I had to stop in at Target yesterday, not my best idea ever. I know, lots of my blog posts seem to start with a story about Target; I might have a problem, send help. But I digress. So, I’m in Target with both littles, trying like crazy to avoid the fresh hell that is the toy aisle at Christmas time, but somehow we got herded over there anyway, swept up in a great sea of red carts and frazzled moms and noisy toddlers. “HEY! I NEEEEEEEED this! HEY! I WANNNNNT that!” came out of my 4 year old (and let’s be real, every other kid) every time we passed by something new and I practically ran to get out of there as fast as I could. Four years old and she’s already got this consumer mindset. Are we born with this? Or am I a terrible role model? Who really knows.
Anyway, my heart sank because it occurred to me that despite good intentions and regular church attendance this holiday season, I may have done a poor job of explaining the real reason for Christmas. On the other hand, she might just be a kid and at Target, much like her mama, has a one track mind in that place. Either way, this delightful shopping experience reminded me to slow down too and remember that this season is not about the shopping and the gifts and the food. These things, I know, are instead wonderful side effects of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
A new Christmas song I have been listening to on repeat and simply love is called “Noel” (give it a listen) by Lauren Daigle featuring Chris Tomlin. The chorus goes like this:
“Noel, Noel, Come and see what God has done!
Noel, Noel, A story of amazing love, Light of the world, given for us, Noel.”
Our pastor has been challenging us to think about Christmas a little differently, or really just in a more focused way, and last week he, too, spoke about love. And even though this seems kind of obvious to me now, I guess I hadn’t really considered Christmas to be a love story. A story of giving? Yes. A story of faith? Yes. Sure, we celebrate the birth of a baby, fully God and fully man, who came to Earth. We remember the angels who told the shepherds (who by the way were basically the lowest class of people you could find back then) and three wise men who came bearing gifts. I guess I used to think we just celebrated Jesus’ birth because He was Jesus, but that the really important stuff came later, on Good Friday and on Easter.
Turns out, the idea of Christmas as a love story really speaks to me. It seems so simple now. “For God so LOVED the world, He sent His one and only Son.” (John 3:16). God LOVED us. He loved us so we could be loved but also so that we could love others. And when that sweet little baby was all grown up, He led an incredible life and left for us an important message: love God and love others.
I think we can all agree that 2017 has been a rough one and most of us are glad it’s coming to an end. Our world is broken and seems to break a little more each day. Many feel unloved and unlovable. Our government is rife with morally reprehensible leaders and candidates and decidedly un-loving policies regarding the very people Jesus sought out and made the time to love and shower in grace. Sadly, many of these people and policies have been supported by mainstream “Christian” leaders. There was such hateful language and rhetoric and abuse of power. More than a few times this year I was embarrassed and wanted to apologize for some of the publicized “Christian” behavior, and I wanted to shout out #notallchristians!! We need to do better. It saddens me deep into my soul that people who aren’t sure about God or who do not believe have seen this poor behavior from “righteous” people who have only succeeded in demonstrating the failing of man, the allure of power and position and money, and nothing at all what Christ was about.
Luckily, Christmas gives us a new place to start. This year, I pray that we remember the act of love done on Christmas those 2,000 years ago. A Father who loved His children and wanted to save them. A man who would love everyone he met, including the prostitutes and the lepers and the tax collectors. A man who welcomed the children and the widows and the downtrodden. And I pray that we, this coming year, aspire to be more Christlike in this: that we love our neighbors. Not for what they can do for us or what we can get from them, but because they too are loved by God, no matter their story. Let us find opportunities this year to show love to the least of these, to the marginalized, the oppressed, the abused, the misunderstood. Let us make the choice to lift others up, treat them with dignity, give them a voice, help them feed and care for their children, make them know they belong and that they matter. Let Christmas MEAN something to us. And let it call us to action, to love. After all, when it comes down to it, Christmas is a love story, the greatest one ever told.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This is one of my all-time favorites and it lives permanently on my Kindle and also my phone and it has brought me a lot of comfort during late night feedings and rocking sessions with the still-not-sleeping baby.
Currently Baking: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Butterscotch Cookies. Y’all. I am basically obsessed with these and need an intervention. I’m already planning for some kind of sugar detox post holidays but until then, these are giving me life. In fact, I’m eating one right this minute as I edit. **Tip- for some reason they are EVEN BETTER straight out of the freezer. I don’t even get it.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (don’t skip this- it MAKES these cookies)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups rolled oats
- heaping 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- heaping 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Put butter and sugars in a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla.
- In another bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and beat into butter mixture. Stir in oats and baking chips.
- Use an ice cream scoop or spoons to drop cookies onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Bake 10-12 minutes, until just browned on edges. They will cook more when you take them out. Move to cooling rack as soon as you can.
- Eat them fresh out of the oven or at room temperature or frozen. I’m serious.
Thanks for reading and until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!