24 December 2009

Advent Update

This year, we set out some unusual rules for the kids. No Christmas music or DVD's, no treats or sweets, no special Christmas teas or hot chocolate - at least until today. I almost felt like the Grinch. But it was so worth it. The last few weeks have been wonderful - not something I can usually say at this time of the year. December is usually harried and frazzled. Because we decided to postpone Christmas this year, December was much more calm and peaceful. I had that time I always long for to examine my heart and contemplate the Incarnation and the Lord's redemption, as well as taking time to prepare practically.
Today we went looking for a live, cut tree (my husband said that, if we were going to wait to put it up, he wanted a real one instead of the artificial one that lives in the attic for most of the year). We weren't sure we'd find any at this late date. We drove past a few of the tree lots that we'd scoped out, but they were gone, the proprietors probably heading home to spend the holiday with their own families. We drove past a few nurseries that had signs posted, but no inventory left. We pulled into Home Depot, just in case. I spotted three lonely Noble firs standing in a corner of the nursery. We got out and looked them over. Two were pretty nice and one of them was beautiful. They were also marked $60. Drew went to find a manager to see if he could talk him into a discount. Gary came out to answer our questions. He asked if we'd picked one out yet. We told him that we had and the kids and I held our collective breath. What would he say? How hard would Drew haggle? Gary's response: 'Merry Christmas! Load it up and take it home!' Yes, he gave it to us!

So, now, our beautiful tree is decorated; all the presents are wrapped and piled underneath. The house is cozy and Christmasy. The penguin soap dispenser sits by the sink. The Christmas dishes are out. The stockings are hung with care - not by our chimney, as we don't have one, but on a mantel with hooks that sits on top of a book shelf and is weighed down by a set of encyclopedias. Sitting on the mantel are two Lego houses that the boys built - snow-covered Victorian homes. Christmas music wafts from the holiday playlist on the iPod. Candy dishes grace all our end tables and snowman salt and pepper shakers sit on the table. Most of our family is headed to our church's Christmas Eve service (rumor has it that it'll be rockin'), but we'll all go to a more traditional ten o'clock service after a dinner of meat pie and veggies, followed by Christmas tea and hot chocolate and maybe A Charlie Brown Christmas.

And, best of all, I've had time to think about the Incarnation, the amazing, unimaginable, incredible, mind-boggling Incarnation. God himself came to earth as a helpless, vulnerable baby. He didn't come to the rich and powerful, but to a lowly carpenter and his wife, announced to a flock of shepherds, outcasts from their society.

This isn't a story man could or would have come up with on his own. All religions of the world, both past and present, set forth a list of rules that must be obeyed so that salvation can be earned. Only God himself could dream up the Incarnation. He would come to earth himself to offer grace and mercy to sinful men who cannot earn their own salvation. He would pay the debt we owe, the debt, deeper than any ocean, that only he could pay.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He didn't send him into the world to judge the world, but that through him, the world might be saved.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.

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