Friday, December 12, 2014

If I Were a Christmas Letter…

The time of year has arrived when I just LOVE to check the mail box every afternoon!  SOMETHING finally out numbers the bills and the unsolicited advertisements and random coupon fliers stuffing the mailbox on our front porch.  CARDS!  Real, signed, personal (and some not so personal) greeting cards!  How humbling to think that someone thought of me and my family – even for just a moment as they addressed the envelope – with love! We got our first card on Tuesday of this week, and have gotten a couple more each day.  My kids fight over who gets to check the mail, and if the envelope says “The Weavers” or “The Weaver Family” there is a mad scramble for who gets to open it!  Just another Christmas tradition that I absolutely LOVE!

*edited to add: This is my personal opinion and is not meant to bash anyone who loves or writes Christmas Letters. No throwing of flames needed.  :) *

But, inevitably, some of those cards come with the notorious “Christmas Letter.”  You know the one – the letter that touts the fabulously amazing accomplishments of the kids and tells of gloriously wonderful trips to exotic and magnificent locales – WITH PICTURES.  Tales of laureled accomplishments in the workplace and domestic bliss in the home.  I get it!  We all loved to tell our story and to brag of our endeavors – it is human nature.  And I love stories!  I just get the feeling with these types of letters that somehow, I’m not doing it right.  I don’t have a laundry list of marvelous events and spectacular triumphs to share with my Christmas Card List. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE my life and I love the time I spend with my family and the fun things we do - it's just not Christmas Card worthy, in my opinion.

My letter – if written in that vein - might tell about my kids meeting all attendance requirements at school because we finally had a “well” year!  It might tell about the trip to the City to go to Sam’s AND Target – ON THE SAME TRIP! LOL! It might mention dance, or baseball, or volleyball – but there’s no trophies or ribbons or medals. Nobody wants to read that.  And besides – isn’t that what Facebook is for? ;)

So, the Christmas letter is basically a chance to pick out and emphasize the BEST things that happened over the past year.  You see that?  The BEST things… Not the daily things.  Not the less than stellar things. Not the hurtful, sad, trying things.   During a message one time about social media, my Pastor Craig Groeschel said “We're comparing our behind the scenes with their highlight reels.”  YES!  That’s exactly it!  (He has actually said that in a few different references, but this one stood out to me.) That’s why Christmas letters make me sad.  That's why there are no Christmas letters from the Weavers.  Not like that, anyway. You get a fun card, with a picture of my family, and a message about the true Reason for this season. Merry Christmas!

But you know where we are all the same? And our “Christmas Letters” don’t matter? At the Foot of the Cross.  We all know the Christmas Story - the "Highlight Reel," but have you thought about the details? The "behind the scenes?" Instead of a highlight reel of the things the members of my family have done this past calendar year – which would surly bore you to sleep – I am going to write you THIS behind the scenes Christmas letter…

Dear Friends,

As the year 2014 comes to a close, I want to tell you about the only Christmas that really mattered.  The one that changed eternity.  The one that happened over 2000 years ago.  To a young girl, and her fiancé – who both had faith above all things to carry out an incredible mission. This is their Christmas letter...
Mary had grown up in the same village as Joseph who was several years older than she was. Perhaps they had admired one another from a distance ... perhaps Joseph had just been waiting for the darling Mary to grow up!
Mary was in the house one afternoon, maybe working on her wedding attire, or sewing towels for her new home when she sensed someone in the room with her. Conceivably, Mary looked around to see if anyone had joined her.
“And coming in, Gabriel said to her, Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” ... 
Joseph and Mary’s love story had been horribly and inexplicably interrupted. Mary is pregnant and Joseph knows that he is not the father. Joseph surely must have wondered if Mary had been violated, although she was quietly insistent that the child in her womb had been placed there by the Holy Spirit.
Did Joseph wonder if Mary was delusional? How else is it possible to explain this catastrophic turn of events? What was once lovely is now tinged with ugly. What was once anticipated is now dreaded.
Joseph apparently did not believe Mary’s story because his plan was to put her away privately. This was the kindest and most loving choice for a young man found in the throes of betrayal. He could have allowed her to be stoned before the baby was born. Or, after giving birth, he could have allowed both her and the baby to be stoned. Sending her away never to be heard from again was the ultimate loving sacrifice on Joseph’s part.
It is impossible to even imagine Joseph’s disappointment with God and with the person whom he had loved most in the world. Mary had been his world and now he would never see her again. Did Joseph believe that the girl of his dreams had given her virginity to another man?
Joseph did not deserve this betrayal or this heartbreak. What he “deserved” was a wedding day filled with joy and the promise of young love.
Now, perhaps, Joseph’s reputation had been sullied on the streets of Nazareth and his boyhood friends were snickering behind his back.
Joseph had to face Mary’s parents and his own parents. Although he bore no guilt there was still the possibility that they would not believe him. There was no holiday frivolity for this disappointed, heartbroken young man.
Christmas, for Mary, was the challenge of understanding what the favor of God is truly all about. Mary was about to learn that being highly favored by God does not mean a life of unbroken happiness nor does it promise that all of your dreams will come true. There is a tremendous price to be paid by those who are highly favored by God; favor means, simply, that God is willing to use you.

Christmas, for Mary, was about discovering the intimacy of the Lord’s presence as never before. Mary was about to be confronted with the reality that favor happens when God places a piece of Himself into an earthly life. No longer was God a mere concept or a Divine Being who never engaged Himself in the affairs of everyday life. Because of Gabriel’s message, the presence of God Himself had invaded the life of this young girl who, prior to this moment, had nothing but Joseph on her mind.

Christmas, for Mary, was about understanding that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways. Mary was learning, like all of us must, that when Divinity invades humanity ... Divinity always wins! Christmas is a reminder that His ways are always higher and better than anything that we could ever think or imagine.

Christmas is about the Holy Spirit bringing peace and joy through a Baby Boy to the mess that we have made of planet earth. It is about the power of heaven’s reality invading one life. Christmas commences the moment a person realizes the longing that has always existed to be overshadowed by all that He is and all that He does!

Christmas has nothing to do with dancing elves, reindeer with red noses and snowmen who sing. Christmas is about an invasion! Christmas happens at the moment when heaven’s light invades the darkness of planet earth! Christmas is a time when we should all expect heaven’s entrance into our dusty, dirty worlds. Christmas is a time that reminds us all that miracles really do happen, prayers are actually answered and that heaven is just one response away. God absolutely hears your prayers. He is listening intently to your requests and loves it when a believer comes to Him boldly and unashamedly. Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep right on seeking, knock and keep on knocking! (Matthew 7:7) 

Claiming His Promises,
(All excerpts from the YouVersion reading plan "Joy! to Your World! A Countdown to Christmas" written by Carol McLeod if Just Joy Ministries

This is one Christmas letter I am glad that was written. Can you feel the hope in this?  The Promise! He will bring us GOODNESS and LIGHT!  This is what I love about Christmas and this season of the year.  I love the pomp and circumstance, the decorations, cards, food and festivities!  I love the lights and trees and BLING!  But most importantly, and definitely above all, I love the Gift of Jesus, my Savior!  To God be the Glory. Amen. 

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