Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Christmas Presence

It is Christmas Eve night and Ceal and I are here in Clearwater, Florida, visiting my 95-year-old grandmother. We visited Clearwater Friends this morning and had an enjoyable worship with them. This is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. All the stores are closed, people quiet down, and Christmas finally seems peaceful.

I have spent much time contemplating the Christmas season, as well as my reaction to it. I have pushed myself away from much of the tradition, because I felt like it wasn't really focused on Christ. In the process, I feel like I have lost much of that peace within myself. As I have reconnected myself to the Christian tradition I grew up with, I have also allowed myself to become more critical of other individuals and communities. While I acknowledge that our community needs people to stand up and point out the times when we have gone off-course, I think in my case, a lot of it is over-compensation - I complain about the community not being where I think it should be because I am not where I think I should be. I found myself sitting in a church service this evening fighting off thoughts of how silent worship is so much better, and not partaking more fully in the joy of being surrounded by hundreds of children positively buzzing with anticipation (the buzz occasionally drowned out the pastor!). That is not a loving way of living. God, I know I need a lot of reshaping, I'm sorry I keep interfering with the job.

I didn't expect to say all that. I was just planning to talk about Christmas presents. I was contemplating Christmas presents this morning during Meeting for Worship, not really the presents themselves, but the state of anticipation they bring. I wondered if maybe the practice of giving gifts wasn't so bad, but that our culture has overdone it, and lost the connection that we are celebrating God giving us the greatest gift. It was that thought of God giving us a gift that reminded me again of a post by Charles Rathman about the atonement. There is a hidden irony here, because I complained to my friend Shane last week about focusing on the crucifixion during Advent. I felt that it was almost like we want to focus more on Jesus' death than his life, and now here I am thinking about just that. Charles wrote:

Our sinfull nature thinks of and can see only the carnal -- the outward -- and that is what of Jesus we managed to kill. The Indwelling Power of God that was in Jesus -- the Christ -- is everlasting and could not be killed. We destroyed the giftwrapping and left the precious gift for all of humankind.

As I think about that mythical search for the "perfect Christmas present", I realize that God is the undisputed champion of giving the perfect gift. He has given us something that never gets lost, never breaks, and never needs batteries. And on top of that, God encourages re-gifting!

However you celebrate God's love to his children, I wish you His peace and love!