WHITE CHRISTMAS

 

A few years ago I wrote this piece for my book, Seasons. When it snowed yesterday, I started thinking about it. This is an updated version I hope you will enjoy.

Jerry and I have been binge-watching Hallmark Christmas movies since Thanksgiving. Even though they are cheesy and predictable, we love them. They are so formulaic, we could write a screenplay ourselves. Especially the ending: It snows and they kiss. I love the settings for these movies. Small towns with picturesque Main Streets, and a snow-covered mountain in the background. But my favorite Christmas movie, bar none, is White Christmas. Jerry groans every year when I suggest watching it, so in recent years I have watched it by myself or with my girls. The girls and I can recite most of the lines and sing the songs by heart. In recent years we have all had trouble staying awake past the train scene (“Vermont should be beautiful this time of year!”) This year I stayed awake through the whole thing!

What is it about that movie that speaks to us? I think for me it is a combination of nostalgia and hope. When the movie first came out, I was only a little girl. I was remembering my early childhood Christmases this morning. The one that particularly stands out in my memory was when I was six. It had been a good year financially for my parents (most were not), and I got a Western Flyer bicycle and a Toni doll. My younger sister received a Tiny Tears doll. For some reason fruitcake is tied to this memory, although I’m sure I would not have eaten any at that age.

White Christmas follows the career of two soldiers (played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) in the years after World War II. It dawned on that the Christmas in my memory was not too far removed from that war. Since it ended before I was born, the war always seemed like ancient history to me. But to my parents, it had only been a few years. I wonder what it felt like to celebrate Christmas in peace and prosperity after going through such a dangerous and rationed period. They never spoke much about the war, and now I wish I had asked more questions.

I remind myself that we are still fighting wars. All over the world we have troops that are dreaming of a Christmas “just like the ones (they) used to know.” But they are doing their duty, trying to keep peace in a world filled with conflict, trying to keep us safe. And the ones who have returned home may still be battling their own traumatic memories.

Peace on earth. The prophets spoke of it, the angels sang of it. And yet we still have wars and struggles, families are still torn apart. We even have battles within ourselves. This past week I have heard some particularly devastating stories in my office. “Jesus, you were born into such a dark world! Oh, Prince of Peace, where are You,” I cry.

“Where is the Christmas we long for,” I wonder. Then Jesus reminds me that the war is not over. His kingdom on earth has not yet been established. One day soon, He will return and conquer evil for good. Until then, we will still face battles. The words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow say it best:

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
From Christmas Bells1.

White Christmas. What is it about snow? It makes everything beautiful, pristine. It covers even the most blighted landscape, turning it into something pure and new. That’s what Jesus promises to do for us. He takes our ugly, sinful hearts and covers them with the pure snow of His love, transforming them and turning them into something new. He offers us peace with God. May we all experience a truly white Christmas this year.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 (ESV).

WAITING FOR CHRISTMAS

 

Today I am revisiting a devotion from My book, Seasons. I’ve changed it up a bit to reflect where I am today. And I’m asking myself if I have grown any since I wrote this. I don’t think I have gotten any better at waiting. But God in his mercy and patience is still working on me.

WAITING FOR CHRISTMAS

I’m terrible at waiting. I hate waiting in lines, waiting for a human to speak on the phone, waiting in doctor’s offices, waiting my turn. I get impatient and irritable. Why doesn’t everyone move at my pace? I’ve been doing some Advent readings in preparation, and being reminded once again that Advent is all about waiting. Of course it is waiting for Christmas, for the birth of the Christ Child, but there is more.

Every year I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s little book, God is in the Mannger (great title). This book is a collection of letters Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi prison. When he wrote about Advent, abut waiting, he was writing from the deepest desires of his heart. Waiting was a fact of war and a fact of his life. He waited to be released from prison, waited to be reunited with his family and fiancé, and waited for the war to end. When he learned about all the suffering that was being inflicted on the world, his family and friends, he could do nothing but pray. And in those prayer times he recognized how our soul is in waiting for redemption. “Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”

We do a lot of “this, that and the other.” Things that we imagine are important, but really have no lasting significance. Christmas can be an exhausting time of year, especially for the mom of the household. Let’s face it ladies, most of the responsibility for making Christmas happen falls on us. Even for those of us who love Christmas, and who wouldn’t want to miss any of it, it is still a lot of work! This year I am purposely trying to reign Christmas in a bit. However, that old instinct is still there. Do I have all the gifts for children and grandchildren even? I can’t find my Christmas ramekins (Because I really need those!). I tell myself that when I finish the shopping, the decorating, and the endless lists, I will then have time to sit and wait for Jesus. To wait to hear the voice of God. To hear the knock at the door.  Am I more concerned about my door decorations than the One who is standing at the door and knocking?

I’ve been thinking a good deal about Mary during this Advent season, about how she spent that first Christmas. We are not told much about how she prepared for her baby. All we really know is that she had swaddling clothes. And Joseph. How did he prepare to become the earthly father of God? I don’t think Mary and Joseph “did” Christmas; Christmas was done to them. They received it. And what a glorious Christmas it was. A birth announcement like none other, sung by a heavenly choir from a sky that was radiant with the glory of God.

What if God wants to give Christmas to us this year? Instead of all our frantic activity, what would it be like if we waited for His gift of Christmas? Waiting. That is what Advent is all about. Waiting for Jesus. What would it look like if we really received Christ, in all of His fullness, into our hearts this year? Instead of packing Jesus away until Easter, what if we kept Him alive every day of the year? What if, like Mary, we said, “yes” to his will for our lives? What if we like Joseph were willing to put aside all our plans for our lives, our preconceived ideas about how things should be, and obey the voice of God?

What if we become truly willing to carry and deliver Christ to a lost and hurting world? Jesus is standing at the door and knocking (Rev. 3:20). What if we become truly willing to carry and deliver Christ to a lost and hurting world? Jesus is standing at the door and knocking.  Am I willing to put aside my ideas of how Christmas should be, willing to sit and wait? Bonhoeffer reminds me that if I want the greatest, most profound and most precious things, I must wait. I will not find those things in all the hustle and bustle, the business of Christmas. They are not at the mall, not in the boxes of decorations stored in the attic, and not in any electronic “cart” at an Amazon checkout. I will find them in waiting.  God forbid that I should keep Jesus waiting!  Waiting and knocking at the door of my heart!

Oh, Father, we ask You, the Giver of all good gifts, to create Christmas in our hearts this year. We wait expectantly and like Mary, we say, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever He wants.”  Forgive me for keeping you, the King of kings, waiting!