Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas Past, Christmas Present

Happy New Year!

I'm off to a frenzied, purging organizing start to 2013.  Last week I tackled the laundry/craft room and the storage room.  (That's where we stuff our stuff to the rafters until my mister is saying, "Where does all this stuffing stuff come from?!!"  Except his version doesn't sound so tame.)  Then I spent the weekend packing up Christmas: putting away presents, boxing up decorations, winding up lights, writing down "thank you"s and memories.

So now the house is bare, in a nakedly new and promising way.  I'm on a new page in a new calendar.  There is physical and mental space to breathe in winter's rest.

Christmas is over.  Done.  We put a fork in it, and it tasted so good.

Christmas, once again, passed by in a flash.  But is it in the past?  


Ask several of my neighbors, whom I cheered this morning for still having their Christmas trees up, protesting the calendar, defying the dry winter air, holding on to the Christmas spirit.  Ask our dog, who "watered" our own Christmas tree, naked but still green, standing in a snowbank at the end of the drive, pointing to heaven proudly.  It seems to live on.

Christmas lives on.

Emmanuel.  God with us – he is still present.  The humble babe in the manger.  The humble king who conquered death on the cross.  These are presents we receive each and every day.

Christmas can't be contained in a calendar, in one day or one season sandwiched between Thanksgiving and New Years.  (That might explain why I'm still eating Christmas cookies.)  God didn't give Jesus once, crossing it off his list and retiring afterward.  Jesus lives.  Christmas keeps giving.

And as much as I like the releasing the physical and social clutter of Christmas, I rejoice at this.  Yahoo!  God's greatest gift keeps giving!
Jesus has come into the world and into our hearts.  To stay.  To live.  To change us.  To love us.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
1 John 4:9 (NIV) 

I don't want to lose that focus on the gift of Jesus even though I am focusing on a new year.

But I know myself.  I'm an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of gal.  

Can you relate?

How do we keep the truest present of Christmas present?  Living?  Ongoing?  Alive and well in our hearts, for always?  How do we remember the miraculous birth in Bethlehem now that the brouhaha has ended and the baubles have been boxed up?

Here is what the Spirit sang into my heart this morning...  Do you know the hymn?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus...
Turn to the Living Word, that was present in the beginning and became present on earth that night in the manger.  Our relationship with Jesus lives and grows each time we seek him in the written word.  

I, for one, am sticking my Bible right smack in the middle of the coffee table in the middle of the living room.  I may be de-cluttering everywhere else in the house, but God's love letter – big and bound and full of boundless grace – that is going to prominantly grace our home and our hearts.

Look full in his wonderful face...
Where do we see Jesus' face?  Well, if you've seen "Les Mis" on the silver screen (or Broadway, or read the book...), you know that "to love another person is to see the face of God."  I'm reminding myself to see the Christ child in my loved ones and in strangers.  (Especially when that is not so easy... this morning's sticky spilt cranberry juice, sibling squabbles, and slow-motion, aisle-clogging grocery shoppers come to mind.)

When it's hard to see Jesus in the faces around me, I lean into the promise that his face – his whole body – is alive and well in church.  As we congregate and worship and serve, as we praise and confess and glorify, we are his body.  We feel his wondrous presence and become his presence in the world.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim...
Whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the poor, nurse the sick, console the broken-hearted, or include the lonely, we feed and clothe and love Jesus.  When we work to DIMinish earthly angst – hunger and hurt, want and wandering – we keep the Christmas gift alive.  We embrace Jesus' humble arrival on earth, we give the gift of his presence to others.  Like the little drummer boy, we play our best for him by sharing our talents to celebrate and glorify God.

In the light of his glory and grace.
This is how his light and his love shines.  The star of Bethlehem beckons.  Someone sings Noel.  A gift is given, in a small and simple package, but with a significance beyond measure. 

We can be that gift.  We can sing that tune.  We can spread that light.  We can keep the Christmas spirit and hope and joy in our hearts and in our corners of the world, even if the calendar insists it is January.

May you find a moment to fill yourself up with the fullness of Christ today, to look full in his wonderful face.  And may you pour out his love and grace and gift to others, so that Christmas stays in the present.

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