O Come Let Us Adore Him

Before I start, here's a not-so-little introduction to this blog post:

Imagine my surprise when my small-group leader not only invited me to a pot-luck gathering this weekend (hello?? potlucks are my favorite), but also asked me to speak.  My initial reaction, naturally, was to freak-out. "Why me?  What on earth could I possibly have to offer this group of people, much older and wiser than me, whom I never even met?"

It just seemed so...absurd.  (Kind of like packing up your entire life after graduating with a master's degree and moving to South America...)  I didn't respond to her request for a few days while I contemplated which excuse I was going to use for why I couldn't deliver.  And then, while chatting with my best friend, I casually mentioned my little dilemma.  Let me tell you, she did not hesitate to respond for even a second before she all-but reached through her cellphone and (lovingly) yanked me right into my place: this is what I've wanted.  I've felt in my heart such a tremendous call to ministry for a few years now, and I've literally been begging God for opportunities to share His love...
so why is it I keep insisting He answer my prayers in the way I've envisioned them?  

And why, when Carol specifically asked me to prepare a devotion on the topic of Christmas, did I instantly turn it around to be all about me?  My insecurities?  My inadequacies?  My discomfort?

It never ceases to amaze me how God works in such bizarrely mysterious ways.

After much prayer (and admittedly a little bit of procrastination), the following is what I've prepared to share - God-willing - with a group of complete strangers tomorrow afternoon on the topic of Christmas:
Every year, I swear I won't allow my heart to become hardened by the commercialization of Christmas.  Call me the Grinch, but I cringe when the red and green and gaudy gold displays begin polluting my favorite retail stores...especially since they come out before I've even had a chance to salivate over, much less digest, my canned cranberry sauce and Stove Top stuffing from Thanksgiving (love love love my family, but home-cooking has never been a top priority).

I loathe Black Friday and the horrifying American consumerism it represents.
I've mmmhmm'd and amen'd my way through many a sermon series on this very topic.  From the Advent Conspiracy (where we are reminded to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all) to the "Four Gift Rule" (one thing they want, need, wear, and read), I've seen so many clever ways we try to simplify and tame the monster that has become Christmas.

What is it saying about us that we even need these reminders?  How far have we drifted?

I have four sisters, and a long time ago we began a tradition where we draw names and only purchase a gift for one other sister for Christmas.  Is this because we only have enough love in our hearts for one sibling?  No.  It's strictly a financial decision. (one which I am totally still okay with, sweet sisters of mine)

This year, my budget is especially limited, as I haven't really had a true income since...June?  I began the Christmas season (after Thanksgiving, thank you very much) determined to hand-craft as many presents as I could.  I was joyful at first. I had so much time and so many materials (which I had purchased at such an awesome discount), there was no way I could fail.  And yet, here I am, not even 10 days into the month of December...in tears.  Because it turns out I just don't have enough money.  I don't have enough time.  And I certainly don't have enough talent to make it all happen.

Did you catch that?  I don't have enough.  I want to do more.  I want to give more.  I want to be more.  Me. Me. Me.

When did Christmas become so much about us, and so little about Him?

Do you think the wise men stressed this much over their gifts?  Do you think they rushed out to the markets and bartered for the best price, anxious to find the perfect present to put a smile on an infant's face?  Do you think they met together and discussed, at length, the correct number of gifts - so as not to appear greedy or pretentious, or make Jesus feel uncomfortable or obligated to return the favor?  Or how about the shepherds?  Do you think they shuffled their feet and hung their heads in guilt, ashamed because they arrived at the stable empty handed?

My guess is probably not.

In fact, in the Bible, it says the shepherds hurried off in their pursuit of Jesus, and at the sight of Him they responded - not with shame - but rather they "let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen" (Luke 2:20, MSG).  Even the Magi, who certainly had the means to gift lavishly, did not arrive pridefully, motivated by their eagerness to see Joseph and Mary's reaction to their awesome presents.  No, in Matthew 2:11, we read, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts."

Did you see that?  Their gifts were simply an extension of their worship.

And what about Mary?  I mean really, if there was ever a person who had every right to be freaking out about Christmas, it's her.  There she was, hugely pregnant with her first child (despite the fact that she was still a virgin...go ahead and try to wrap your brain around that one), and forced to travel cross-country because "the Man" (aka Caesar Augustus) required it. She ended her long journey not with a nice satisfied pregnancy craving of lentils, figs, and unleavened bread; but rather with what was most likely hours of epidural-free labor...on the ground...in a stable.

I'm not sure if birth-plans were invented yet, but I highly doubt that one was Mary's.

And yet, does she brag about the drama of it all?  Does she wallow in self-pity?  Does she force the Magi and shepherds to leave because oh-my-gosh-she-just-gave-birth-for-goodness-sake-and-why-are-they-even-there-bothering-her-anyways?  No, the Bible tells us,"Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).  Note: it does not say, "Mary panicked because she had no time to prepare & nothing had gone according to her plans."

Because Christmas?  Turns out it's really all about Christ.

I believe most of us have good intentions when we desperately and frantically try to come up with just the right gifts.  But guys?  All He asks of us is ourselves.

So this Christmas, I encourage you to take a hint from the shepherds and do whatever it takes to draw near to Jesus.  And if you feel so led, as the Magi did, give gifts to one another only as an extension of your worship.  But most importantly, I pray you can learn from Mary's example and allow your hearts to become undone with wonder at the miracle of His birth.

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God.  Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.  That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.  God is sheer being itself - Spirit.  Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
 (John 4:23-24, MSG).

This Christmas, oh come let us adore him.


Vanessa's Dad said…
Preach it. :)

Natalie, I just finished reading this at 10pm on the 10th. I glanced the direction of the blog several times but was feeling pressure because I did not have my Bible Study Fellowship lesson done past the first day. I shut myself off from other distractions and finally finished (yes, group is tomorrow morning). I am not proud that I put off most of the lesson until tonight.
Your Blog is so perfectly written and I can hear your voice speaking. I'm excited to hear how it went!

I love you