Monday, December 15, 2014

Christ is the Reason for the Season

by H. Linn Murphy

About this time every year the pace kicks into holiday mode. We see ever earlier sales. Black Friday is now a holiday children recognize. The Saving Christmas shows pepper the TV, punctuated by ads for glitzy toys, diamonds, gigantic screen TVs, and gleaming sportscars. We run around trying to do, make, and buy everything in time for the Big Day. We run around like ants, busy with making Christmas. But we often forget that Christ is the reason for the season. We not only forget to celebrate His miraculous birth, but the most remarkable gift anyone ever has or ever will give to us: Eternal Life. We forget God's gift to us: namely His Son.

We see all these festive decorations and gifts and helpful hints about how we should celebrate the holidays, but we often fail to see Jesus. And yet we marvel at the people from His own time and place who didn't see Him for what He was. They were too blinded by politics, or disdain for his upbringing and origins, or by their own problems. The Pharisees who should have been His biggest supporters because of their scriptural knowledge, were instead some of His greatest detractors.

 So who did see Him? Not Pilate, who thought of him as a sort of discomforting rabble rouser. Not Herod, rich and selfish King of the Jews. Not the powerful or the knowledgeable. It was the small people--the humble shepherds and servants, the craftsmen shutting their shops for the night, the publicans, and fishermen, and women drawing water at the well.

In this age, knowledge of our Savior gets overshadowed by glitzy movie and sports stars, by the rumble of science disavowing His reality, and by the jeers of the inhabitants of the Great and Spacious Building. We find ourselves either defending Him at every turn, or, like Peter at the cock's crow, weeping at our lack of faith. Sometimes the frantic pace of our lives takes Christ's place and fills the emptiness we've left as we chase the dollar bill, elusive fame, or power.

In the holidays, much of the greed and selfishness comes to a head. The refrain of "Mommy, I want that," fills the frosty air. There have been times when I sat wrapping those last presents that I felt my children had never been such brats all year and I wondered why I was rewarding such wretched behaviors. The gimme children never seemed happy. They fought over everything, especially about serving others by doing their chores. The whole season depressed me. It wasn't until, like Christ, we started focusing on the happiness of others that we started to find our own joy. 

Maybe it's time to buck the crowds, walk back down that Spacious Building ramp, and hop across the stones in the river, back to the Tree of Life. 

I remember once when I was little (we lived in Y Mount Terrace back then--married student housing). I had a Penny Brite doll, which I really loved. One home evening my dad asked us a sneaky question. "What's your favorite toy?" Thinking that I was going to get clothes for her or something equally cool, I piped up with, "My Penny Brite doll is my favorite." My sister, probably sensing more than I did, mentioned something I knew for a fact wasn't her most special toy. Then Dad said something that chilled my childish little heart. "Well then that's the thing we'll give away." My mom then made gorgeous clothes for her, and a box with homemade furniture in it for the doll. Wow. I bawled and bawled. I thought that was a really wretched thing to do. We took those offerings upstairs and gave them to another, poorer family. At first I felt so betrayed. And maybe I was, in a way, since I wasn't allowed to make that choice on my own. But I have never forgotten the way I felt at seeing that other little girl's eyes light up. (Then, because I was about five and selfish, I plotted for a little while on how I was going to take it back--but never did. There is hope.)

Later we enjoyed several 12 Days of Christmas forays. One time we lived in Oregon. My parents had moved down to Arizona and left my sister and me up there because of jobs and school, etc. That Christmas was going to be a little bleak for us. But also Mom had left lots of friends without a champion. Patricia was one of those friends. This season was especially lonely for her. She'd recently lost her husband and was feeling the pinch, once remedied by my mom's kindness. 
So my sister Lisa and I decided to do the 12 Days of Christmas on her. We bought all kinds of things we thought Patricia would like: a back scratcher, cans of soup, slippers, books, goodies and several other items. We thought we were being so sneaky running up to her porch, dropping the item for the day, ringing the bell, and racing away. 
Then one day we got caught. We were hiding in her bushes when some woman we didn't know walked out to the front porch and yelled, "Hey! Whoever you are, Patricia moved. You can have all the stuff we didn't eat back again!"

I remember thousands of meals my mom made and took to other people. I remember baking bread and every time we took it out of the oven, without fail the missionaries were there for a slice. Everybody stayed at our house--Young Ambassadors, BYU Folkdancers, Up With People kids, German Club kids, the indignant runaway children of friends. Everyone. I remember my mom giving everything from her suitcase to women in Zimbabwe, only coming home with what she was wearing and a skirt for me. She went to do service, handing out massive amounts of clothing, food, and sock dolls she made by hand. I remember her and my dad cleaning out ICU's and orphanages in Bulgaria and taking food and water to Bande Atche (or however you spell it), the epicenter of the tsunami in Indonesia. And I think of all the presents I've given her that she's turned around and given to other people. My mom lives to give. Thousands of people bless her name. That's how I want to be. Someday I'll make it.

I hardly remember any presents I ever got. What I do remember are those I gave that took some trouble. I remember their faces and how it felt to do something for someone else. Imagine, then, how Christ must feel when we accept His offerings. When we come humbly to kneel at His feet and give our lives into His careful hands, it must fill Him with exquisite joy. 

What a great birthday present!

No comments:

Post a Comment