December 6, 2007
Unwrapping His Christmas Presence
By Renee Swope
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call Him Immanuel, God with us." Isaiah 7:14(NIV)
Plans for the perfect Christmas danced in my head! My mom, my brother and my husband’s parents were dropping in. Plus my dad and his wife would be here Christmas day, and JJ's brother and family were coming too. Inviting our out-of-town families to our new home for the holidays was a dream come true. The fact that they could all come at some point between Christmas and New Years was just short of a miracle.
However, by the time everyone got here, I couldn't wait for them to leave!
In the midst of all the preparations, I’d gotten tangled up in Christmas lights and unrealistic expectations. First, my husband and children petitioned for blinking colored lights on the tree. I don't do colored lights on the tree. I am a "white lights" kind of girl, I insisted. JJ decided decorating should be a "family activity" that year. Who was this man and why had he not brought this up in pre-marriage counseling?
The control freak in me was freaking out! Don't get in the way of my perfect Christmas with white lights that make me and my home feel peaceful!
Further attempts to have the perfect house, the perfect menu and perfect table settings were robbing my holiday joy. This being my first time hosting a holiday dinner, I’d failed to notice that my Christmas place mats didn't coordinate with my everyday cloth napkins, and I didn't have festive napkin rings. Worst of all, I didn't know how to cook a turkey - I had never cooked a Christmas turkey. I had never cooked a Thanksgiving turkey, or a July fourth turkey!
In the midst of all the holiday obligations (that I placed on myself), I experienced one of my worst Christmases. I had a house full of people, but an oh-so-empty heart!
Christmas day I walked through my living room picking up wrapping paper and wondering why my dreams of a "perfect Christmas" hadn't come true. Isn’t this what I’d wanted? Many of the elements seemed to be in place: kids running around with remote control cars, adults on the couch snoring to the tune of jingle bells, and grown men playing sidewalk hockey in the driveway. Weren’t we having a Christ-centered Christmas? We'd lit Advent candles and set out the nativity.
Trying to escape the holiday noise, I went upstairs to my bedroom to read my Bible. I tiptoed into my walk-in closet and sat in a corner hoping no one would find me. There I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story: “She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger…" (Luke 2:7). The footnote referenced Isaiah 7:14, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call Him Immanuel, God with us."
Closing my eyes, I imagined Mary wrapping baby Jesus just like a gift. Her hands carefully folding each corner as she placed a kiss on his forehead. He was just like the gifts I wrapped and placed under my tree, I thought. Then I imagined an unopened gift still under my tree waiting to be unwrapped so God could give me the gift of His presence.
I’d forgotten to open the most important gift of all, the gift of Immanuel, God with us.
I bowed my head again and unwrapped God’s presence in my closet that day. I invited Jesus to bring calm to my anxious heart. To bring His perspective to my expectations and to help me enjoy the gifts of my family that were waiting downstairs. Simply delighting in the fact that He was with me brought peace to my heart unlike anything white lights and matching table settings could ever bestow. It ended up being the perfect Christmas after all!
Dear Lord, no matter how busy life gets or how lonely I feel this Christmas, I want to unwrap the gift of Your presence each day. Help me to see You, hear Your voice speak to my heart, and pay attention when You lead me with Your peace and Your perspective. I seek Your purpose in all of my plans. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Unwrapping His Presence, Renee Swope’s Christmas Message on CD
Visit Renee’s Blog
A Recipe for Christmas Joy, E-book by Marybeth Whalen
Make a list of expectations and preparations that could steal your focus this Christmas. Place the list in a gift box and wrap it in God’s presence with a prayer - asking for His perspective and peace for everything you listed.
If you feel yourself getting anxious, go back to the box and remind yourself that each assignment and challenge is wrapped in God’s peace. Trust Him and thank Him that no matter what comes your way, He is with you!
Look at your calendar. Can you see which days in December might be the most challenging? Pencil in time to be with Jesus each day (especially the busy ones). Sit still in His presence, soak in His perspective (through His Word) and bask in His peace as you work, drive, wrap gifts and cook. Listen to songs that remind you of the gift of Christmas - Immanuel – God with you!
Isaiah 26:12, "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” (NIV)
John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)
John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV)
Proverbs 31 Ministries
Matthews, NC 28105