Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BEST. GIFT. EVER. Might Still Be Sitting Unopened...

It was Christmas Eve Eve (yes, that's a thing) and I had run into Walmart (don't ask) really quick to grab a last minute bag of candy I needed for the mini-claw candy machine I had bought the kids for Christmas.  (I always love giving the kids one frivolous, random gift that I would typically say, "No way" to when we're at the store together.  Last year it was a gum ball machine.  This year it was the claw machine.  Next year, I plan to get them that cotton candy machine.  Shhhh....)  Anyway, I was walking down an isle and I heard a young boy's voice talking.  His voice was shaking and emotional.  I turned the corner to see this boy, about 8 years old, standing with his mom while talking on a cell phone.  His face looked pained and nervous.  I was concerned - almost wondering if something traumatic had happened.  He stood and said into the phone, "Ya, I did that.  And I really tried my best, too.  I really am good.  I think I am, at least."  His mom grabbed the phone out of his hand and said, "He is SO worried about being on the 'Naughty List.' He didn't sleep last night and it's consumed him all day."  She glanced at him and said, "I'm sure you'll be fine.  You've been trying hard."  And off they went.

I stood there in the isle with a pit in my stomach.  My heart broke for this boy.  He was SO worried.  SO fearful.  SO insecure.

And the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks: This is as far from the real message of Christmas that we can get.

Now let me tell you, we engage in all expressions of Christmas in our home.  We have several nativity scenes in our house.  We read the Christmas story from the Bible before we open even one gift.  We serve others and give generously.  We talk continuously about the Reason for the Season.  (yup, cheesy slogans and all)  ;)  We also have a Christmas tree and hang stockings by the fireplace.  We visit Santa in the mall and he even makes a guest appearance on Christmas Day at my parent's house.

Even the adults play along! :) 

So me writing on this topic does not come from an "anti-Santa" point of view.  Santa is something we do for "fun" in our home.  But I will be honest.  The boy at Walmart about made me want to call the whole thing off.

The story of the historical St. Nicholas is a beautiful one, but if we're honest, most kids simply know about Santa Claus.  The one in the red suit who is round and jolly, who comes down your chimney and leaves gifts if you have been a good boy/girl, and coal if you've been a bad boy/girl.  "You better not... (insert anything bad).... He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice.... He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good...."  The message most kids know of Santa is this: If you're good, you'll get rewarded.  If not, you get nothing.  And to make it super clear, we are going to put Big Brother in your house for an entire month in the form of a cute little Elf, who will report back to Santa daily what you did or did not do right.  

Whether we like it or not, that little boy in Walmart had valid emotions.  Worry, fear and insecurity make sense if that's the world you live in.  It just depends how deep we want to dive in, right?  Most parents I know use Santa and The Elf as a mild incentive booster for improved behavior, nothing more.  I get it.  But perhaps now that the stockings have been filled with care, and children are sighing with relief, the other Christmas story can find it's way deeper into our hearts for the next 364 days.  The other story brings with it peace, hope and love.  Something the boy at Walmart, and the rest of the world, myself included, so desperately needs.  

Just give me me one minute to explain.

God came to this earth He created in the most humble, vulnerable state of being: as an infant child.  He lived life just like you and I live life and experienced what we experience.  He desires to know us and for us to know Him.  He lived His life as an example to us.  He was loving and a grace giver.  He was generous and kind.  When 'religious people' said to get revenge, He said to turn the other cheek.  When 'religious people' said to exclude people who were "sinful" in their eyes, He said all were included.  (He wasn't a fan of 'religious people.'  He wanted more for the world than just "religion.")  And to show His deep love for us, He then died on a cross, sacrificing Himself, so we could all have forgiveness of our sins.  'Sin' basically means we mess up.  We all mess up - no one is perfect.  God knows that. That's why He came. Back then, an animal had to be sacrificed for the people to have their "track record clean." That was the cost of forgiveness. [Anyone else thankful that we don't have to do that anymore??]  Jesus (God) sacrificed himself and paid the price for our sin.  ALL of our sin. And what's amazing is that He did this over 2000 years ago. He died for our sin before we even did it. 

The Bible says in Romans 5:8 "For God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  You want to know the most crazy, absurd, profound word in that verse?  WHILE.  WHILE we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  You know what it doesn't say?  'When you got your act together, Christ died for you.'  Or 'When you were good enough, Christ died for you.'  Nope.  It says "WHILE you were still a sinner, Christ died for you."  There's no naughty or nice list.  The playing field is even.  We ALL mess up.  We ALL sin.  I mean, I guess technically we all deserve coal, right?   And yet before we changed our ways...  Before we said we were sorry...  Before we cleaned up our messes... Before we were "good for goodness sake"... He died for us.   He offered to wipe the slate clean.  There is no list of things to we need to do to earn grace.  We don't have to be "good enough" for God to love us.  We just have to say "yes" to His offer of grace and unconditional love and then live our lives in that grace in love.  Come on!!!!  How amazing is that!??! 

If your view of God has been similar to your view of Santa, I can understand why you'd want little to do with Him in your daily life.  If you have thought of God as some Big Brother, record keeper, I pray you have gotten just a glimpse of who The Bible says He is.  And who I have found Him to be.  My hope for us all is that we would discover - either for the first time ever, or re-discover and be reminded - that God, Emmanuel, is with us.  Still.  That He came near to have relationship with us.  To know and be known.  Even now.  Even in our sin.  And messiness.  And to hold on to the hope that our sin and messiness doesn't need to define us.  Or own us.  A fresh start is ours.  A new life.  The slate can be wiped clean starting now.

So here we are on the last day of 2013.  You've looked in your stocking.  You've opened the gifts.  And yet the reality is that you may still have a wrapped present sitting unopened under your tree.  A gift from God Himself.  A gift of grace and love and hope and peace.  This gift was what got Jon and I through a brain tumor, brain surgery, and recovery these past 3 months of life.  This gift has literally carried us, surrounded us, sustained us.  This gift brought peace to my life when all I felt was despair after our miscarriage.  This gift has brought hope to my life through the promise of heaven, when all I felt was pain from my mother's terminal illness.  This gift has allowed me to experience grace for my failures and also extend grace to those around me.  This gift is good.  And it's yours.  It doesn't force itself on you.  It will sit, waiting for you your whole life, if you let it.  But what good is a gift left sitting unopened?  Perhaps on this last day of 2013, it's time to open this gift.  And then let 2014 be the year you explore it and experience the greatness of it.  

Believe and receive.  
It's that simple.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. 
And I pray you have a Blessed, Peace-filled, Grace-filled New Year. 


  1. Couldn't love this more! Thanks for the reminder Dee..love you!❤️��

  2. So true. I love reading your blogs. So much wisdom is all I have to say. God is using you and your family to touch so many of us and open our eyes. Thank you!