Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Michelle's Christmas List: Faith Like A Child

Yesterday, James and I went to our sixth Christmas party in 8 days. I know school is out, but it seems like life hasn't slowed down yet. After work, I've rushed home, cooked something to take with us, hopped in the car, and headed out to that evening's Christmas destination.

Our Christmas parties are over, but the travels have just begun. I have a date with the laundry room tonight, then tomorrow, James and I work in the morning, pack in the afternoon, attend the Christmas Eve service, head home, load the car, and head for Tennessee. ETA? 3 a.m. The day after Christmas, we'll head to Knoxville to see my family, spend 2 days there, come back to his family's house for one more day, make the 10-hour drive back to Texas on New Year's Eve...where we are invited to two parties that night.

Don't get me wrong. We are both blessed with amazing family, friends and co-workers. Though it has been party overload, we enjoyed ourselves everywhere we went, and we can't wait to see our family in Tennessee. However, as I pulled out my calendar of the busy party week now behind us and our busy travel schedule ahead, I realized something was missing.

My third grade teacher was the first person to introduce me to a planner. We were only required to keep up with our homework assignments, but I also loved keeping track of important dates - holidays, birthdays, etc. That year, I remember drawing a birthday cake on December 25. On the top of the cake, I wrote in my best handwriting, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!"

This morning, fifteen years later, December 25 on my calendar was blank.

Feeling guilty, I pulled out my Bible. Fighting back tears, I opened to Luke 2.

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. - Luke 2:1-6 (ESV)

Closing my eyes, I imagined Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem from Nazareth...As I pictured the pain and rejection Joseph and Mary being turned away, the tears finally came. Not because of Joseph's humiliation in feeling like he could not provide for his family. Not because they had to sleep outside. Not because Mary had to give birth without any of her family present. Though that breaks my heart, my tears came because I realized that with this year's chaotic schedule, I'm every bit as guilty as every person that turned Joseph and Mary away. I haven't made room for Jesus either.

I've made every desert and appetizer known to man in the past 2 weeks. I've searched for perfect presents, spent way too much time creating crazy white elephant gifts, fought the mall & Super Wal-Mart, stood in countless lines, wrapped presents, decorated my Christmas tree, perfectly coordinated my schedule...but today was the first day that I've really taken time to reflect on the Christ of Christmas... outside of church.

Sure, I've had my quiet time. I've prayed. But even as a third grader, I had a better grasp of what it meant to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. That year, my neighbor, who was Jewish, and I were playing outside.

"What are you doing tonight?" Rachel asked.

"We're decorating the Christmas tree!" I boasted proudly.

She looked at me with a blank stare. "What's a Christmas tree?"

My mouth dropped open. How could she not know what a Christmas tree was? "Come on!" I insisted, grabbing her hand. "I've already got one up in my room. I'll show you!"

We scurried up the stairs and into my bedroom to admire my tree (that couldn't have been more than two feet tall).

"It's pretty," she admitted. "But what's it for?"

Without hesitation, I began telling her everything I had learned in Sunday School - everything from the birth of God's son as a baby to His death on the cross and his promise to come back for those who believed in Him.

Rachel nodded along as I talked. We had forgotten to tell her parents where we were going, so it wasn't too long after my story that her mom showed up on our doorstep.

"Michelle showed me her Christmas tree, Mom," Rachel said. "How come we don't have a Christmas tree?"

I remember her mother taking Rachel by the hand and taking her out of our house without another word to me or my parents. Rachel wasn't allowed to come over to our house after that.

But I didn't know that I shouldn't tell her something that was different than what her parents taught her. I didn't know what it meant to be politically correct and religiously tolerant. I just knew that I was telling her the truth and that I wanted my friend to believe in Jesus.

In Matthew 18, the disciples asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus called a child and put him in the midst of the disciples. "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4)

So this morning, I got my planner back out, dug some highlighters out of my desk, and began drawing a birthday cake on the square for December 25. I still have two days left before Christmas, and I'm not going to waste it. Sure, there will still be travels, presents, and family like before. But this year, I'm asking God for a Christmas present. I'll have to earn it, but I'll need His grace and blessing too.

This year, I want faith like a child.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

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