It happened again this morning as I was having breakfast with a friend at a local restaurant. I took the opportunity to ask a couple of the waitresses how their Christmas plans were coming and if they were ready for the big day. They recounted stories of stress, anxiety, hurry and worry. I sighed as I thought to myself, we're missing it again. Two thousand years after the first Noel (that's French for Christmas. Now aren't you impressed?) we still can't comprehend that this was a simple event for a reason. God wanted us to receive it for what it was.
Since breakfast, I've been sitting in my office thinking about my afternoon yesterday. Two of my kids helped me as we walked through one of the more poverty-stricken areas in Franklin. We were inviting people to our Christmas eve event at the school where our church meets (5:30 on Christmas eve. If you are in town, make plans to come and bring your family).
I though about the images of the day. Standing on porches that sagged under our weight. Hearing the sounds of children crying behind the tightly shut doors. Feeling the heat escaping through broken windows that desperately needed repair. Watching the smiles on the faces of people when they were assured there were no strings attached to our "gift" from the church.
God really does love the whole world. I hope we grasp that. It's more than just a children's song or a nice thought. When the angels came to proclaim peace on earth, it was for the overworked waitress and the under-worked single mom. It was for stressed-out executives and lonely fathers separated from their families this Christmas. But every single year, we trade this message of love and hope for temporary gifts, for boxes and bows, for shopping sprees and decorations...for things.
I pray this year that more than one family comes to find that He, Jesus, truly does bring meaning to our lives. And that meaning can be lost in an instant if we choose to embrace Christmas in any way other than what the shepherds and Magi did...with complete awe and worship of this new born child.