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A Christmas Reflection (from the Christmas of 2005)

I remember Christmas times long past in which I felt this way.  It’s been a while, but it came again this Christmas.

Let me begin this reflection by making a general statement about my current economic status: I’m poor.  Remarkably poor.  Oh, now I own lots of stuff.  Mostly because I worked two or three jobs at a time over the last five years.  I got tired. I work one job now, and I’m poor.

The funny thing about being poor is that you want stuff.  I know from getting stuff in the past that stuff is never quite the answer that we hope it’s going to be, but I still want it.  Something deep inside wants this stuff to hold and have.  

It’s troubling.

The trouble really comes because I’m poor and I can’t buy it.  Forget the word “afford”.  The word “afford” implies an ability to purchase.  I’m not even in that category.  I can’t make the purchase because there aren’t enough funds in my account to make these purchases (most of the time).  I like this experiment in being poor.  It’s good for me.

Author and Apologist Ravi Zacharias says that stuff, especially technology, points out a deep search for the things in life that produce awe.  Donald Miller writes an exposition on that in the book Blue Like Jazz (which is definitely worth reading).  I think the desire for stuff is normally rooted in something deeper.  Something deeper than new jeans.  Or an iPod.  Or a season of One Tree Hill on DVD.  

Stuff does not satisfy.  Stuff is stuff.

Stuff seems really important today, but while that stuff can seem like breath to our lungs at the moment, months, weeks, or sometimes years from now that stuff becomes irrelevant.  This isn’t just material stuff that I’m talking about, like a cup of Starbucks or the new Rolling Stones CD; get bigger.

Sometimes stuff gets bad. Bad stuff can be bosses that don’t understand or care to understand, jobs you hate, towns you want to move away from, fights with your friends, fathers who aren’t speaking to you.  That stuff can hurt. That stuff can break you if you let it. But… It’s still stuff, and it will pass. It’s just a season of that “stuff”. 

Stuff will one day seem meaningless.

Can we see that day? Normally, no.  Our hearts have become so wrapped up in that moment, the moment of today, that stuff swells in importance, takes a life of its own, only to quickly to die and be buried next to thousands of other “stuffs” that didn’t matter either.

I say all that so that I can now talk about how I got lots of stuff for Christmas. 🙂

It was great.  You literally have no idea.  This Christmas my parents and my “in-laws” treated me.  I guess they figured out that I was poor.  Maybe they felt sorry for me.  Maybe they accidentally caught a view of my financial statements on a visit.  Maybe.

My parents have always generous, and I suppose that I could get used to it.  You can get used to something good when it’s always been that way.  The problem at Christmas has always lied in the things in which they chose to be generous with.  Honestly, without guidance, the picks at times have been bad, well-intended, but bad.  This year was not the case.  They gave great presents which I joyfully accepted and now cherish. It wasn’t just the presents. It was their presence. My parents have always made a decision to be present in my life. I was warmed in my insides returning from the time I spent with them.

The last Christmas gift exchange of the season happened at my “in-laws”.

There were two “stuffs” that I suppose had been pushing on my “stuff nerve”, and my mother in law had some fun with me. She found out that there were two items I had been longing, and got them for me. She wrapped one of them to look like a sweater or something, but it was not a sweater. It was the “stuffs”. The “stuffs” that had been sitting on my Christmas wish list for the last two years.

I cried.  Literally, I did.  I cried a lot, to be honest.

I am not moved to tears by stuff. But I am by people.  

The “stuffs” are quite nice right now.  In a few years, I likely won’t care about them.  What moved me about this Christmas was the love that drove two families to find every want that my wife and I had expressed and use whatever resources they held to fill that desire.  The stuff doesn’t matter. The beauty is found in that expression of love.

You see I have a bit of a twisted view of Jesus sometimes.  I see him as angry at me.  I mess up a lot.  If I were God, I would be mad at me a lot.  I mean, I know what to do.  I know how to behave.  Most of the time, I have a pretty good answer.  Yet, my life, more often than not, seems to be a reflection of me and not a reflection of Jesus.  All too often I, personally, make the decisions about what is right and good and just.  I realize I’m getting it wrong while I get it wrong. If I were Jesus, I would be mad at me a lot.

I suppose this works out in everyday life through me finding it difficult to accept God’s forgiveness and ultimately His love.

Sometimes a picture goes deeper than the surface appearance.  This picture did just that.  I like to think that Jesus has pursued all of our hearts with this kind of reckless love.  He realized that He was the ultimate fulfillment of our desires, so he refused to stay away.  That, in essence, is the beauty of the incarnation of Christ. He couldn’t stay away.  His love compelled Him to come closer to us, to taste broken humanity.

Once you understand that God being is WITH US is a more than a historical fact pointing to something that Jesus did thousands of years ago, you realize that this reality is for this moment, and it’s a good reminder for this moment.  It’s good to know that when you, at some moment, can’t really afford to go to God and buy His love, He chose to come to you. 

God comes when you haven’t earned enough points to deserve that today, and on those days, when you feel so far from deserving the love of God, it’s good to be reminded that you are not loved because you deserve it.  You are loved because Jesus decided a long time ago that he was going to love you.  And he does … He loves you richly, with recklessness and abandon buried in the choice that He made to come close to us.

In those times, in some moments, you get to a place where the meaning out-weighs the stuff.  I suppose I found a moment like that this Christmas where, for a second, I was overcome like a child at the thought of being loved, and it was ridiculously beautiful.

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