Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Joys in Small Packages

I'll admit it, I love Christmas.  I'm not a little girl anymore, but there's still nothing that matches up with the Christmas season.  I'm all for starting it before Halloween and continuing through maybe Valentine's or Easter. 

I love the lights and decorations.  One of the things our family does is pack up in the truck and go driving around the various subdivisions and neighborhoods, enjoying the myriad of decorations, from a strand of lights to a magnificent production.  This year I've enjoyed driving down Broadway (the "main" street in our little town) and see not only the city's lights they've put up, but also the store front windows in the historical buildings.  Some have went way above and beyond with multiple lit trees, snowmen, lights, one has lights that look like real icicles and are blue.  (Can you tell I get excited??!!??)

Growing up out in the country, my parents saw no need to decorate--who would see them but us?  We weren't Christians, but each year we put up a tree, with handmade ornaments I brought home from school and some that had been in the family for a long while.  I remember the ornament made from pine cones that I'd collected from the trees by our house down in southern Oklahoma.  At school we made those pine cones into sleds and put little plastic Santa ornaments in them (with the gold cord to hang)  and some little runners on the bottom, then sealed them very well.  Each year I put out a big ol' sock under the tree, and mom would fill it with fruits and nuts and candies.  Then dad would eat all the nuts and fruit. 

Like I said, growing up, we were not Christians.  Christmas didn't mean the birth of Jesus.  It meant presents, 2 weeks off of school, and extreme cold when we moved north to near the Iowa line.  It meant snow.  Lots and lots of snow.  I didn't know the meaning of Christmas, and so when I got older and on my own, Christmas was no longer all the delight and fun.  No more parents to shower presents--they had passed on.  I was invited to a few parties, went to a handful, but it was all alcohol parties (came with the nature of the work I did in the prison system and the stress that came along with working maximum security and not being saved).  Christmas day was empty.  While everyone had their families, I was alone.  Empty.

It took a few years and coming to Christ to realize what Christmas really is.  It's not presents.  It's not booze parties with stressed out officers.  It's not all the lights and decorations. 

It's Jesus. 

I was an adult when I got saved.  When I heard the Christmas story after salvation, I bawled like a baby.  It's been almost 10 years, and I still get teary eyed.    It never hit me until I got to know Jesus the Savior that Jesus the baby in the manger had so much importance.  How could God love me so much that He would send His only Son to come to this world as a baby, born in a barn to definitely not the richest mom and stepdad, live 33 years, and face such a horrific torture and death at the hands of those He came to save? 

I appreciate now the babe in the manger.  I still love the decorations, the lights and pretties, but the only present worth giving to that babe in the manger. 

For without the babe in the manger...there'd be no Savior at the cross and the empty tomb.

No matter how you celebrate Christmas, remember WHO we celebrate!

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