Skip the Crunch, Kneel at the Crèche! – A Guest List of One

You'll like what Susan said. You surely will. And it'll make you think. And maybe stop and look and listen to the miracle just now coming on the air. He's coming. Our Jesus is coming. ‘Coming again. And he is coming soon. Well. About Susan, sweet Susan. A week after Christmas Susan and her mother were driving by church. They were on the way to an appointment. This five year old asked her mother to please pull over, up there on Main Street, right in front of the church. The Manger Scene had been there, you know, for the annual pageant on the lawn. Susan said she just wanted to stop by and see how the Baby Jesus was doing. Mom explained, "No time, dear, we have to get where we're going on time. Besides, it was only a play. And by now, Jesus is put away in the closet ‘til next year." Susan was alarmed. She protested, "But Mommy, who will feed Baby Jesus?" No amount of mommy-logic would soothe this sorrowed little soul until mom finally entered into the child's world-view. When she said the shepherds in that same closet were taking good care of Baby Jesus, Susan was relieved at last. The journey was allowed to continue. ‘And without benefit of detour to little Jesus clinging to closet-life ‘til Christmas-next.               [T. Troeger, So That All Might Know

‘Such a touching true tale. And we could leave it that. We could, except for that intriguing, intruding question. It oughta hang over Advent (preparing for Christ's coming), as surely as it lingers on the late Christmas air. WHO WILL FEED BABY JESUS? Who indeed? Is it possible, could it be, that this will be the year you and I finally skip all the Christmas crunch and just come to the crèche? What with all the house-preparing, and lists-declaring, and dinners-for-caring, could it possibly be when it's all said and done? Our only getting ready… is for a guest list… of one?  

Scripture is insistent. If we're to be ready, we must know the signs and see the hour near at hand. Did you notice? In all the news reports of how the sales went (Black) Friday, there was nary a reported word on how much more ready we would be for a Savior, come yesterday, Saturday morning? When the news rolled in from the Far-East, the attacks in old Bombay, how many shoppers stopped to ask, "Is now the time for the fullness of time when God's Anointed will inaugurate the Kingdom?" If we are looking for a new year and a new day, what will be the date by which we strive to be at the ready? December 25, or January 1, or maybe January 20 this coming year? Where are the signs of the stirrings of the Holy in the midst of the seemingly ungodly?  

Maybe we oughta listen and look at Mark 13 a little more often than we do. Here, Jesus lifts his own view of faithful people on the look-out. The passage is sometimes called the Little Apocalypse. Here's what Jesus sees. First, those times of trial and tribulation. Those "up against it times", the kind that every era knows… and more. The very times through which God works, like a woman in labor. Only this time what will be born is a new creation, an earth ready to receive heaven in the here and now.  Things'll get so bad that when you get up in the mornin', you'll find yourself lookin' for the sun/Son, all the day long. (‘Kind of makes me wonder if Susan ever asks her mama, "Are we there yet?" and means something deeper than merely arriving at the place mom scheduled. The stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Maybe this is mere meteorology in the mind and heart of Jesus. But I confess I think not. I think Christ means what his dear mother Mary sang at the news of his very own coming. The time approaches when God's own mercy is on those who hold Him in awe, even to their children, and their children's children. God: showing strength with his arm, scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts (everyone who thought themselves the big deal).  The mighty, put down from their thrones; those of low degree, exulted. The hungry: with the good stuff. The rich: empty. HERE: the original meaning of change we can believe in! Jesus says don't watch the clouds for snow for white Christmases, no matter how much you like the song. Heads up! Keep a sharp eye for God's own Son comin' on the clouds in glory. And God, gathering up all who will be gathered, from all who've been so-long-scattered to the four winds.  And get this. God in Christ is telling us to get ready for this, this holy day so-far-beyond the holiday. This could be, might be, can be coming in our own day! But don't believe the blogs, the TV pulpits or the piddly local preachers who will tell you that they know the time. Don't be packin' PB & J sandwiches and headin' for the hills. Hang in there. Stay steady. Be faithful. Get ready to host Heaven's Guest, God's Christ when he comes. But don't expect to know what day and hour he'll be here. NOT EVEN JESUS KNOWS, SO THERE'S NO WAY YOU OR THAT SOUL YOU HEAR ON CHRISTIAN TALK RADIO KNOWS, EITHER!  Just take heed, watch; you never know when the time will come.  So make every day a holy day, and your heart a holy place to welcome the only guest who brings God's glory. 

What is called for in this season is not the whirling dervish of delights and diversions we have come to love. (Me too, I surely must confess.) No, the thing here, the Big Thing, is singleness of heart. God Godself has set the example. And from the beginning of time. God desires that at no time since time began, has God not been making ready for the time when Word would become flesh. And dwell among us, full of light and truth. Oh, you and I, together and individually, have seen our share of dark days. And sad to say, there are more to be seen. But, praise God, without God's Christ was not any thing made that was made. Get this! The light shines in the darkness. And no darkness, yours, mine or ours, has (or will) overcome it. No madam, no sir. The true light that enlightens every soul is coming into the world. Whether the world knows it or not. And what'll happen when he gets close to those who claim they-grew-up-with-him, but still don't get it? Or get him? Why to those who are ready to take him into their hearts and lives, he gives power. Christ gives them the power to live and love like the children of God they really are, ever were, and ever will be. If we get the Christmas guest list right in our hearts this Christmas, that could be you! That could be me!  

Here are some specific things we can do to set aside all the Christmas crush and crunch. Here are some ways to see to it, to be among those who don't just want to greet the Baby Jesus, but feed him, all the way from the cradle to the cross, the starlit night to Easter morn.

Read and tell the story, the ONE we need to know. Luke 1 & 2. Matthew 1 & 2. A character or event at a time is often a fun and faithful way to build excitement about Jesus. 

Avoid stress. Give yourself the gift of time with the Christ

Child and with the children you love.

Teach the children to wait for Jesus' birthday, not approach it as their own. Make sure you know whose birthday is coming!

Display symbols of faith more than commerce. This is surprisingly important. Jesus oughta be more visible than Santa.  

Focus on God & each other. Not on stuff. Teach kids to value what God gives at the manger more than what Santa does under the tree. 

Avoid stress. Give yourself the gift of time with the Christ

Child and with the children you love.  

Give with the other person's heart in mind. 

Give alternate gifts… to those in need… and those who care for need year ‘round. Just imagine a tithing of gifts to the needy. Conspicuous sharing… WOW! (Especially as we close this year, NBUMC could be a good place to start.) 

Give of yourself. Make some stuff you give. Offer your time, or your services maybe, like babysitting or a needed home repair.

    What about offering the gift of prayer to a friend? Be creative. 

Keep it simple. Simpler is better! That's part of what the manger

                 is about. Don't let your kids miss that point. 

Resolve to know Jesus even better after Christmas than before. The best way to teach Christmas is to live a life in Christ. Our kids will judge whether Christmas is about a holiday or a holy life depending on how they see us changed by the Savior's birth. 

Skip the crunch. Kneel at the Crèche!

In all your getting, get ready for a Christmas guest list of One.

This year, let's not closet Jesus and count on shepherds to feed him. Let's make a place for him that reveals his place in our world.

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