Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And a Decree Was Issued...Day 1

Sometimes it feels like life insists that we do things a certain way. We have to get our driver's license renewed. Must remember to put the trash out on Tuesdays. We are expected to attend the Christmas cantata because a friend is singing. Absolutely must go to parties and other celebrations. It is almost as though we choose to allow what is expected of us to rule our lives. A certain percentage of our time must be dedicated to earning a living or caring for a family. We have to survive...making housecleaning, laundry, and food preparation necessary. It is also expected that we do what we must do to maintain our relationships (attend events, take care of children or ailing family members). We try to do it all. What gets crowded out most frequently is what it is we want to do and what we are called to do...at least for a while.

It is especially difficult during the holidays. The additional demands on our time, energy and our checkbook make it all but impossible to face the holidays with anything other than a sense of dread, a sleep deficit, and an endless to-do list.

As a young mother, I was extremely concerned with making sure that the holidays were perfect for my children. I wanted the tree, gifts, and family gatherings to be joyous. I wanted them to understand the significance of the season, and I struggled with how to combine the beauty of the Christmas story with the anticipation of seeing family members and receiving gifts. The secular seemed to be so full of fun...candy, parties, Santa, and TV specials. The religious was so sacred that I put out the nativity set and wanted them to understand the significance. A tightrope was walked for years as I tried to figure out how to do it all. Add Christmas parties, making Christmas sweatshirts, baking, gift purchasing/hiding/wrapping, and the dreaded "dirty Santa" gift swaps, and you have a schedule on complete and total overload.

In reality, our lives are a combination of what is decreed in civilization and the result of our choices. We work to provide, and as a result, people determine how we spend our time. People in government demand how we must behave to a certain extent and the quality of life that we will enjoy. But these people are only in authority over us...because God has allowed it.

Over 2,000 years ago, a man of government decreed a census. And because of his position, all complied. Because of the obedience of His parents, Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a stable. The significance of this was not only to fulfill prophecy, but for reasons that we cannot begin to understand. God is famous for doing the unexpected...using the unlikely...and accepting the unworthy.

As you go through the holiday season, try to realize that some of what you want to do may simply be impossible without adding incredible stress. We would like every Christmas to be memorable and special and holy. Sometimes financial difficulties, illness, or the expectations of others damper the enthusiasm a little.

It is my hope that this Christmas you will choose three activities that you absolutely, positively want to participate in if at all possible. Try to make one with people you love, one to help others that you don't know, and a third that is of religious significance. If you can manage this...you will find that not only will you savor your activities...but you will be slowed down enough to feel the true joy, wonder, and significance of the season.

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