Friday, December 30, 2011

Fullness of Joy: A Tale of Christmas

Will you tell your kids Santa is real?

A week ago, I probably would have not even thought twice about the question…of course I will let them believe in Santa! What a horrible parent I would be if I didn’t!! Just to think of all the joys of the season they would never experience…yes, my kids will believe in Santa. I will even aide the little story…the presents magically appearing in the night, the list mailed to the north pole. Oh and we mustn’t forget the cookies bitten into and the carrots nibbled away, milk guzzled down as well. Yes, my kids will believe.

This year I got to experience Christmas here in Arkansas with a sweet family that has become my home away from home. Though I missed that precious time with my parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews, I kept busy just trying to keep up with this family of eleven! Oh how blessed I was! You would think a house of nine little ones running around would be the last place one would experience peace at the core…and yet, I felt nothing but such a peace which transcends all understanding within those walls.

This Christmas more vividly then any prior, I saw Jesus. In everything.

Oh yes, there were presents galore. There was more food then mouths to feed. Delicious food. There were games and laughter, fighting and tears. There was excitement in the air. Anticipation of the day to come. Big red socks filled to the brim, presents hugging the tree all around, plenty of sweets for all to share. But there was more, so much more!

On Christmas Eve, the dad, the leader of his home, he gathered up all of us kiddos as we circled around on the floor, looking up to him with joyous anticipation of what was to come. He told the youngest ones they would get a gift on this night, this night before that glorious day. With excitement, they each received. With an okay from dad, they opened, one at a time. First one: a baby Jesus. Second: a baby Jesus. Third…you get the idea. They were all baby Jesus from various nativities around the house. There was wonder in their eyes, as they each look up to daddy. He explains to them with deep conviction and joyous praise of the One for whom this day is made. We hear the Truth of the Christ, the baby born in the manger, the One who took what I deserved, the One to who gave me hope, peace, joy, and love.

“Daddy, what is joy?” Well, son joy is like happiness. Expect whenever something really sad happens, it doesn’t go away. It is from deep inside. We can only have it because of Jesus. Dad continued to pour wisdom over his little ones, raising them up into a life of godliness. Little murmurs of wonder and question to interject once in a while. He spoke rich Truth of why we celebrate Christmas. We get to open presents in the morning…we get to eat these special foods….we get to gather up in the living room and sleep…we get to open stockings that mommy and daddy secretly fill in the night…all of this is fun and sweet, but remember it is all about Jesus. This day is to celebrate Him.

This year, mom and dad decided to add a trumpet to the tree, up top by the angel. Dad went on to explain to the kiddos that not only do we get to celebrate Christ’s birth but we are celebrating that He is coming back!!! The sound of the trumpet…“Come Lord Jesus, Come.” That is a promise…He is coming. We get to live with joyful anticipation of that day. That is worth celebration!

Then we all curl up on beds in the living room…yes everyone! Dad leads us in worship…the whole choir sings out in praise to the Giver of Life. This is almost too much for my hungry heart to bear. Do families really worship the Lord together like this? No instruments? No big building of people? It was as if the Lord began peeling back layers from my eyes. I began to see the society that has fed me from birth such a tainted message for what it really is. The new clearness with which I could now see was like a dream—a fantasy. What joy. Holding back the tears, I just sing softly along, praising Him for this moment which is etched in my heart for life.

To quiet the hearts filled with excitement, mom and dad read scripture until everyone falls asleep. As I am laying on my bed, cuddled up and reminiscing, I wonder how I ever got here…to this very spot in this house in the woods in Arkansas with this family who wash me in the Word as I drift to sleep with their children on Christmas Eve. Then the tears begin to fall as I am reminded of His faithfulness in my life…the fullness of His presence in that moment contrasted with the hopelessness of growing up apart from Him—fullness of joy barely contains my heart. His perfect plan which far exceeds mine always places me exactly where I am supposed to be—without a doubt.

My very first time opening a stocking...
and I got TWO!!
With the sunrise, I hear little voices, filled with excitement. The day has finally arrived! We open gifts and play. We speak words of thankfulness for what we receive. We are blessed. We eat deliciousness. We gather around while dad reads to us a story of redemption. His humble tears move me. I wish I could press pause in these moments and never forget the fullness of joy contained. I wish I could give others a little glimpse, a little taste. Oh, I hunger for this. Nothing less will do.

This beautiful family, they are not prefect by any means. They are real and flawed and in desperate need of Christ, just like me. But they love Him wholly. They love Him more then presents, more then Christmas, more then Santa, more then the season. Their worship is to Him and Him alone. Their children know it too. And the younger ones will not be able to deny it. His holy name echoes through those walls.

That is what Christmas is about.

If the Lord allows me to raise a family some day, my kiddos won’t know Santa, but they will know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior born in a manger. Is this not who we are celebrating? Then why do we fabricate this jolly old fella in a red suit when we can offer them someone so much greater?! I love that one day my family can squeal in excitement because of the Christ, the one who came and is coming again!! That is where the fullness of joy is found—that is Christmas.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

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