Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Throughout several seasons of my life, I found what I believed to be compelling reasons to dislike Christmas. At one point, it was a lack of interest in the Christian faith. Another period, I hated how much it seemed Christmas had floated away from its origin. Still later, I was railing against consumerism (A justification that anyone who has witnessed my spending habits can identify as shaky at best). I look back and I pity Humbug Clint because Christmas is in a couple of words, Freaking Awesome.

I love Christmas so hard. It is the absolute best time of year. My heart and mind are overwhelmed by the amount of music produced for this holiday. If I'm feeling a little jaunty and campy, I'll throw on the Carpenters, nostalgic, Bing Crosby, reverent and expectant, Future of Forestry, if I just want to have a good time, Sufjan. No matter what emotions I'm experiencing in relation to Christmas, someone has written and recorded a beautiful song I can identify with.

I love the colors and lights. The way spaces we frequent transform, often with happiness and whimsy in mind, excites my senses. I love the slight downturn in temperature, especially back on the east coast. The smell of logs on fires permeating neighborhoods warms my heart. Even on the west coast where I am now, it's cool enough to justify cuddling up under a blanket on the couch with someone you love, or as the case will be for me this year, a bowl of pho. I've grown to love Christmas so much that I kind of dislike Thanksgiving because if we didn't have it, the Christmas season would likely start much earlier, like in many other countries.

The greatest thing about Christmas is the fact that the above listed qualities, along with many others, seem to point to one thing. We as a human race are all being captivated by something at one time. We come together to decorate, celebrate and fellowship because we all see something big is happening.

No, we didn't get the date right. Yes, consumerism has gotten in the way. Regardless, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no dilution or confusion that will ever change that.

I love Christmas more with each passing year because I love Jesus more each year. I am also growing increasingly confident that He was irrefutably awesome. Even if you don't believe in His miracles or that He was the Messiah, it is historical fact that there was a guy named Jesus roaming the countryside and being really kind and loving to people roughly 2000 years ago. People of nearly any background can agree that the wisdom He shared is extremely powerful and helpful in living life well. Even to Muslims, Jesus is a very important prophet.

In Speaking of Jesus, Carl Medearis illustrates the way many of us think of Christianity. Medearis urges us to take a piece of paper and put a dot in the middle - that dot is Jesus. He then asks us to put a whole bunch of other dots on the page. Those are people who aren't Jesus. He then asks us to draw a circle with the Jesus Dot at the center, with some of us included and some of us excluded. This view exemplifies our preoccupation with salvation and exclusion. We want to know who is in our out of Jesus' club and if we call ourselves Christians, we want desperately to know with some surety which side of the line we're on.

Medearis had another illustration about getting to know Jesus that I liked better. He urges us to erase the circle and draw little arrows on many of the dots, pointed toward Jesus. Medearis would argue that the circle and our relation to it are less important than that we are postured toward Jesus and trying to get closer to Him. Jesus was and is about building relationships now rather than making deals to inherit salvation later. I love this about Jesus, because I know that if my salvation were up to me keeping up my end of the bargain, I would be hopeless. I also love it, because I think following Jesus gives us glimpses of perfection and an opportunity to participate in it now, rather than waiting around for it.

It would seem that Christmas is the time of year that the most arrows are pointing toward Jesus, and feeling that is the true source of my joy at Christmas.

Advent starts today. Advent is a time of expectant waiting. It is a time spent in trembling in anticipation of Jesus glory and it's impact on the world. I'm the most excited I have ever been about Advent this year. I want to spend the next 26 days with my arrow squarely fixed toward Jesus and I'm hoping that my dot may ever so slightly shift closer to him during this time.

The only thing that excites me more about the next 26 days is that you might do the exact same thing. No matter who you are or what you believe, Jesus is incredible and I am sure that just knowing a little bit more about Him will make your life better.

If reading this does urge you to get to know Jesus a little bit better this year, please let me know what you learn. Chances are, I haven't learned it yet. I feel like I'm really just getting started. I guarantee that learning about Him through you will be the best gift I receive this year.