Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store..." I typed the quote from the Christmas movie I'd watched over the weekend in to the computer and hit the "enter" button. Once the words appeared correctly at the top of the page I scrolled down the read the live feed of comments below. Facebook chatter that morning seemed to center on the difficulty of finding an outdoor nativity scene to display in the yard. Every other aspect of the holiday season, from blow-up snow globes to reindeer on roof tops was readily available for holiday decorating purposes, but a display depicting the birth of Christ was hard to find. Friends suggested various stores in the area that might have such an item and posted ideas on other ways to bring a more spiritual tone to the neighborhood light display in an effort to honor the holiness of the holiday.

I came to the end of the comment listing and sat before my computer lost in thought. My mind went back to the movie I'd watched days earlier. I could hear Cindy Lou Who singing, "Where are you, Christmas? Why can't I find you?", and I was reminded that people all around me are looking for meaning this time of year that they can't seem to find in shopping malls, holiday parties or the mad rush to cross every item off a too-lengthy to-do list. Suddenly God seemed to whisper, "If you can't find in in the store, you might just have to be it yourself."

My eyes popped open at the thought. The words "live nativity display" began to take on a whole new meaning. Truly our lives depict what Christmas means to us this time of year more than we think. I suddenly wondered what message I was offering to a watching world. I reviewed my actions of the last couple of days, and sadly didn't find much meaning in the red snowman purse I gleefully pulled off the top shelf of my bedroom closet, the dangling Christmas tree earrings I hung from my earlobes as I headed off to work, the Santa socks I slipped on my feet, or even my excitement over drinking my coffee from the Christmas mugs I use just one month a year. These trappings and traditions are fun and fine in their own way, and surely they have a place in our Christmas experience. For some people, this is all the Christmas they know, and for them it is enough. But others of us know that there is more to Chrsitmas than what can be bought with a credit card or conjured up by feel-good movies, holiday food, seasonal decorations, and nostalgic memories from days gone by. There is a Christmas for today that offers the warmth, hope, peace, and love that our souls are looking for.

Live nativity scenes are popular because they move the Christmas story from mere words on a page to our own flesh and blood experience. Suddenly the story comes alive and we can believe ourselves to be a part of the drama. And perhaps that's what God is getting at as He causes me to wonder what a "live nativity display" should look like in me. He wants people to know that a Baby can truly be born in a heart as well as in a bed of hay. The story of that event would be told by my changed actions better than angel song or any words I could say. There should be a Light in my life that welcomes wanderers to the One Who has the answers for the problems they face every day. And they should see me worhsipping that King with gifts that cost me in terms of love, time and effort as well as just a portion of my weekly pay.

But perhaps what God would most like them to see is the human connection that Christmas is really all about. God reached out of His world into ours, and perhaps now He's looking for us to do the same - to reach beyond our own thoughts and wants and wishes to concern ourselves with the life struggles of those around us. How that looks in your own life is between you and God. It could be something as simple as offering a smile or holding a door for a weary fellow shopper at the end of a long and exhausting day. Perhaps it's a hug from the heart to a seldom-seen friend you happen upon in your comings and goings. It could be moments of laughter and togetherness with those who need your love, stolen from your busy holiday schedule. Or it could be donations of time, money or help to someone who's just trying to make it through another day.

Christmas doesn't come from a store, and maybe God wants us to do more than just put it on display. If it lives in our hearts, we'll imitate His actions and look for ways to give His love away.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 KJV)

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