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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Letter 2014: A Celebration of Gifts


Christmas is a gift-giving season.  Indeed the very first Christmas the Magi arrived bearing gifts for the newborn Messiah.  Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were bestowed on the King of the Jews who was a gift in and of himself: “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our LORD.” (Romans 6:23)  The heavenly hosts proclaimed this wonder singing in splendor, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” (Luke 2:14) I envision the shepherds having just another day in their fields when the entire night’s sky illuminates with radiant beauty and the voices of angelic harmony begin to surround them.  The shepherds ran to the village to “see this wonderful thing that [had] happened.” (vs 15) and when they returned to their fields they were “glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.” (vs 20)  They celebrated the gift of Jesus Christ born in their very village that night!

This advent as I focus on Christ the gift, I’m also focusing on celebrating the other gifts I’ve been given this season. This is a meaningful yet, very simple idea.  However, I have found the entire Christmas story simplified this year.  We were teaching Rayna about Christmas being a celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  She asked where Jesus is now and I told her that He’s living in heaven with God. 
“Will he come again?” She asks.
 I reply, taken slightly off-guard, “Yes, yes he will.”
“When Mom?”
“Nobody knows, that’s why we always have to be ready.”
 “Hmmm.  We always have to be ready. Maybe Tuesday?”   

Tonight in my home Christmas songs play in the background and I have just finished wrapping Christmas presents.  I anticipate the joy on Rayna’s face when she opens her gifts on Christmas morning and as she gives her gift to her father.  Truly, these moments as a family are a treasure.  Daily I am taken by my daughter’s beauty and by her compassion.  Her eyes are soft with love and her smile is playful.  My husband and I are blessed to be responsible for raising this beautiful girl, for teaching her, and for equipping her to thrive in this thorn-filled world.  What a gift!  In these moments I also celebrate my beautiful marriage to a man whom I respect, cherish, and appreciate.  I have a partner in adventure and a man who keeps life light by not taking anything too seriously.  I love that each year I learn more about this man and each year as he learns more about me I feel more cherished than before.  I celebrate these gifts of husband and child which I hold in my heart this year, this advent, this day, and as long as my mind stays sound!

I have placed gifts under my Christmas tree for my nephews and niece which I am able to hand deliver later this season.  On New Years we will be travelling to my parents’ to celebrate Christmas together.  This is perhaps the sweetest gift I have been given this season.  Mom battled hard against cancer this year.  I have only seen her ill this year.  But, she is now in full remission.  Beautifully, she is (a new version of) well and we can celebrate together this year.  We can celebrate the birth of our Saviour.  We can celebrate the gift of time, of more precious moments with mom.  I celebrate that Mom can play with her grandchildren this Christmas.  I celebrate that I can cook turkey dinner with my Mom this year.  I celebrate that Mom sounds like herself again.  I celebrate that there is no detectable cancer in Mom’s body.  I anticipate the celebration of extended family! Praise God for what he has given my family this year!    


 I don’t know what kind of year you’ve had.  Maybe you too have many blessing and gifts to celebrate as we enter this celebratory season.  Maybe this has been the hardest year you’ve had yet and it’s going to be the toughest, most emotional Christmas you’ve ever experienced.  Wherever you find yourself I ask you to consider the one gift that we have all been given this season: Christ.  Christ himself came to Earth to offer redemption.  He came as a baby, he lived as a man, he died to forgive our sins and now he lives in heaven with God the Father.  And guess what? Praise God, Jesus is coming again!  He is the one gift we can count on when there’s no other gifts under our tree or when our hearts feel empty instead of full.  He is the light of the world.  He is who the angels announced in marvelous splendor all those years ago.  He is who the shepherds ran to meet and the wise men journeyed to see. He is Christ our King, the gift who everyone can claim this Advent and every day of the year.  Would you celebrate with me? Because, perhaps Christ will return on Tuesday.