Welcome to our ADVENTure in Advent...a journey to Christmas.
When I was little, I could hardly wait for that special item to come in the mail. Some of you may remember the excitement, the thrill, the perfect anticipation that came in something called the Sears Christmas Catalog. Oh, there may have been others, but none compared to Sears.
I'd quickly flip past the dresses and underwear, past the shoes and appliances, straight to the toys...then I'd carefully get out my notebook and pencil and begin choosing my list to present to Santa. Did you know he used the Sears catalog? Oh, I'm sure he did because I remember listing each item, including the page number so that he would have no trouble knowing just which presents to place underneath my tree.
At our house, Santa came on Christmas Eve because our small little town in South Alabama was one of his first stops. We'd watch the Santa Radar out of Mobile and we KNEW when he was getting close. Sometimes we'd be at my father's gas station when Santa arrived - once we almost frightened him away and we had to rush back out of the house so he could finish putting our toys underneath that silver Christmas tree - you know, the one that rotated and had the different color light wheel that made it change colors.
As you can tell, Christmas was a big deal. I don't ever remember NOT getting just what I'd hoped for. Mama must have worked herself silly trying to locate the things on our list but somehow she always managed to find the most important things. I never quite managed to inherit that amazing talent from her...I wish I had. Somehow, the Christmases since then have fallen, well, a little flat.
Somehow, since I've grown up, I've never quite found what I hoped for underneath my tree. Oh, I've had some wonderful presents, but the peace...the joy...the wonder...they just seemed to have disappeared.
Today, I got to thinking about those shepherds - you know, the ones who were watching their flocks by night. I bet they were hoping for something. They may have been sitting around, talking about how difficult life could be. Maybe they were just talking about the weather and the price of wool. Maybe they were just so tired they just sat and watched. I wonder if inside they had that longing for more..more peace, joy, and wonder.
For years, they had probably heard the stories of the long awaited Messiah who would one day come...one day. They'd heard those stories since they were boys...but that had been long ago. Still, they hoped that one day He'd come. Surely when He arrived, He'd be a conquering king and would finally free them from bondage. He'd probably be big and strong and very kingly indeed. I bet each of them KNEW how they thought the King would come. But they were caught by surprise.
Luke 2 - "Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Not what they were expecting, I am sure....but they didn't let that stop them. They said, "Let's go!"
I want to be more like those shepherds. As Christmas approaches, each of us has in our mind's eye what it's supposed to look like. We have the "perfect Christmas" all mapped out, thanks to our Sear's catalog (do they even make those anymore?) and our internet searches, and our tv shows and movies that show us just how it's supposed to be done. But what if it's not what we were expecting? What if, instead of some shiny impressive King, it comes humbly in a cold manger filled with daily life mooing for attention? What if it's even something that at first makes us, as the King James version puts it, "sore afraid?" (I've always wondered about that, by the way. How afraid must you be to be sore?)
What if we discover like the Grinch, that Christmas "came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages boxes, or bags!
And he puzzled and puzzed, till his puzzler was sore." (There's that sore thing again!)"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more."
If Christmas isn't what I was expecting, will I still do as the shepherds (and even the Grinch) did and go rushing in to discover more? Will I stand there in wonder and be so afraid I am sore? Will I even notice if it doesn't come the way I'd hoped it would come or will I miss the wonder completely?
And the ADVENTure continues...I have to wonder what all I will discover on this journey to Christmas, but I'm pretty sure of one thing...it won't be exactly what I was hoping for. Nope, it will be a whole lot more.