him through Jesus Christ, please do not ignore that nudging. If you sense God nudging your heart to stop living so much for the dot and instead live for the string, please do not ignore the nudging.
Give Him your dot.
Receive His eternity.
I have decided to take a break from blogging over the holidays and insert some hush into the rush.
I will see you again the first Sunday in 2016, Lord willing.
Merry Christmas, from my family to yours.
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