As I sit here in my little office, I can see a few feet of snow out the window. My teenagers are on their way to celebrate Jesus' birthday. My shopping is done, and I ran a few errands for my wife too. I have all the ingredients for my hor d'ourves. The Christmas cards just arrived thanks to Fed-Ex. We'll be calling them New Year's cards. I am thinking about what church will be like tonight - it's a new place. I am looking forward to a Merry Christmas.
Every year I take some time off at Christmas because I really enjoy the season. I hear the excitement in my kids voices about the gifts they hope to receive. My youngest wanted to sit on Santa's lap-- "You know Dad," she said, "the real Santa is the one where you work." In doing a little shopping, I heard parents just as excited to give their children a gift... so much so, as I walk the aisles of department stores and ride mall escalators, I often hear "This will be an early Christmas gift." It is an exciting season!
I remember my early Christmases. I still have a letter that I wrote Santa in first grade, the wooden angels glued carefully in the corners. There were the Christmas pageants where most of the kids forgot their lines. I looked forward to receiving a few matchbox cars-- the coveted Ford Anglia #6 -- that was the best Christmas. My mother did such a great job of stuffing the stockings with fruit, nuts, candy and small gifts. Beneath the tree were often dozens of packages with long awaited treasures - well except for the clothes - in my mind they didn't count! Mom even had a secret wrapping paper for Santa's gifts.
As a teen I looked forward to getting record albums from artists Steve Miller and Yes, accompanied by a note from my brother which read "Do not play this junk when I am home!" I remember going with a friend to Hartford to see the lights in the city. Another one I drove around visiting my friends in the midst of a snow storm.
Jesus was a long way off.
Some time after I got saved, I started to see church as a wonderful time to learn about how my Lord was born. I loved midnight mass, especially when there was snow. Even today I have candles, wreaths and a creche.
I meditated on some Christmas services that were meant to get us thinking about the "true" meaning of Christmas. The one where we were to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus. There was another where we gave gifts to the poor, the homeless and children who's parents were in Iraq or prison. Each year we are encouraged to think about what we have, not what we are getting.
Some years I have railed against the anti-Merry Christmas movement, put out posters with pictures of Santa and Jesus with the slogan "Who's birthday is it anyways?" This year, I was just too busy to do a whole lot until today. I decided to say "Merry Christmas" to the folks that I know at work, at church, and in the stores. I even reeled off a few prayers for the pick-up truck driver that rolled over in front of me on the Interstate on the way to the company Christmas party.
Honestly, Jesus seems far off this year. Possibly its because the older kids are away at college and my folks are gone. Maybe it's because my wife is working again today. Maybe it is because some of our traditional family outings were canceled. We did make the Nutcracker and the Fatima spaghetti dinner followed by a walk on the lighted grounds. Or maybe what I really need to do is watch Home Alone and believe in love, peace, family, and miracles.
Some days I wonder what other Christians are thinking and doing this season? I know that some churches are looking to attract local visitors for their services tonight. They are hoping to reach out, to preach the gospel. Others are going to feed the poor in a soup kitchen. Me, I just started to think about it today.
As I am sitting here later in the day, I remember going a performance The Annual Boar's Head & Yule Log Festival in Ft. Wayne. With 200 actors, and a full orchestra, it was an amazing performance. I remember it ended with the the hymn, "Oh Come Let Us Adore Him." Now I remember why I love Christmas time.
But I wonder, how far off is Jesus?