30 November 2011

Christmas Mystery

{note: this post was started November 30th, and published December 23rd. Yes, it has taken me this long to finish it.} 
I have searched to no avail. It has disappeared. There is no sign of it. What has gone AWOL you ask? Nothing less than my all-time favorite Christmas album! Tragedy, right? How can I start the season, the merriment, the festivities without the tunes from Downhere? I searched through all my Christmas CDs and it isn't there. I looked on the rack on the play closet door- not there either. I checked the door pockets of my car; the only Christmas album there is the soundtrack to Elf, which is enjoyable but it isn't Downhere.

Now you may be thinking, 'Come on, Jennifer! It is just ONE album, just a few songs. And haven't you mentioned before that you have a Christmas music addiction? I'm sure you have plenty.'

It's true. I do have a slight addiction to Christmas music; I have to limit myself on new purchases each year. I do have plenty of holiday tunes - nearly two days worth. There may be thirteen different renditions of "White Christmas" in my iTunes library. But right now, there is no "How Many Kings." And that makes me very sad.

How Many Kings
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we've projected,
A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl -
Just a child -
Is this who we've waited for? 'cause...

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Do you believe?
Is this who we've waited for?

All for me...
All for you...
[from http://www.lyricsmania.com] 

This song speaks to my spirit, reaches right past the frenzy and the frantic, the hurried hustle to get more, do more, be more and whispers truth to my heart. The truth of this season, the miraculous wonder of God the Creator come in the form of the created, to redeem, to love. Advent, a time of expectant waiting, awaiting the Savior's birthday, remembering his first arrival, and looking with hope to the promise of his second coming. As music tames the wild beast, so this song tames my runaway heart and brings it back to the core of Christmas; my heart beats a little more slowly, the expectations matter less, and the wonder at Christ grows. This is why I need to find this album and this song, both of which I listen to year round.

"We are waiting for the glorious coming of Christ. Sometimes the heart yearning for the gift— is part of the gift!" -Ann Voskamp

Christ come down. God of the universe in finite fragile skin. It is a mystery. The greatest mystery of all. One that should be marveled at, anticipated, sought after. Do I seek after the Christ child in the middle of the Christmas season the way I seek after my lost album?
To be honest, I'm bedraggled. The Christmas season has just hit and already I'm frantic, frenzied, and weary. How is this celebrating the miracle of Emmanuel? Ironically, adding to the pressure the most is myself and the need to honor the season. I'm behind in sending out Christmas cards (can I send my horribly belated thank you notes to my supporters of my August mission trip along with my Christmas cards?), I'm behind in decorating, I haven't planned the annual Christmas girls get-together. The pressure mounts as each day slips away and nothing is checked off the to-do list. As my list mocks me, telling me that I am going to miss Christmas if I don't get busy and check off each line, a quiet voice whispers, "Be still."
But will it be Christmas if I don't have the annual party?
If I don't have the party, why decorate?
How depressing not to decorate; might as well skip Christmas.

The whisper returns, "That isn't Christmas. Be still. Abide in me - I am Christmas."

It is now over three weeks since I started this post and I am determined to publish it tonight. This has been a very different Christmas season for me this year. I decided not to have my annual get-together, but did decide to decorate - although the decor is very limited. While it is minimal, it brings me joy. Although there is a shocking lack of twinkle lights which seriously bothers me. Bothers me to the point that I am planning on pressing my dad and brother (and their height) into service when they come over for Christmas dinner to help me hang some strings of lights randomly across my living room. I had every intention of obeying the quiet voice and being still this Christmas season, being quiet so that I could lean into Christ, dwell with Christmas himself. Instead it has been four exhausting, draining, frenzied, emotional, overwhelming weeks. Very little of it, almost none of it, has related to Christmas. Life just sorta hit me broadside at a time of year where the world around burdens us with unbearable expectations. To deal with the messies, I had to decide not to care about the expectations - whether culture or self imposed - and just let the Christmas crazy happen around me. I never got around to Christmas cards, I hardly decorated, no parties were planned, all gifts were purchased online on Cyber Monday so that task would be over and done with, treats for the neighbors have been planned but not executed - they may yet, but not before Christmas, most of my traditions took the year off. (But I did find my album, or at least a digital copy of it on my back-up drive of my work laptop which recently had the hard drive replaced. Yeah, no wonder I had trouble finding it.) I have had none of the typical Christmas cheer and yet, I think I get Christmas more this year. In dealing with the messies I've had to lean hard into Christ to gain perspective and strength. While I have not been still this season, not by a long shot, if I hadn't started this season with the idea of being still my life would have been too full to cope with the broadside hits that unexpectedly came my way. This has been a very unconventional Christmas season for me, but as I reflect on the last four weeks amidst the pain, there has been a richness that I have a hunch will cause me to treasure this year for many to come.

With Christmas Eve beginning in just mere minutes, my Christmas wish for all of you is to know Jesus Christ personally, in new ways, that takes you deeper, grows your love, and expands your awe and wonder at the unlikeliest hero, following his star to unexpected places.

Peace and Joy, Merriest of Christmas - Jennifer

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