I missed Christmas this year

Before I got ready to go to church this morning, I was listening to my country gospel CD.  I haven’t listened to it in several months.  My favorite songs are “Peace in the Valley” and “Beulah Land”.  I began thinking again that I would want those played at my funeral. Death sounded nice. I don’t really want to die, but in this Christmas season, I have been thinking of Jesus’ death, instead of his birth.

For the longest time I’ve been going to church only in time to hear the sermon.  I like the music at the beginning but it just seems to last too long so I skip it. It’s not that I don’t wake up early enough to get ready. I’m usually up hours before the service begins. I just get caught up with and carried away doing things then don’t leave enough time to get ready.  Today I had to prepare to teach the Sunday School lesson so I was not distracted with other tasks except preparing.   There were only three others there besides myself due to the holidays. I stumbled my way through, but I think we all learned something from our discussion.

What I wanted to write about was the church service (the contemporary service comes before Sunday school at our church). The music was acoustic.  Normally there is a praise band.  Two of the students who I watched develop as musicians in youth group played and sang along with the praise band director as a trio with just their guitars. The young woman and man are both now freshman in college and had returned home with their first semester under their belts. They sounded beautiful. They sang songs that I knew from my time assisting with the student ministry so I was able to sing the words and actually feel them rather than trying to pick up a new melody and stumbling over the words which is often the case during the usual Sunday Contemporary Services.

The sermon was “Christmas… What’s next.” The associate minister who preached that day, Brenda Westmoreland, asked the congregation, “Did you miss it?” Were you too busy, did you not make time, did you not think about it?  I realized guiltily that I had missed it.

I brought my Christmas decorations out of storage over Thanksgiving break, but I didn’t decorate until mid December.  I debated whether to even go to the trouble of decorating since I had waited so long.  I remembered last year I went through the same dilemma. I did decorate last year and was glad I did, so I went ahead and decorated this year. I didn’t put that many things out though. I meant to put my nativity scene out but I wanted to dust where I was going to put it and never got around to it.  The boxes that I store my decorations in stayed in the living room. I never put them away, because since I waited so long I didn’t want to have to carry them down then turn around and carry them back up the stairs in a couple of days.

I listened to Christmas music by choice at home and in the car for most of the month, but I never really got into the mood.  My Christmas shopping didn’t take long.  It didn’t seem like it was really here. I went to Christmas Eve service.  The message there focused on Mary and her role in the birth of Christ.  I just really didn’t appreciate the significance of this birth this year. I’ve heard the story many, many times before. It was kind of like Christmas, yea, Jesus was born.  Instead, I was worried about what family members were going to be there and who would be missing when we celebrated, and forgot the reason we were celebrating.

I spent more time reading the Bible over the break. I spent more time praying. I spent time trying to hear God speak to me.  I watched a You Tube video of Third Day’s “Love Song” that has scenes from the movie “The Passion”.  I flinched when I saw Jesus being beaten and wanted to turn away when I saw the agony.  I pondered Jesus’ suffering and death, but it didn’t really hit me that he would not have been able to die for our sins if he hadn’t been born. That is the reason we celebrate. His birth actually probably took place in the Spring, but December 25th is the day that history has chosen to recognize and celebrate the miracle of him coming into the world.

People have sometimes made the connection we wouldn’t have the resurrection without the birth.  I remember hearing it, but I had to be reminded by our preacher today.

She said it’s not too late to celebrate Christmas and mentioned Epiphany. She said that Christmas day was only the beginning of the season. The wise men did not make it to see Jesus until several days later (we celebrate it on January 6th). I know that Catholics celebrate Epiphany (it’s only skimmed over in the Methodist church) but I’m not sure I ever really knew what it meant. If I did, I forgot.

The very busy minister told us as her daughter had said to her, “Be intentional about slowing down and leaving time and room for Jesus”. She said that business is a sickness. She said to pray, read scripture, and spend time with God in his living word.  She nudged us with Gods words, “Be still and know that I am God” and added “a small voice speaks love into our hearts.”  She challenged us to do something for someone else (not just family or friends). Jesus taught us to love one another as thy self.  She left us with the reminder that God comes near and calls us to Him and service in His name not unlike Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds.  We need to be listening for what He wants us to do and how we can make the world a better place.

Last night my roommate and I were discussing when to take the Christmas decorations down. Some say it’s bad luck to leave them up after New Year’s. Others say it’s bad luck to take them down before New Year’s.  I say take them down on January 1st so you’re covered, but in church this morning I had an epiphany of my own.  I decided I would put my nativity scene up when I got home and would leave my decorations up this year until after Epiphany so that I can enjoy them while I contemplate what Christmas means since I missed the point this year.