December 11, 2013
Unwrapping His Christmas Presence
"The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')." Isaiah 7:14b (NLT)
Plans for the perfect Christmas danced in my head. Almost everyone from my side of the family and JJ's side would be coming to our house at some point between Christmas and New Years. We'd never hosted Christmas dinner, and I was looking forward it.
But, somewhere in the midst of all the preparations, I got tangled up in Christmas lights and unrealistic expectations. By the time everyone got here I couldn't wait for them to leave.
It all started when my husband and sons petitioned for blinking colored lights on the tree. We don't do colored lights on the tree. I am a "white lights" kind of girl, I insisted.
But JJ decided our decorating decisions should be a "family activity" that year. Who was this man and why had he not brought this up in pre-marital counseling? I wondered.
The control freak in me started to freak out. Don't get in the way of my perfect Christmas with white lights that make me and my home feel peaceful.
I'd dreamed of this day for years and wanted to have the perfect house, perfect menu, and perfect table settings. But hope was dashed the night before guests arrived when I couldn't find festive cloth napkins and it dawned on me that I didn't have a big enough pan to cook a turkey in.
When Christmas came, I had a house full of people but an oh-so-empty heart.
As I walked through my living room picking up wrapping paper, I wondered why my dreams of the "perfect Christmas" hadn't come true. Many of the elements seemed to be in place: kids playing together, grandparents on the couch snoring to Christmas tunes, and grown men playing sidewalk hockey in the driveway. We'd lit Advent candles and set out the nativities. Still, something was missing.
Trying to escape the holiday noise, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Taking a deep breath, I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. Slowly, I let each word remind me of that first Christmas night and God's promise that came true in Bethlehem. " ... And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger ..." (Luke 2:7 NIV).
A cross-reference led me to Isaiah 7:14b: "The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')." (NLT)
Closing my eyes, I pictured Mary wrapping baby Jesus up. Her hands carefully folding each corner of cloth, like a precious gift. That's when I realized what had been missing. In the hustle and bustle of creating the perfect Christmas, I'd neglected to unwrap the most important gift of all, the gift of Immanuel, God with us.
Bowing my head, I opened my hands and my heart to God's presence. I invited Jesus to bring calm to my anxious heart. To bring His perspective to my expectations and to help me enjoy the gifts of my family waiting downstairs. Simply pausing to acknowledge and thank Jesus for being with me brought peace to my heart unlike anything white lights and perfectly cooked turkey could ever bestow.
It ended up being the perfect Christmas after all.
Dear Lord, no matter how busy life gets or how lonely I feel this Christmas, I want to unwrap the gift of Your presence. Help me see You, hear Your voice speak to my heart, and pay attention when You lead me with Your peace and perspective. I seek Your purpose in all of my plans. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Do You Know Immanuel, God with us?
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Reflect and Respond:
What days might be most challenging this month?
How can you plan time on those days to soak in Jesus' perspective and peace?
Isaiah 26:12, "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us." (NIV)
John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (NIV)
© 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.