At the age of 54, my memories of my childhood are fuzzy at best. I do remember, however, my very first birthday party at the age of five. This was a big deal because it was the first time I got to make up the guest list and invite friends from my kindergarten class as well as friends from the neighborhood.
I got to pick out the vanilla cake layered with pink butter cream icing and the pretty, frilly dress I was going to wear. With a little guidance from my mother, I had say in what would be served for lunch. I had final veto power on what party games we would play. My mom was so creative, I wanted to play them ALL!
The day of the party, it was all about me...friends brought gifts picked especially for me and I got to be the one to open them. I got to pick who went first at pin the nose on the clown. I got to decide who sat next to whom at the big dining room table and who would have the choice seat next to me on the two seat bench.
A lot of the fun (for me) came in the anticipation of the party. My poor mother... I probably drove her crazy, because at the age of five you have no concept of how long a month or a week is. With each passing day leading up to my party, I got more and more excited. With each passing day my mother probably wanted to tear her hair out with my perpetual asking, "Is today the day?"
What if we had a birthday party and everyone at the party paid attention to everything else but us? We'd be offended. If this had happened at my first birthday party, I may have thrown a tantrum?!
This, I believe, is what we do with Jesus. We get so wrapped up in the party that we forget just WHO it is for...Who we are there to celebrate.
Fortunately, Jesus is not like us...He doesn't get offended and He certainly doesn't throw a tantrum. I wonder sometimes, though, what He does think?
When He sees all the commercialism and people stressing themselves out with massive "to do" lists, what goes through His mind and His heart?
Does it hurt that everyone has come to the party, but no eyes are upon Him?
Jesus didn't come into this world, as God made man, with a triumphant entry. No, He came quietly and humbly. God, made flesh in the form of a tiny baby, was born in virtual anonymity in a barren stable in the town of Bethlehem. His king's throne was a feeding trough for the lowly animals. This is how the King of Kings came to His first birthday party.
This is how Jesus entered the world and this is how he wants to enter out lives:
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus doesn't burst through the door and proclaim His presence. No, He knocks softly. We must be quiet and still enough to hear His voice because He will not shout. Then, if we hear His voice we must choose to open the door.
The Jews waited centuries for the coming of the Messiah that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Yet when He did come they missed it. All those years of waiting and anticipating and then the moment arrives and in all their excitement...they missed it.
Have you ever had that feeling the day after Christmas, that everything leading up to it was just a blurr and now comes the disappointment that it's over?
I have...and I don't like it.
I think back to my first birthday party and how much fun it was to prepare for the party and to anticipate its arrival.
What if, this Christmas, I approached Jesus' birthday from the mindset of a five year old?
What if I slowed myself and put more emphasis on the preparation of my heart and the anticipation of the birthday of the greatest person ever to be born?
What if the beforehand held the same excitement as the day of?
What if I quieted the commotion around me so I could hear His voice?
What if everything I did was centered on the birthday boy and not on his party? What would that look like?
Last year I began, on December 1st, reading Ann Voskamp's "The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping The Full Love Story Of Christmas". It is a short, easy to read, daily devotional for the season of Advent. (Available at www.dayspring.com ). Ann's writing, however, brings the beauty and the mystery of the season alive.
I also bought a small Jesse Tree and each day of Advent, I put the corresponding ornament on the tree (Dayspring sells the ornaments or you can make your own). I looked forward each day, with great anticipation, to what that reading would be about.
Preparing each and every day helped me to remember and appreciate the most awe-inspiring thing that happened in the whole of history: God becoming man in the glory and mystery of the incarnation.
Setting aside time each day to prepare my heart for His coming was the best gift I could have ever given myself. I didn't let Christmas just sneak up on me.
This year I am looking forward to reading the devotional and hanging the ornaments with my husband. I think I'm looking forward to this more than the actual Christmas day.
There is true beauty in letting our hearts experience the anticipation of Advent.
Don't hurry past the "coming" in our rush to get to when He "comes".
That's why I'm posting this on December 1st. It's not too late to grab a copy of Ann's book or prepare an Advent wreath. There are a myriad of ways to celebrate this season of anticipation of Christ's coming.
Would you share in the comments how you best like to prepare your heart for Christ's coming?...I'd love to hear.
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you that you love us so much that you were willing to leave your place on high and become flesh in the form of a tiny baby. Thank you for coming into the pain and sin of this world so that you could fulfill your destiny to become our Messiah. Lord, we are powerless to save ourselves from our own sin. Help us not to be so busy with what the world would have us get caught up in that we miss the true meaning of this season. Lord, DON'T LET ME MISS YOU!!
Let me let YOU be the focus of my excitement and anticipation. Let my heart be filled with joy as I prepare to welcome YOU. Let me remember it's YOUR birthday that I am celebrating. I proclaim your name above all names. For it is in Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
ps. What if you woke up on Christmas morning and there were fewer gifts under your tree because you gave to those whose needs were greater than your wants??
25 destitute and impoverished children are waiting to be sponsored this year at Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan. Only $12/month will get them off the streets and into the classroom.
If you would like to sponsor a child send your contribution to:
Make check payable to: REDEEMER CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION, Inc.
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC 27513
**Include you email address for end of year giving statement**
For more information on Redeemer Christian School, visit the MISSIONS tab above.
Give the gift of HOPE this Christmas...thank you!!