Muchness. It’s been on my heart for a while and always seems to dominate my thoughts this time of the year. We have so much. So much for which to be thankful. And, yet the month of December certainly makes it difficult to focus our attention on the giver of all our provision and gifts. Isn’t this ironic? The month in which we remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, a time designated to turn our hearts in eager anticipation of his coming, then and in the age to come, is full of so many distractions that the burden becomes not to miss the season entirely.
How do you keep your eyes fixed on the eternal gift of the season? How do you quiet your heart to receive the blessing of the Messiah? How do you sit still before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in his presence when the world pulls us in a thousand and one directions?
I wish I had the answers. I’m truly asking! For several years, I’ve struggled with trying to find peace and balance in the Advent and Christmas seasons. Slowly (and by slowly I mean a painful snail-pace-not-in-my-expected-time-frame slow) I feel the Lord teaching and showing me ways to bring our family into sacred moments of holiness. I thought I’d share two simple ways we have found ourselves delighting in the Lord’s presence and focusing our attention on him this year. Both of these examples I’m sharing with you today came in very unexpected and delightful ways, which is important to recognized. I did NOT create these events! I did not bake a casserole, or spend days stuck in a glue-gun war trying to craft these moments. The Lord answered my prayers and showed up in these seemingly simple, yet profound ways.
I bought Jotham’s Journey last year. I truthfully do not remember which one of my fabulous blogging friends recommended the book, but I was delighted when it arrived on my doorstep last year. Only I found out about it too late for Advent. I kicked the dirt a little and grumbled that I didn’t know about this book sooner. In fact, I feel a bit sheepish telling you about this book on the 9th day of December, putting you in the same predicament that I was in last year. A day late and a nickel short. I promise you’ll forgive me next year when you pull Jotham’s Journey off your shelf and begin the Advent story with your Littles.
The fact that our family is so engaged in Jotham’s Journey is a Christmas miracle in and of itself. You see, we are not a sit around the living room after supper, light a candle, pray and read scripture together kind of a family. We just aren’t. I fantasize that we would share this kind of Sabbath time together, but if I ever said, “Honey, kids! Come on down and let’s pray and read scripture together!” my family would head for the hills. It would just be too contrived for our family. Too forced. How do I know?
I’ve tried. And failed.
But, knowing the Lord desires these types of moments for his families, I prayed that he would just go ahead and take care of the inviting, the wooing, and the bringing of our family to these moments. Because my track record surely reveals a losing streak at orchestrating such events.
Lo and behold, He did it. For two weeks now, we’ve cozied up in the living room and read the daily story of ten year old Jotham and his hair-raising, nail-biting, jackal and thief threatening journey. On about the third night, I noticed the miracle. The Littles were passing the book around to read the daily scriptures and they were arguing over who was going to blow out the candle (emphasis on the lit candle, please, not so much the arguing). Way to go God!
The second resource is precious and meets the needs I’ve prayed for Littlest who, as you may recall, is very four. Santa is not a big deal in our house. He never has been. Santa comes, but we’ve always downplayed his existence and gratefully our pre-school teaches about St. Nicholas, so we tend to focus more on the real-life saint and his gifts to the needy and the poor. When the older three Littles were really young, someone told me they gave three gifts to each of their children at Christmas, modeling the three gifts the Magi gave to the Christ child. We’ve held true to this tradition and it really helps curb the chaos and muchness on Christmas morning. Sort of. If you overlook the year I couldn’t adhere to the three gift rule and so I stuffed a ton of smaller gifts inside a big box praying that would technically count as one gift.
Back to Littlest and a great resource for younger children. From the creator of VeggieTales comes a new and exciting movie called What’s in the Bible? I was given a copy of the movie at The Relevant Conference and Littlest loves it. You can imagine how excited and grateful I was when I learned about the Christmas video Why Do We Call it Christmas? I’ve ordered the movie, but what we are most excited about is the free video series on the What’s in the Bible? website called The 12 Questions of Christmas with Clive & Ian. Clive and Ian are goofy characters we have fallen smitten over since discovering this series. Ian has lots of questions for his brother Clive about Christmas. In these twelve short clips, designed to be watched over a period of twelve days, Ian asks Clive questions such as, “Was Jesus born on Christmas Day?” and “What does Santa Claus have to do with Jesus’ birthday?” I intended to show Littlest one clip each day for twelve days, but she insisted we watch them all at once. I asked her if she would like to watch them all again, one each day for 12 days, so we could talk about each one. She replied, “only if I get to sit in your lap.” So beginning next week, Littlest and I will take a few minutes out of our day to hear what Ian and Clive have to say about Christmas.
We have other traditions that help us focus our attention on Jesus during this special time of year. Some have stuck, some have been replaced as the Littles mature and their relationships deepen with the Lord. What are your family traditions that keep your hearts centered on Christ? I’d love to know and hope you’ll share.