Saturday, December 18, 2004

What a great time of year it is! The malls are crowded with shoppers. Restaurants are full of party-goers in a celebratory mood. The grocery stores offer huge turkey's and a wide variety of cookies, candies, and assorted yummy treats for your holiday pleasures. Huge inflatable Santa's, snowmen, and even "Grinches" line my street. They glow for blocks after sunset! (If there really are aliens watching us from outer space I suspect they would be terrified to invade us after they see our illuminated population!) My Christmas tree is too tall to allow our traditional angel to grace it's highest peak. I even caught "Bailey the Killer Beagle" sitting still in the middle of the living room yesterday just staring at the 7 1/2 foot tall tree. It's plastic. (Our most recent concession to Debbie's asthma.)

I want to tell you a little secret. Please promise me that you will try to understand and not get mad at me. I'm not a scrooge. Really I'm not. It's just that ... well ... I don't care. I think I have already managed to gain about 5 pounds since Thanksgiving. My belt says so. I haven't made it to the gym for a work-out since mid-November. Too busy. I am avoiding the malls like they were ... well ... malls. I'm not a shop-a-holic. I have not mailed one single Christmas card. (I guess I am probably on Hallmarks "Ten Most Wanted" list.) It is just that to me the traditional Christmas celebration has become more like "ChristMESS." I feel so un-American just writing that. I am sorry. There is really nothing wrong with the shopping and the lawn ornaments and the trees. I'm a capitalist with the best of them. But it's all out of hand. Do you see the craziness too? Please say yes. I don't want to see it all by myself.

I want Christmas to be Christmas again. That is one reason why I love going to church this time of year. Nobody tries to sell me anything. (Well, I did get a telemarketer call in the office today. She wanted to sell me an "improved church web site." I told her that I was going to give our own web master her phone number and he would be calling her soon. She hung up. I think I might have made her cry.) But when I go to our church during the Christmas season I feel differently than I do anywhere else. You know what I feel at our church this time of the year? I feel Him. Yes, HIM. I feel Jesus there. Sometimes I feel Him the best when we are singing to Him on Sunday morning. You know what I mean, don't you? Sometimes we just sing a song. No big deal. But every now and then ... we REALLY sing a song. The choir totally nails it and the orchestra just flat out smokes! Even Pastor Larry smiles! The praise team gets lost in praise. And the congregation ... us guys that don't really know how to sing but we do it anyway because it is to Jesus ... even we sound great! Yes, every now and then. We've been doing it more and more over the last month. And you know what really turns my crank? Standing in our pulpit and looking out at their faces absolutely sends shivers up my spine. No, it is not that they are that good looking. Sorry. It's just that ... well ... they are His. They are the church. They are the Bride of Christ. Now let me remind you that they (we) are also flawed and sometimes flat-out WRONG in some of the things we do. We have not gotten our act all together yet. But it is ok. We are His. HIS. And He loves us. And He promised us from a manger a couple of thousand years ago that it was all going to be ok.

So if you are hurting ... I can tell you with confidence that it is ultimately going to be alright. If you are angry I can promise you that there will eventually be justice. (That could be good news or bad news, depending ....) If you are lonely I can tell you with authority that you are not alone. He is with you. And if you feel unlovely I can assure you that you are deeply and intimately loved. Best of all if you are lost I can tell you that you can be found. Just look to the manger. Gaze into the eyes of the Christ child. Ask Him to redeem you and He will. He promises that He will.

So cheer up. It's CHRISTmas. Whatever is scaring you or bothering you or ticking you off is going to be ok. "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. And the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9: 6) Don't forget that when you are at the mall.