A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Best Christmas Ever?

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Best Christmas ever?
Maybe that’s not even the right question.

I’m like most people.
For me, Christmas is BIG.
Decorations, gifts, cards, cookies, and parties
all packed into one gloriously exhausting month.
While most mamas in this season are nestled in their kerchiefs,
this papa has traded his sleeping cap for a party hat.

I’d like to think I observe the season correctly.
No decorations before the beginning of the advent,
and tree and lights that stay lit through January 6th as befitting any wise man.

No skimping on the 12 days of Christmas here…..

When the calendar hits December,
decorating the house is a 2 day four alarm effort.

No Santa flying over the nativity scene at this address.
Only tasteful outside decorations……
well, except maybe for the trees outlined in my school colors….

Every window with sash and shutter are candlelit.
Evergreen roping ornaments the staircase bannisters.
Nativity sets placed with honor on each mantel.
And stockings are hung by the chimney with great care.

My Christmas caroler figurine collection poised above the piano,
all with mouths open so wide,
they look like they are at the dentist office.

Christmas tins from years past
carefully arranged on a side table,
just waiting for a dog’s wagging tail
to knock them down like a house of cards.

Holly and evergreens hung at interior altitudes
never intended for the average Christmas decorator.
While scaling heights with decorations above mere mortal limits,
this decorator has seen Jesus (not in the good way) several times.

Each nativity scene set with only animal figurines in the stable,
while Jesus, mom and dad are stored away
awaiting their entrance on the evening of December 24th.

The tree is massive
as befitting a room with 17’ high ceilings.
It stands on its own in the center of the room
proudly festooned in glorious school colors 
despite a less-than-proud four-loss football season.

Decorating the top branches has never been easy.
Safety codes are violated consistently
to get the legion of angels to their lofty perch.
Shepherds may have quaked at their sight long ago,
and this decorator’s knees are knocking
while at the top of a ladder four feet shorter than the tree.

My Dasher & Dancer reindeer antlers 
designed to humiliate and disturb even the most patient of pets,
are placed by the pet stockings,
causing any canine in the house to run for cover.

Not even the bathroom is spared from my Christmas wonderland.
Guests at my house who need to enjoy some “alone time”
are privileged to gaze upon a cheery cheeked Santa in his porcelain outhouse.
Then they wrap things up by drying their hands on a “Joy to the World” hand towel.

I’d like to say that I do this all to celebrate the birth of a Savior.
But if I am honest, I do it for me.

After all,
His birthday was more likely in the spring than in the dead of winter.
And everything that I make Christmas to be,
the first Christmas was not.

My home is warm, comfortable, and Christmassy cozy.
His birthplace was dirty, cold and uncomfortable.

My home smells of scented candles.
Very likely, cattle defecated only feet from his manger.

My home has an overflow of Christmas blankets and tapestries 
for me to snuggle and enjoy every syrupy sweet holiday movie.
A far cry from hay and swaddling clothes.

For all the cry about taking our culture keeping Christ out of Christmas,
I’m not sure that I am not guilty of the same thing,
just in a different way.

Does God really care if my lights are on through a liturgically correct January 6th ?
Likely not.
Does He care that my home looks like a Norman Rockwell portrait?
Pretty sure not.
Does it move Him that Jesus doesn’t appear in my crèche before Christmas Eve.

What would please Him…….

How about taking time to ponder about
how cradle must lead to cross?

How about giving as much or more of what I spend on Christmas
to the poor rather than for myself and family?

How about slowing down,
rather than frantically racing through December,
so that I can truly be available to listen to God and others?

How about silencing my world
so that I can truly hear of the wondrous gift that is given.

This year, 
I add a new ornament to the tree.
It will be the first ornament placed.
A spike,
the type that would be used in a crucifixion,
placed at the foot of the tree.

No one else will likely notice it,
but in everything that surrounds me
that has little or nothing to do with his birth,
I will be reminded 
that He came to earth to rescue me,
rather than live without me.

And that I am asked to live sacrificially as well.

Best Christmas ever??
Now it is.

For the grace of God has appeared,
bringing salvation to all men,
instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires
and to live sensibly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory
of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;
who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed
and purify for Himself a people for His own good possession, zealous for good deeds.
     Titus  2: 11-14

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