And So It Begins–Again

“We’ll wait here till you come back.”

“You don’t really need us.”

“Don’t wanna go.”

It’s been a long-time tradition that the day after Thanksgiving, we get our Christmas tree. Whoever is in town–kids and grands alike–are part of this ritual.

This isn’t something the teens are particularly excited about. It’s not the rustic and challenging adventure we had in Wisconsin, where we’d go to a tree farm, tramp through the snow to find the perfect tree, and then cut it down ourselves. Now we go to one of the big home improvement retailers and pull out tightly wrapped trees, find someone to untie the cord, bounce it a bit to see if it’s got a good shape, and choose.

Not as fun as searching the great outdoors for a tree still connected to its roots.

We’ve arrived at the real beginning of the Christmas season. Where homes are decorated with tinsel and blow-up Santas, where cookies are made to enjoy and share, and where the waiting begins for the big day itself.

There are several ways to consider this period of waiting.

There will be those–often younger, sometimes older–who will ponder and persist in creating the perfect Christmas list, all the things they want, from the necessary to the “are you kidding?” They wait to see what they’ll receive, focusing on the getting.

There will always be wants.

Then there’s the waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus–Advent. This word comes from the Latin meaning “coming”, and it has a dual purpose: preparing our hearts for the celebration of His birth and for the expectation of His return at the end of time as we know it, where He will claim His own.

People have been fascinated with Jesus’ promise to return, and many have tried predicting when it will happen, even though the Bible says no one will know when it will occur. But this waiting period is supposed to be heart preparation, awareness of how we’re living our lives, being alert to what is happening around us so we can choose wisely how to live.

Such wisdom isn’t often displayed during this season of the year, when the “gimmes” get away from us, when Black Friday beckons us, and when deals on the internet pop up quicker than the critters in the “Whack-a-Mole” game.

You just can’t grab them fast enough.

Maybe it’s time to rethink what we really are longing for this Christmas. Closeness in relationships, friends who really know us, giving of what we have and who we are instead of receiving or wanting more.

A.J. Jacobs, an agnostic who tried to live a year Biblically, read through the Bible, copying down all the rules and commands, trying to follow them. When he got to the part about giving generously from a joyful heart, his comment was fascinating.

“And as I gave away money, I think I might have felt God’s pleasure. I know; I’m agnostic. But still–I feel His pleasure.”

God makes Himself known if we choose to ask Him to. He is there, and He isn’t silent or dismissive. He has given Himself away in Jesus for us.

Maybe this Christmas season, the challenge is to check your heart to discover what you really need.

More of Him; less stuff and clutter.

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