Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Advent Devotional

            We’re all a bunch of fakers.
            Yes, you read that correctly. We are phonies.
            Christmas time holds a different kind of wonder in the air. CS Lewis would call it enchantedness. JM Barrie would call it make believe. Rowling would call it magic.
            I call it we all do unordinary things that, on a normal day, we might call ridiculous, frivolous, or over-the-top.
            And I love it.
            Christmas is my favorite holiday for many reasons, one of the primary being that I get to surrender my doubts and cynicism for the sake of the holiday.
            Here’s an example. I live in Atlanta, always have. Every couple of February’s we get a ¾” of snow, but never, never, do we get snow on Christmas. Does that dampen my hopes? No! Every year I pray for snow and hope for that beautiful white offering of peace and purity. What a waste of time – praying and hoping for something that will never happen. For some reason, however, Christmas makes it ok.
            Now, what about presents. Let’s spend a copious amount of money to buy gifts for people we care about and love. Seems a little frivolous. But it’s Christmas and love is overflowing in our hearts.
            I’ve heard it said that you become like what you pretend to be. Maybe there’s something to this season of pretending.
            The songs we sing at Christmas reflect a deep reverence and love for Jesus Christ. “Oh come! Let us adore Him!” Adore? That’s a strong word. “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Every heart? Give Him room? “His law is love”? You’ve got to be kidding me!
            Let’s be honest here. At Christmas, we pretend to have much more awe for Jesus than we do the rest of the year. The concept of Emmanuel – God with us – is fine at Christmas, but do we really want to be dwelling on the idea of Jesus being at our side on New Years Eve? Or Spring Break? Or Prom? We sing about the virgin-born King around the Christmas tree without a second thought, caught up in the joy of the holiday; but we would be so uncomfortable to tell our friends that we actually and truly believe that the Holy Spirit got the Virgin Mary pregnant and then she bore a baby who is actually King of all the universe.  That seems like an awfully tall order.
            In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is giving the law of the Lord to the Israelites. He implores them to commit these rules to memory. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
            When you repeat something over and over again, it becomes a habit and it becomes a part of who you are.
            Christmas traditions are like this – repetition of things we love, things that are important to us. We remember them and pass them along and share them. Maybe it’s getting new pajamas every year on Christmas Eve. Perhaps it’s a certain food or drink. Maybe it’s a movie. Maybe you go somewhere or someone comes to you. Maybe it’s pretending to believe in something or someone…like a baby-king born of a virgin who holds a tight but loving grip on your heart.
            When a child puts on their parents’ shoes and attempts to walk around in the clunky things, does it not delight the parent? When a baby repeats words after their parents, it brings a smile to the parents face.
            I think maybe God is ok with our Christmas-time pretending. If we can take twenty-five-ish days and dedicate them to celebrating the coming of Christ, maybe at some point it will catch. Maybe if we repeat our traditions long enough, they’ll last a little longer than a month.
            In the movie Elf, we learn one of the rules for the Christmas elves: treat everyday like Christmas day. I have an inkling that our Heavenly Father might feel similarly.
            It’s going to take time, of course, but if we keep singing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and we keep thinking about our Savior and King, perhaps our disbelief, our cynicism, will wash away with all that snow we’re getting.
            We’re all in need of restoration.
            At Christmas, we get to pretend that we’re at least a little bit more restored than we were the rest of the year. We pretend to believe – or maybe for a little while we really do. We pretend to love people enough to spend money on them – or maybe we really do. We pretend to be fascinated by something quite small and simple like lights twinkling in a tree – or maybe we really are. We pretend to have found peace and joy in the stillness of Christmas Eve – or maybe we really have. We pretend to adore Jesus – or maybe, just maybe, we really do.
            We’re all a bunch of fakers and phonies.

            And I do hope those things we pretend to believe at Christmas time stick with us and instead of making us liars at Christmas, make us honest all year. 

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