On Gifts and the Giver

Last week it was Jesus the Baby.

This morning at church it was Jesus the King.

Tonight it’s Jesus the Gift.

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IMG_1646If you’re getting a gift from me this Christmas, I’ll go ahead and tell you where it is.  If you’re one of my kids, it’s under the bed.  If you’re anybody else, it’s in one of those bags along the wall of my bedroom, in the same place I dropped it when I came home from my marathon shopping day on Black Friday.  I had great visions of wrapping everything that night or that weekend and putting them under my tree to admire for the month of December.  Well….exhaustion and a stack of ungraded papers and Facebook and previously aired episodes of the Voice overtook me.  So there they still sit, and I’m sure they’ll be there until school is out for Christmas break.  And one night, with the help of a glass (or two) of wine and more episodes of the Voice, I’ll get it done.

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One day this week while driving to school I heard the song, ”What a Glorious Night,” by Sidewalk Prophets.  It left me thinking about that night.  The night.

“I hear the angels singing, hallelujah.  Let the earth receive her king.”

I couldn’t help but think that the earth didn’t know what a gift they were getting on that night.  God knew, the angels knew, and Mary had some small understanding.  But God chose such a quiet way for our Savior to enter the world.  It was a glorious night, but no one around them knew just how glorious yet.

All of this left me thinking about God, the Gift Giver.  As much as I hate the wrapping, I am eagerly awaiting my night to be gift giver.  I’ve picked out things that I know my kids will like.  I can’t wait to see Chica’s reaction to both the things she asked for as well as the things she didn’t know she wanted.  Bubba…well, he doesn’t know to want and ask yet, but I anticipate he’ll be just as excited, if not more.

So I imagine that God had some of those same anticipations as the Gift Giver that night.  He knew that the Gift he had picked out was exactly what we needed.  It was exactly what we wanted (a savior, a king), but the form it took was unlike anyone had expected.  So as the earth slept, he delivered the Best Gift and waited for us to discover it.  Some days, most days, I feel like I’m still discovering it, still unwrapping it.

“I know that love has come.  Singing it out:  Jesus Christ is born!”

Just like the shepherds, I’m amazed.  Just like the shepherds, don’t let me hide it.

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So one more thought about the gift and the giver.  Can I just confess that a small part of my joy as a gift giver is the price at which I find my gifts?  I start my Black Friday shopping with a fairly tight budget, and I mostly stick to it.  I found Chica’s one “big present” this year at Ollie’s for $10.  Woo-hooo!  And Jay snagged Bubba’s during Cyber Monday on some fluke, two hour deal.  As much as I know this really isn’t the point, it sure has made the giving sweeter for me.

But what about The Gift Giver?  I keep rolling over and over the idea tonight that his gift was at full price.  The biggest price.  I wonder if his joy that night was also mixed with tiny pangs of sadness as he knew just how much it would cost him in the end.

Let the earth receive her King.  I eagerly await that glorious night.

Oh, what a glorious night.

 

Baby Jesus Has Been Sleeping in Bubba’s Bed

For some reason this morning, Bubba and I found ourselves curled up in the kitchen on a stepstool together.  In a rare moment of mommy nostalgia, he was letting me hold him like a baby.  I sush-ed him and rocked him and cooed, “Ni-night Baby Bubba.  Close your eyes.”  He would pretend to be asleep, I would surprise him awake, and he would laugh.  A lot.

As always goes with toddler games, I was done way before he was.  I wondered if he might keep playing with a baby of his own, so I fished one out of the bottom of Chica’s closet.  It was naked, of course. Chica apparently doesn’t believe in doll clothes.  I swaddled it tightly, surprised a bit that I hadn’t lost my touch.  Maybe it’s like riding a bike.

Bubba sush-ed the baby and rocked it and unwrapped it.  He wasn’t satisfied with a naked baby, so we had to find it a diaper.  I showed him how to hold a hand under its head so that he wouldn’t drop it…again.  By the time Jay came upstairs to fix us lunch, the baby had become Baby Jesus, and Bubba was kissing him goodnight, laying him in Bubba’s own bed.  (The baby started out as a girl.  There was a bit of pronoun mix-up at first.  Daddy was very confused.  I just rolled with it.)

IMG_1613So Bubba has spent the rest of his afternoon taking care of Baby Jesus.  Baby Jesus drank at least 27 bottles of “baby juice” and ate pretzels, but he didn’t really care much for the dried mango he was offered.  He listened to Bubba sing songs, looked out the window, sat with us while we did crafts, watched a Mickey Mouse show, and took a few more naps.  He has had at least two dirty diapers (which we conveniently have to change each time), and he as cried often.  Just now Bubba tried pushing Baby Jesus in the stroller to see if this would help.  I think it did, until he fell out and got rolled over.  He’s on bottle 28 now.  Juice makes everything better.

One of the songs we sang Baby Jesus this afternoon was Away in a Manger.  Daddy doesn’t do anything related to music halfway, so we of course began the second verse:

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

I couldn’t help myself.  It was as if, for the first time, I finally heard what the words really said.  I interrupted so delicately…

“What a load of crock!  ‘No crying he makes?’  He was a real baby.  Of course he cried!  He woke up, he was hungry, and he cried.  What was that person thinking?”

As Baby Jesus has spent this icy day with us, I’ve thought more and more about the humanity of this perfect miracle.  Like the author of this carol, we like to think about a glowing, swaddled bundle lying peacefully in a bed of straw.  But do you think it was just like that?  I think that he had his fair share of projectile vomiting, that Joseph walked laps around the stable while sush-ing him, Mary learned the hard way about a baby boy’s natural reaction to cool air, and she was likely miserable while figuring out how to nurse him.  And of course he cried.

Isn’t it amazing?  I’m still contemplating today what kind of love God has for us that he chose this way.  There were so many other ways he could have chosen to send our Savior, but he chose a baby.  A baby that was miraculously and mysteriously 100% human and 100% divine, at the same time.  So unexpected.  So humbling.

Come, Baby Jesus.  Come with your crying and your dirty diapers and your middle of the night feedings.  Come to our mangers and to our hearts.  Come with your life-changing miracles and your forgiveness and your love for the unlovely.  Come quickly.

The Best Piece (and a Giveaway!)

I’m trading in my ba-humbugs this year.  I’ve decided to upgrade to joy and wonder and peace.

I always feel like as a mom and a teacher that I’m supposed to be IN to Christmas.  But I’m just not.  If I had no tree in the den, no Christmas music on the radio, and no cookies baking in the oven, I’d be just fine.  Very fine, actually.  So much of Christmas feels like work to me.  So many lists to check off, traditions to carefully navigate between families, and don’t even get me started on the money.  Ugh.

But I’ve been feeling some gentle nudges this year to look at things differently.  Focus less on the have-to’s and more on the get-to’s.  I’m trying to listen.

So today I got to spend the day shopping with my mom.  I must admit we actually had fun.  We waited in a line outside a store for our first time, chatted with a few other crazy people in the cold, and cheered when they actually had the item we wanted on the shelf.  We made memories today while also making my list of have-to’s get-to’s shorter.

IMG_1565One of the things that we happened upon in Michael’s was this felt nativity set.  So while Grandma & Grandpa drove home, Daddy was relaxing, and Chica was busy making a paper countdown-to-Christmas chain, Bubba and I opened up our new treasure.  We dumped all of the pieces onto the sofa, then tried to rebuild the scene while I translated the story into two year old language.

That’s a stable.  It’s where the animals lived.

That’s a wise man.  He brought gifts to baby Jesus.  See it in his hand?

No, silly.  That’s not a horse.  It’s a donkey.  Hee-haw!

See the star?  God put the star in the sky to tell people where Jesus was.

That’s another wise man. He has a present for baby Jesus.

That’s Jesus’ mommy.  Her name is Mary.

There’s his daddy.  He’s Joseph.

That’s an angel.  He says, “Glory to God in the highest!”

Ohhh….here’s baby Jesus.  He goes in the manger.

Again and again we built it and dumped it, built it and dumped it.  Each time he would describe a few more pieces on his own.  Donkey?  Star?  Angel?  Jesus Mommy?

As I watched him and listened, I all of a sudden realized something so beautiful and obvious but profound.  Each time we dumped the pieces, he had to find the Baby Jesus first.  Where Baby Jesus go?  He would arrange Jesus just so on the straw and then on the manger before fiddling with any of the other pieces.  One time I even watched him lay Baby Jesus carefully over top of Mary like she was holding him.  Baby Jesus was his favorite piece.  The best piece.

And hasn’t it been that way with each nativity set for me too?  The old one at my Grandma’s house.  The white ceramic one on my parents’ mantle.  The plastic set I bought when Chica was an infant.  Isn’t baby Jesus always the best part?  The part you want to touch and inspect and put smack in the middle with everyone looking towards him?

So why not in my life too?  WHY NOT IN CHRISTMAS?!?!  Thank you, Bubba, for such a loud and clear message.  I hear you.  I get it.

Jesus, come be the most important piece of my Christmas.
The best piece.
The peace.

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125_bI heard about something this week that I think may help my little family keep Jesus in the center this Christmas.  It’s called Truth in the Tinsel, and it’s a Christmas devotion & craft e-book just for little guys.  I gathered all of the craft materials this week, and we are eagerly awaiting Sunday to start!

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Interested in joining us in this journey?  I’d love to give away a copy to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is leave a comment here on this post.  I’ll draw a random name at noon on December 1st  and e-mail the winner a link to download his or her own copy.

Merry Christmas, friends!