Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Behold, I make all things new

I thought we were off to a great start this Christmas.  Last Saturday, we decorated our home, picked out our tree, strung the lights and hung the ornaments.  We enjoyed special moments together, as I shared the story of Christ's birth with Hunter via an old, wooden Nativity set that I grew up with and then shared the story of our family by showing him each of our photo Christmas cards from the year we were married until last year.  He helped me plant candy canes in the yard.  He'll tell you what he wants Santa to bring him when asked, but what he wants to talk about most is the birthday party we're going to have for Jesus on Christmas Eve.  He wants to know who will be there, what kind of cake we'll have, what color balloons will be at our seats. I have so treasured his inquisitive mind, his sweet spirit and his helpful little heart. It's been a blessing to see Christmas unfold through the eyes of a two year old. 

But, alas, we hit some turbulence!  We had decorated the tree, but reserved the "special ornaments" for a time when my mom could join us.  "Special ornaments" include ornaments that I grew up with, picture ornaments that tell the story of our family, ornaments from places we've traveled to, Hunter's first ornaments, a homemade ornament, etc.  Just the fact that I call them "special ornaments" and that I set them apart and reserved a "special time" for us  to decorate them should have been a bright red, flashing, "WARNING!" sign.  For those of you who aren't wired the way I am, this might all sound sweet to you and you don't yet see where this is going.  However, to quote Lysa TerKeurst, "I am a woman of high hormones and high expectations." Both collided on this night and, as they have in Christmases past, my pretty little expectations got me into trouble.  Without even realizing it, I had expectations for what this "special moment" would feel like.  Worse, I even had expectations of what it should feel like for my family.  I was disappointed and my reaction was even more disappointing. Sigh.

But God...gave me a second chance and a fresh start in an unusual way!  After overcoming a stomach virus, sanitizing the house and (finally!) a refreshing swim class, my son and I returned to find our beautifully decorated tree, "special ornaments" and all, on the ground this afternoon.  It had toppled over!   Sadly, our tree couldn't be saved.  The trunk was cracked and it likely would have toppled over again.  God was gracious to protect our family the first time, but we didn't think it was wise to keep the tree.  I was heavy hearted as I took down the ornaments, then the lights and thought of the hours of re-work and the other things I had planned for the day and night.  I felt a bit overwhelmed, but then God allowed me to see what this really was - my second chance!!  He gave me a do-over!! I could choose a different reaction to a much bigger fiasco!  I could, with Christ's help, be calm, encouraging, and find a way to glorify God in this mess!  And, we did. 

Do you recognize the second chances God gives you?  What expectations do you have this Christmas? 

Tonight, as I sit here in front of our new, unadorned tree, I see a tree free of expectations, free of idols and I remember the cross.  Our Lord didn't have any expectations of us.  He knew us well. As a people we had sinned against him, insulted him, denied him, mocked him, abused him, killed him and even after all that, we would continue to sin against him until the end of the world.  His expectation was simply that he would serve, teach, suffer and die for us.  He didn't have any idols, so he was free to love us with a greater love.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. - John 15:13 NIV

He was free to love us because His God, our God, and doing His will was enough for Him.  He didn't seek special moments or place expectations on others to satisfy His own selfish desires.  Everything He did was for God. 

God has recently made me aware of idols in my life and has been tearing them down, one by one. Today, He gave me a visual.  He knocked down my tree full of idols and expectations and replaced it with a beautiful, bare tree.  A fresh start this Christmas.  Free from expectations and idols.  Free to love myself and others, sin and all, as Christ did.  As He still does. 

And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!..." - Revelation 21:5 NLT

I was disappointed earlier when I realized that instead of sitting in front of our beautifully decorated, special and sentimental tree while I wrote this blog, I would be sitting in front of a naked tree.  Now that I am able to see it for what it is, I just might keep it this way! 

Dear God, we thank you and praise you that you are all we need.  Guard our hearts and minds this Christmas from idols and expectations that distract us from what Christmas really is: the celebration of the beginning of your plan of salvation for us all, through Jesus Christ. Help us to, as Kate shared, "Set our minds on things above, not on earthly things." - Colossians 3:2.  We pray the same for our children and ask that you help us guide and co-labor with them in this important work. Free us all from any idols or expectations that  hinder us from experiencing and sharing the love of Christ and the joy of family this Christmas. In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen

Note:  If you haven't already read Courtney's blog, In the Presence of Idols - Expectations, dated October 17, I encourage you to do so.  It is profound, prayer and thought-provoking and life changing.  It has forever changed the way I view the word "expectations" and catalyzed my work with God on identifying and tearing down idols in my own life.  Her blog encouraged much of the content in this one.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful. What a picture of what God is doing in your heart. He not only tore down the idol but He desecrated it so it could not be used again. I am blessed today to have read this. Thank you for sharing.