Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Silent Night, indeed.

The sun has set on another Christmas.  The season of merriment has come to a close.  Tomorrow we begin looking toward the end of the year, deciding when to take down the tree and put away the decorations.  And just like that (blink!) it's over.

Don't worry.  I don't have the holiday blues.  I am not feeling down about the end of Christmas at all.  It has been wonderful, really.  Getting older has proven to me how quickly the years fly by and how soon it will be time to watch Elf, eat yummy Christmas foods, listen to carols and decorate with greens and reds all over again.

Last year, Christmas was very, very hard for me.  I was eyeball-deep in a job search, praying to find something before time ran out.  I was spending my days at a desk, in an office where I was surrounded by people who felt foreign and unfriendly.  I knew my days there were numbered and the fear of what was ahead made me shake in my sensible shoes.  Christmas was not a time of cheer for me.  I may have outwardly put on a happy face, but all I could think on the inside was that Christmas meant I only had 1 week worth of a paycheck left.  It was a deadline in my head, like an ominous siren sounding.

This year, Christmas has been different for me.  In a very, very good way.

I think it all began with not having to take out a Christmas loan.  Even having a very intentionally minimal Christmas for many years now, we've almost always had to take out a small loan to afford to do anything at all. There just isn't anything to spare in the budget, so a loan is the only way we could buy a few gifts.  Knowing that we would not be paying off a loan in the coming year took a little weight off, I guess.  Even though I never really sat and thought about that until tonight, I know on some level it's been a relief.  We don't have a hugely different income this year, and it will probably take a year to really see the difference on a month to month basis---we're still sort of catching up from being constantly 'behind' for several years-- but with my working full time vs. part time now, it does change the checkbook a little bit.

Last month, our church handed out Advent wreath kits to every family along with a booklet to work through as the season progressed.  Instructions were given about which candle to light on each night of Advent & which Scriptures to read along with a short devotional reading that applied to each night.  I never have been great at decorating, so our wreath remained just a metal ring with places for the candles, but it worked just as well as those that looked prettier.  There were weeks when I had to go stand in between the television & everyone's eyes and say "It is time to light the Advent candle!", but I am so glad we did it.  There was discussion, prayer, Scripture reading, candlelit moments of reflection and peace.  The quiet and calm may've only lasted a few minutes, but it happened.  And I loved it.

Last night, on Christmas Eve, we attended the candlelight service at church.  It was perfect.  Not because of the Scriptures we read or the atmosphere or the fact that the kids got to hold candles & flirt with fire.  (Although all of that was grand, too!)  What moved me most were the voices of little children in the room.  A baby near the back babbled.  When the pastor mentioned Advent a little girl nearby declared "He said Advent!  We've been doing Advent at our house!"  When we sang, a little boy sitting in front of us belted out the songs at the top of his lungs.  Oh what a treasure those little ones are!  I was reminded that Jesus came to us as a baby...that we should approach Him like a child...that we should worship Him unashamed and without inhibition.

Seeing God's faithfulness has been so precious this year.  From the first couple of months without a paycheck, to the provision of a job that lasted until May, to the gift of a new job in August, to the grandparents who selflessly payed for Samuel's orthodontist bill the first 8 months of this year....and on & on.  And this month has been no exception.  I've seen His hand fall on my family over and over in 2013.    Knowing He is faithful to care for our needs is not just good, but so very amazing.  His birth was the first 'proof' we saw of His faithfulness--His provision for everything we would ever need.  And my personal relationship with Him now provides me 'proof' over and over that He is still in control, still holding me firmly in His grasp, still loving me.

This morning we got up early and went to the girls' room for our annual Birthday Party for Jesus.  (All three kids slept in there.)  We ate cake, read the Bible story, sang the Happy Birthday song, prayed, figured out that we could use the noise maker things to blow out the candles on the cake and laughed together.  Perfect!  When we moved into the living room to open gifts, the mood was different than usual.  The kids are a little older and they "get it" better than they have in the past.  Each year brings new wisdom and I adore watching them mature and grow.  Seeing the kinds of gifts they gave to each other, reading the words Samuel wrote in a special scrapbook he made for Larry, watching their JOY as they opened the simple gifts they were was a wonderful time.  I am so blessed.

After a couple hours' break, we all loaded up & went to the theater to see Saving Mr. Banks.  It was such a great movie!  It is the story of Walt Disney wooing P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, to allow him to make a movie of her story.  I realize that sounds like a documentary but it is so much more.  It is a wonderful story that we will probably buy once it comes out on DVD.  We all enjoyed it.

Because of some free movie passes we received as gifts this year (thank you, sweet friends!) the kids and Larry returned to the theater tonight to see a 2nd movie.  The kids are seeing the 2nd Hunger Games movie.  He is seeing the Nelson Mandela documentary movie.  I chose to stay home and enjoy the peace.  I made a run into town to grab a burger for dinner, but aside from that, I've just rested.

As I drove home tonight, and even after arriving home, I found myself humming...or singing...or whistling...or talking to my mom on the phone...or reading Facebook.  I was singing "Silent Night" to myself when something struck me.  It may be a quiet night at home for me, but I don't think any of us are even capable of a silent night these days.  Our minds are constantly moving, going, thinking, racing.  We have phones and computers and TVs and people constantly bombarding us with words, noises, text alerts, music and more.

{Side note:  I believe we all need to take 1 night a year and steal away to a hotel or a cabin in the woods (or wherever!) and just sit in the quiet and listen to God speak.  Maybe He needs to talk to you about something.  Maybe He needs to whisper into your ear about ministry or your family or your relationships.  Or maybe you just need time to be quiet and worship and pray.  It sounds heavenly doesn't it?}

On the night He was born, I have to believe it was NOT a silent night.  Have you ever been in a labor & delivery room?  It is anything but silent.  Doctors, nurses, midwives, the laboring mother, the crying is not a quiet place.  But there is such JOY in the noise & cacophony that accompanies a birth!

It hit me tonight that, while my life is anything but silent, there is great JOY in recognizing His presence in our home.
There is great PEACE in knowing He cares for my every need.
There is STRENGTH in feeling His embrace and hearing Him speak through the words of other believers, songs, teachers, friends.
There is GRACE, LOVE, and COMFORT in knowing Him personally.

And that JOY, PEACE, STRENGTH, GRACE, LOVE and COMFORT means I have HOPE in the one who came on that not-so-silent night so long ago.

"You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savior to all is with us tonight
You are the light.

Now the whole world will not be the same
Cause love has come down and grace has a name
The name of the child is Jesus Christ
You are the light." (from You Are the Light by David Hodges)