Most of us are probably busy buying last-minute presents for friends and family if we haven't completed our shopping already. We have a custom of holy-day gift-giving in remembrance of the Magi's visit to Jesus with their treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And since we've been doing this since time immemorial, it's almost impossible to stop. We're afraid of disappointing, of failing to live up to expectations. Which means the real meaning of season - Jesus, God come to earth, Emmanuel - can get lost in its trappings.
Guilty as charged.
As I write this, it's exactly a week before the big day. The last six weeks have been especially busy and challenging. Yesterday (December 17) my son, who had moved out at the beginning of October, moved home again. That right there is an answer to prayer (and the best gift). But we've been getting a basement room ready for him, to give him more space and privacy. The rest of the basement is a mess, accommodating the furniture we've had to remove in order to rip up the carpets, install a sub-floor, put down vinyl planking and paint the walls. We're not finished yet and he's currently sleeping in the family room, surrounded on all sides. Usually the Christmas tree takes residence there, but this year there's "no room in the inn."
Not only is the basement in disarray and our tree still in storage, but we have no indoor decorations up (except the advent calendar), no baking done, a few more stocking gifts to buy, a Christmas potluck to host, a cocktail party to attend and Christmas dinner to prep and host for 9.
Deep breath. Remember, these things are not what Christmas is all about. It's okay not to have a magazine-perfect holiday. December will come and go; it will be what it will be. It will be okay. Jesus was laid in a manger, not a bassinet.
As I think about the word 'gift,' the word 'prayer' also comes to mind. As I've become more intentional in my prayer life through 2016, more passionate about the power of prayer, God has given several answers. My prayers are like gifts to Him (He keeps them in gold bowls according to Revelations 5:8) and His responses are a gift to me. Through this 'gift exchange' I've drawn closer to Him and come to love Him more than ever. And I can say that, while I would never invite trials or challenges (who wants them, really?), it's been worth it to have this deeper relationship.
Our son still needs prayer. Like many young people who've grown up in Christian families and churches, after making a childhood profession and being baptized as a teen he's at the point where he needs to make his faith his own. God has him on a journey to discover who He really is. We don't know how long that will take or what that will look like, but we do know that God is good and is giving him a unique story. In the meantime we trust, knowing we have a good Father who gives His children the best gifts (Luke 11:9-13). As we head into 2017, may you find this to be true.