Saturday, December 26, 2015

Advent & Christmas Joys {2015}

To have this sparkle-in-the-darkness chance, this perfect way to awaken our souls from the drab and dreary, to alert our souls to things worthy of hunger, sacrifice and worship.  This intentional beholding, remembering, retelling the story, the Gift, the Savior come for us, this is the gift of Advent and Christmas.  Oh my soul... behold the gift of this.  Christmas is awe and wonder-worthy worlds beyond the glimmer and cheer that's so shallow here.

It's no small thing and needs no improvement.  The story of the Word of God.... that word spoken millennia ago that created with such power that our universe is still expanding because of it today.... the Word made flesh, to dwell among us, to feed and heal and love us, to die for us and give us life in Him.

I'm grateful Matt is totally onboard with a nontraditional approach to our family Christmas.  Our path-less-travelled choices for Christmas are very intentional, and we pray earnestly that our little K family Christmas traditions here will weigh heavy with glory in our kids' hearts and lives, heavy with joy as a pattern for our family.

It's true, our kids will be growing up without a madhouse of unwrapping a pile of gifts from under a tree.    I've been told this will wound them.  (Even our family who love gifts and bless with gifts so kindly, thoughtfully, generously, well...  they haven't said this.  But some have.)

I say, wound us, Lord.  Chisel away our pride and sense of entitlement ("Santa gave me this 'cause I was good") and all the materialism, discontentment, selfishness and gluttony of every kind, and all comparing and boasting that filled my Christmases as a youth, and that still try to weed their way into my heart even without gifts under the tree.   This is YOUR Day!  Fill us with a joy beyond anything in this world at Christmas.    We'll do gifts later....  really, any other time will do.

We celebrate very intentionally, music and sweets and serving and sharing together and kindness and thankful notes filling up our stockings all month long.    Every evening setting up another ornament on the Jesse Tree banner, adding to the stories of the Story that points us all toward Christ.  

And finally, amidst all the celebration, it seems fitting to let one moment be lean.  We pause for a simple, humble meal on Christmas Eve, a time and a place to remember the road weary travelers, Joseph and Mary, the unknowns ahead of them in Bethlehem, the fears and pains and tiredness and probably hunger after such a long journey, the lonely labor she would soon endure...

And then crescendo of Highest Joy!  Kings Joy!  It took a host of angels to announce it then, and we turn it up loud in the morning too.  Come, bed heads, Rejoice!    The peak of celebration!

It simply does not get better than celebrating our King!  He came! For us! Oh God arouse us from all that dims and dulls our minds, our hearts, longing, waiting, hungering and thirsting for you. We want to be filled with You. May our advent waiting and looking deepen the true spirit kind of hungering and thirsting that you promise to fill.  You are the Gift we want most.  We want more, much more, of you, in our lives, your glory, your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

At the table?  The best breakfast we can dream into reality.   (Gingerbread pancakes, thanks Alycia!) We share creative beauty, to unwrap and discover with each other, and any who can join us? songs, art, poems, verses recited, dance:  all gifts for the King!

Those notes we've written up all month long and stuffed in stockings .... all cheer to read and reread, steady smiles and laughter all around...  the kids get paid for and that money gets added to their giving fund.  And since giving to Jesus, means giving to the least of these, that's what we do.  Sewing machines and goats purchased as resources for rescued slaves.  Tuition for school, Biblical training, small business loans, medical payments made....  and more this year!   

This year, our kids wanted to be able to make their own crafty gifts for each other  and it turned out to be a fun way to show kindness and care. Since Matt jokes with the kids all the time about how they need to be saving up to get him a cane...  Marian "made" this one for him (ie. she found stick and tied a ribbon on it.)

For us, Christmas is about more and better than gifts all wrapped small in packages under a tree.   And if we stack up gifts right there, there's no way our crew is not going to hinge their celebration on those things.   But gifts are good too.  Our family is getting to head south into sunshine in just a few weeks and January won't be finished before we get to do a Family Gift day there!  Such a treat for us to find things other than what shops around us here sell.  There's a lot of beauty in learning to care for loved ones especially, specifically well and we want our chance at this too.  To celebrate a special gift chosen, given, well received....  gifts for the sake of gifts, the joy of blessing some loved one really well?  How fun!  We totally look forward to this gift time with each of our kiddos too, in it's own, fitting time.

And I must mention!  Our kids super enjoyed a package from Grandma and Grandpa full of gifts that actually arrived on Christmas Day (not a holiday where we live).  They loved it!  It was a cheer for everyone.... such generosity, as always from these guys!  To me, I love that our kids are learning to associate the generosity and kindness with the gift givers and not as much this holiday.  They know that their grandma and grandpa love to bless them so kindly with delighted in and delicious gifts!

We heard Matt Chandler preach this advent and he mentioned how inevitable it is that when we're packing up our Christmas things, we always tend to feel a sting of disappointment.  I definitely do long to do more, to celebrate better, to give to friends around me more and better, to delight together with my kids more deeply in the wonder of the Savior....  but the reality is that I feel, and I think our whole family is, much more gloriously attuned to Christmas and much less disappointed with it all when our celebration does not revolve around and, honestly, when it doesn't even include gifts for us.

And I'm grateful for friends who care to understand our craziness even to read this far!  Such a privilege and a pleasure to be with you in heart, dear friends, celebrating the birth of our Savior together with you.... no matter what shape your celebration or ours takes... we are together in pointing all our hearts and lives to Christ!

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