Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Cost

Well, it's almost Christmas. The traffic is thicker and our patience is thinner. We're beginning to put one eye on the calendar and the other on the checkbook make sure that one doesn't get ahead of the other. That fear can begin to start - what if we don't have enough? Don't you miss those days as children when you never gave a thought to Christmas' cost? 

My family was not wealthy by any means, but neither were we poor. Like many, we lived from week to week, knew our banker or loan officer well, and while we never lacked, we never prospered. Yet every Christmas that I can remember came and went leaving me filled with the belief that I had been blessed. If I wanted a "Johnny 7 One Man Army Gun" badly enough, it seemed to find its way to the tree. If a "Model Motoring by Aurora" racetrack caught my fancy, well, apparently Santa knew that too. 

Even though I knew from my trips to the stores that such things had prices, I never concerned myself with the cost. 

Yet there was a cost - a sacrifice for my parents - every year. As I grew older, I'd catch snippets of conversations about the bills, and their struggle to pay them. "What are we going to do?", I'd hear my Mother say with worry and fear coloring her voice. "I don't know, but they are going to have Christmas," replied my Father, somewhat more hopefully, but still unsure. And off they'd go to the Western Auto, or to Sears, or to somewhere else they could buy toys and pay on time. 

Gradually I realized that my Christmas gifts cost them dearly. In time, in energy, in stress. My mother would cut corners - patch jeans, save pennies. My father would work overtime even after his regular swing shift. So somehow, every year there'd come Christmas. It came with a cost. 

It always has. 

That's why we have communion on Christmas Eve. To remember the cost.

My prayer is that as we celebrate the birth of Christ tomorrow, we remember that He came to pay the price for our sins.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Whenever You Hold A Child

Christmas time always causes me to rummage around in my closet of memories. If you're like me, you've got stuff in there.

For me, back there past the 3rd grade report card I'm still grousing over from one December past, or the memory of the time the heat pump went out when I was 2200 miles away from a freezing Macon, GA, are memories upon memories of Christmases.

Some examples?

One Christmas when I was a child, I received a toy helicopter with a broken windshield. A note affixed read "sorry, dropped off the sleigh. - Santa". I come by my sense of humor genetically, obviously.

Another found Bunny and me walking away from a guitar store, not buying, but selling my guitar to pay for Christmas for the boys. We had smiles on our faces, thinking about how they were going to enjoy the toys. No regrets, only memories of their joy.

Really, most of my memories of Christmas revolve around children. I get excited every year to see the little ones as they begin to anticipate the day's coming. When I read the Christmas story, I remember what it's like to hold a newborn son. Joy floods your soul as you cradle this new life - full of promise, bathed in love, fresh from the arms of God. This time last year we were joyously but anxiously awaiting the birth of Aiden Brann Wilson, our grandson.

So when I read Zachariah's "song" and see this, it touches me.

And you, my child, "Prophet of the Highest,"
will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
77Present the offer of salvation to his people,
the forgiveness of their sins.
78Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God's Sunrise will break in upon us,
79Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace. Luke 1:77-79

When I visualize this scene, I see a man holding his son. Maybe John was sleeping - you like them to get in that routine early. Or maybe he was looking up at his daddy, fist in his mouth, or with arms outstretched. I can see those dimples on the backs of his hands, and his little bitty toes. A baby, held tight in the arms of love.

Zachariah, unlike most anyone else, had a clear understanding from God directly about what the result of his son's life would be. That passage is God's announcement of just what the life of John the Baptist would mean.

But remember, Zach and Liz couldn't just kick back and not do the work of being John's parents - just the opposite. God's plan for John's life required Zachariah and Elizabeth to do what they only could do, and that is to "train up a child in the way he should go..." Before John could show anyone else the "path of peace", he had to be taught the "way".

Friends, when you hold a child, you are holding God's investment into the future of this world. You are holding one of His masterpieces of creation. Snug within your arms lies the continuation of God's purpose and plan.

That child you hold may be someone like John, who will show many people the way.
That child you hold may be someone like Mary, whose life will be used to change the world forever.

Your part in that isn't just to hold them, but to mold them into people who grow up to live for Jesus. Whenever you do, you are touching generations yet to come with His love.

So this Christmas, why not take time each night to read the Christmas Scriptures? Talk with your kids about God's love for the world expressed through Jesus. Let them pretend they are shepherds, wise men, Joseph and Mary. Let them enter into the wonder and experiences that surround Christ's birth.

Make their memories of Christmas include Jesus.

And give them a hug for Bunny and me.

Adam and Shonda, bring us Aiden please. :)