Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Empty Manger


Dear Friends,

So when the blonde love of my life told me her birthday would be on a Tuesday, she asked if I would be available to spend the previous week with her to celebrate. I said, “Hey Babe! Of course! It's your birthday! It's all about you!” 

And honestly, I really did have good intentions of spending that time with her. But that was before I found out that my favorite outlet stores in Camarillo were having huge annual sales that week. It really was incredible! Everything at every store was deeply discounted up to 70% off! And Best Buy was having some unbelievable sales on laptops that I couldn’t pass up. So, I had to tell her that due to the unfortunate timing of these fantastic sales, I was going to be pretty busy in the weeks before her birthday. I was sure she'd understand...

She asked if we could at least spend the day before her birthday together – the day we call “Birthday Eve.” I told her I couldn't because I was going to be throwing a big birthday celebration party on Tuesday and that meant on Monday I needed to just focus on decorating the house and baking cookies. We were having a ton of relatives and friends over for the big day and I had so much to do to get ready! I was sure she’d understand...

When I told her that, she got really excited that I was having a big party for her birthday! That made me feel a little guilty because I had been putting off telling her the bad news. I had to tell her that with all of our family and friends that I had invited, there would be no room for her. She was shocked. Angry. She was crying. She said, “I’m the birthday girl! How can you have a party and not invite me !!” 

Perhaps I was just a little insensitive when I said, “Get real, woman!! The birthday is just the reason to throw the party! They just come for the food and the fun! They love the birthday gift exchange! No one cares if you’re there!” Once she calmed down, I was sure she’d understand...

She then asked if she could just maybe hang out  with me the day after her birthday so that she could spend some time with me. But I had to tell her that on Wednesday morning I was probably going to be burned out and exhausted. I told her that I needed to clean up after her birthday party and put things away. I also explained to her that Macy’s and Target were having their huge clearance sale events on Wednesday and I really wanted to be there when the stores opened. I was sure she’d understand...

Okay. By now of course, you’ve all figured out that none of that really happened and it was a completely fictitious story. If I ever did treat her like that on her birthday, I can only imagine what her response would be and hope that you’d all be nice enough to visit me in the hospital during my recovery period. But in reality, that story illustrates how some of us celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ.

It seems that as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are dried and put away, a bell sounds and the Christmas race is on. Recent surveys show that Christmas is the sixth most stressful life event up there with divorce, death, moving and changing jobs. December is the most stressful month for families. High expectations for the perfect gifts, baking, cooking, decorations, parties and will Aunt Eunice drink too much of the "enhanced" eggnog again? Jingle Bells and jangled nerves. Dashing toward Christmas day in a one horse open sleigh. Then finally, it's Christmas! It's show-time!! We did it! And we never notice that in our perfectly hand-crafted, decorated Christmas, the guest of honor is missing. We've left someOne behind.

2000 years ago there was no room for Jesus at the inn. Today many of us have become so caught up in the excessiveness of the Christmas holiday that there’s no room for Jesus in our own Christmas celebration. Wrapped presents are packed under the tree and our “manger” is empty. But Jesus knows we’re really just too busy during Christmas time to spend some time with Him. I’m sure He’d understand... Doesn’t He?

..and that's why we need Advent. The word Advent means “One who comes” and it's a season of hope and anticipation. As Advent heralds the coming King, the focus of the entire season is on Jesus. We celebrate His first Advent and the expectation of His second Advent when He will come again in power and glory. The season of Advent keeps Christ at the center of our Christmas festivities as we bake, decorate and shop. Advent reminds us that at the heart of Christmas is God incarnate – the Child in the manger.  Will you be spending any time with Him this year?

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