Tuesday, December 28, 2010

not what anyone expected.

During Christmastime, with all its familiarity and the season's flurry of activity, it is easy to drift into our routine of celebration without seeing the source of celebration with new eyes. Last year, though, I was struck afresh by the hope of Advent. So this year, I was searching for something to make it new for me again. I was joyfully waltzing through the season, but I wanted it to be deep and beautiful and newly profound. And by some kind of grace, that newness finally came on Christmas Eve.

At work, I've been updating our Survey of the Bible course, and last week, I edited, revised and began skimming through the entire thing. As I followed its tracing of the drama of redemption from the beginning, outlined in the early chapters of Genesis, to the present day, I was reminded of the words of the prophets and the oldest recorded promises of God...promises about the one who would come, the Prince of Peace who would reign and make all things right. I recalled the lineage of Jesus, his family tree full of sinners and marginalized folks and very few that we would choose as precursors to the king of everything.

On Christmas Eve at my parents' church, the church I grew up in, the liturgy included a video of a little white line blazing through a dark screen, accompanied by captivating piano music, tracing a picture of Bethlehem and the star, Mary and Joseph traveling, shepherds, angels...and then, the small baby Jesus in the manger.

And it was so simple. But at moment 1:50 of the video, when that tiny manger and outline of a baby were traced on the screen above me, with the promises of the prophets still on my mind, I thought, This wasn't what anyone expected.

They were waiting for a king. They were waiting for power and grandeur and fanfare. I imagine that they watched the rulers and leaders of the day, wondering, Is he the one? Is he? How about this king? This prince? This priest?

No one was looking at insignificant young girls in Nazareth. No one expecting a king would have been paying attention to the life of a poor carpenter. Who would have connected the census to the most monumental religious event ever to occur? Who would have been watching the births of infant boys in rural villages? Who would have kept an eye on the stables in the countryside?

This wasn't what they expected. This wasn't what I would have expected.

But this was it. This was what every single prophecy pointed toward. The tiny baby conceived by a virgin, born in a stable, placed in a feeding trough, resting on a mattress of hay, comforted by the moans of cattle, gazed on by dirty shepherds, with a lineage marked by prostitutes and sinners and nobodies...this was the Savior.

And frankly, a god who would orchestrate a story as unexpected as that to bring about our salvation is the kind of god I want to follow.

I want to serve an unpredictable, unconventional god. I want to serve a god who would write that kind of narrative, full of adventure and heart and nothing anyone anticipated.

And that's what I have been dwelling on this season. I know that all of this has been said before, in one way or another, but as I step back and think rationally, I am remembering once again that this is one incredible story.
So. Merry Christmas. For me, these past days have been marked by quality time and good food and much laughter, and I hope you've been experiencing the same. I've been enjoying time with my family, all the five of us together, and I still have a few more days to revel in the joy of these dear ones and others close to my heart.

By the way, I know I didn't deliver on my promises of fall summaries and snapshots. Something of the sort might still appear, but this coming year, I'm resolving to keep shorter to do lists and minimize the demands I place on myself. So in the spirit of just living, I shall make no promises!

An now, enjoy these last few days of 2010, my friends.

Friday, December 3, 2010

happy december!

As if prompted by the turning of calendar pages and the pending opening of that first tiny door of the Advent calendar, snow began to fall on Tuesday night, and December greeted me with a thin blanket of white and a shaken snow globe of sky.

After a rainy Tuesday, I had gone to bed hoping for snow to greet me in the morning. And as soon as I could force myself out of my warm bed on Wednesday, the first of December, I scampered to the front window to peek outside--and lo! a winter wonderland. (I know, I'm five. But really, people, it's enchanting.)

Over the past few days, I pushed inches of snow off my windshield, narrowly avoided slipping on icy steps, holiday shop hopped and purchased a Christmas gift. This weekend, I plan to go to a holiday artists' market, make Christmas cookies and help pick out another Christmas tree.

And so, with those festive activities, snow, the month of December and food bloggers the world 'round posting cookie recipes, the season now begins in earnest! To inspire you, two photographs from Thanksgiving weekend:

(What, isn't this what your family does at the Christmas tree farm?)

I plan to return with a few fall summary/flashback posts this weekend, and then, I promise you, I will focus solely on the current season.

In sum: It's December! There is snow! Life is beautiful! Merry Christmastime!