Confession: It has been difficult to foster feelings of wonder, surprise, and excitement for me this Christmas season. I feel as if I’m wandering in a daze– a swollen gut due to a gestating babe, unbalanced hips, fatigue, and frequent headaches. Illness and constantly needy children have left me wondering how I can inspire awe, in myself and in those around me. How can we regain the focus of the Christmas season? What behaviors or mindsets do we need to adopt so our hearts are charitable, our thoughts pure, and our worship true?
The other day I was reading a story from one of our Advent books. Willow was partially listening, babbling as she frequently does when excited, tired, or unfocused. She seems enriched by Santa folklore, the desire for presents, and just being busy. I wanted to practice stillness and focus. FYI: These are not Willow’s strong suits. Regrettably, I yelled. Screaming, I exuberantly declared: “Can’t we just focus? Why must we be so entertained with Santa but unable to focus on this Advent story? We can read these other Christmas books, but they aren’t what I want to read! I want Jesus! Don’t you want that too? He is better and this story is good, just listen!”
She continued bouncing around before retiring to her bedroom with a bottle of milk, curled up on Frank’s lap. In the quiet of the evening, I prayed. I was convicted. A still small voice, be it the Holy Spirit or just self-talk because of knowing Scriptures, I was asked, “Do you want traditions of Advent or to encounter Christ?”
It disturbed me.
I had yelled at my child because of her wonder over everything around her. Is this not the attitude Christ tells us to have? “He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” -Matt. 18:2-4 We are to be humble [read: curious, respectful, not haughty, sacrificial]. I certainly did not model this behavior for my eldest daughter. My sin and ugliness disgusted me.
(Aside: If you witness your child having a tantrum over pointless issues or his/her conduct is undesirable, ask yourself what behaviors you have been modeling lately. Children are parrots and will generally copy what attitudes, mannerisms, and behaviors they witness. Sometimes they are just acting that way because they are at a particular age and adults need to instruct, guide, and occasionally tame a behavior, but more often than not, kids act a certain way because that is what they see.)
Perhaps I am feeling hopeless and down because I keep giving into my impulses. Rather than praying heavily for protection against the temptation to react from a basal perspective, I simply act on gratifying and fueling my anger. I am satisfying my flesh instead of seeking Christ and his difficult modes of conduct. With all the death I’m witnessing lately, I keep forgetting that we are not to mourn as the world does. We have the hope of eternal life through the promise of Emmanuel, our God with us.
God dwelt with humanity and died on the cross. Three days later, he arose giving victory over death and reconciliation with God to anyone who would trust in his sovereignty, love, and judgment.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”- 1Thess. 4:13-18
Christ promises to dwell with us always when we encourage one another with the truth and glory of the gospel. It is this promise that grants us hope. Through that hope, and clinging to it, we can weather the tides of sorrow. We don’t need to wallow in self-pity, grief, and pain. Christian, press on. Continue stepping forward in faith, in truth, and especially this week, in the hope of the promise we have in Christ. (I say this as much to myself as I do my audience of fellow Christian pilgrims.)