I was at Barnes and Noble on the first day of December. I have a tall table in the corner of the cafe that I consider “my table.” Anytime that someone else happens to snatch it, I’m always bummed. I gazed out the window at the fog swirling around cars in the parking lot and appreciated my steaming cup of coffee and warm blueberry muffin. People were walking quickly from their cars into the warmth of stores to avoid the misty chill.
I typed a few more thoughts from Luke 1 about the birth of John the Baptist in preparation for a message I’d deliver at our church’s first December Nights gathering.
The eager friendliness in the voice was matched by the happy glow on Kiera Cass’ face. She had brought her kids to the B&N holiday reading time for the morning. We caught up for a few moments. When she left I pondered how surreal it is to know such a normal, fun person who happens to also be a best-selling author. I wanted to follow her through the bookstore, and when the staff saw her, say, “I know her!”
“Ho ho ho!”
The throaty chuckle preceded the appearance of a man in a red suit. It was Tim, one of the bookstore managers, but he looked a lot like Santa in the outfit. He came over to my table for a brief moment before heading back to delight the kids.
I have an Elf onesy. I was sorely tempted to race to the house, put it on and follow Santa around the store yelling, “I know him! I know him!”
Decembers are special.
Each December 1, I get giddy and a little panicky all at the same time. I’m giddy because this time of year is so very dear to me. Why? Jesus.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let Earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room.
I’m panicky because December passes so suddenly. Two years ago, I wrote about how I wanted to “slow down Christmas:”
And so I begin each new December with a renewed determination to slow down Christmas. To drink deeply of each new day in during this month. I want to pause each hour, to notice things and people. I want to embrace and reveal the love of Jesus. Throughout the day.
With each hour’s passing, Christmas is almost here. When I was kid, Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. Now that I’m “older,” it comes too fast.
I love the lights, the symbols, the effervescent joy that we strangers have for one another during this season. We have an extremely divided nation, and yet there’s something about Christmas – something otherworldly – that beckons us all into fraternal fellowship. It shrinks the gaps and blurs our angst.
It seems that during this season, the presence of Jesus literally hovers just over our heads and hearts. His joy is palpable. There’s a sense that life is so much more… meaningful, significant, wonderful.. than what our daily grind allows us to consider.
The music, lights, decorations, images all point up. They hint at something beyond imagining. We love them, but our hearts seem strained to peer behind their curtain to something of… substance.
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things — the beauty, the memory of our own past — are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of the tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. (C.S. Lewis,The Weight of Glory, 32)
I looked back at Luke 1. The angel Gabriel told Zachariah that his son to be born would “make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” (Luke 1.17) It seems a bit redundant – “make ready” … “a prepared people.”
And yet, the eternal meets temporal in those words. Jesus was coming into the world, literally. Just a few short months after John’s birth, his younger cousin would experience an ignominious birth. No one was prepared for Him. Rumors surrounded his mom and the pregnancy. God Himself sent angels to urge shepherds to honor His Son at His birthplace.
Jesus slips in.
And so Jesus slipped into creation as a baby, and Christmas began. With His advent, the world order shook. He was the King of kings. The Lord of lords. He would put the prideful in their place. And He would take our sin and put it in its place – on Him. He robbed us of our greatest failures and gave us His greatest gift – Himself.
My Christmas season launched with two pleasant interruptions on a foggy day in Christiansburg. In a way, Jesus interrupted history to launch Christmas. He blesses us with divine interruptions each day if we will look carefully. When I recognize the presence of Jesus this season, I want to scream, “I know Him! I know Him!”