Happy Christmas Eve
Merry Christmas, Eve.
Our family is back home after celebrating in one of the most moving and warm worship services of the year in Memorial Baptist Church in Pulaski, Virginia tonight. Our church started a site there this year, and in partnership with several other churches, we held a joint Christmas Eve service there tonight. I was blessed to be able to preach.
Our Christmas Eve is also Carolyn's birthday, so today we also celebrated with ice cream cake and presents for her. It was Pizza Inn buffet for lunch since local Mexican restaurants were closed (her favorites). I was personally delighted to discover pumpkin pie dessert pizza on the buffet.
Ever since December 1, I've tried desperately to slow down the Christmas season internally. I've done all I can to dig my heels in and halt the holidays so that I could enjoy them more deeply.
They've refused to cooperate. Here I sit watching the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Carolyn and Adelyn (Sam is downstairs watching another show) and blogging. It's Christmas Eve, and I glance around the living room occasionally, saturated in the glow of the tree, drinking a mug of coffee and watching Caro drift off to sleep while Adelyn smiles her way through the cartoon.
We have so much to be thankful for. I am truly overwhelmed with undeserved favor and blessings from God, family, friends and our church. In spite of my inability to slow Christmas, this jet-speed December has still offered me some stops that I remember vividly.
Last night, for instance, we took our traditional tour of tacky Christmas lights in the New River Valley. Sam griped all the way to Shawsville about going again. "We've seen them before!" was his pathetic attempt at dissuading us. Our parental stubbornness was relentless, but we rewarded the kids with a stop at Sonic on the way home.
Another stop this year was the Blacksburg Christmas parade. Adelyn and I were walkers, while Carolyn snapped photos from the sidewalk and Sam had to work at the yogurt shop downtown. It began to rain as our float with our praise band made its way into downtown, but the rain didn't dampen our enthusiasm. We pressed candy canes and offers for a free download of our church's Christmas music into hands of kids and parents.
On another evening, our staff came over to the house for our dirty Santa exchange. Afterwards, we packed into cars and toured a live nativity scene put on by another local church. Gateway Baptist did a great job, and we stopped at their new coffee shop across the street for free coffee and cookies (and a picture with Santa).
Yet another stop was in Boone, NC. Thanks to the generosity of our worship leader's wife's family, we enjoyed two nights in their beautiful cabin in the mountains. Carolyn, the kids and their friends who went with us spent Saturday skiing at Sugar Mountain while I caught up on reading and people watching. What?! You can't believe I didn't ski? Skiing is for those who enjoy being cold and wet and repetitively going up and down hills.
In spite of these wonderful frozen moments, I still want more of this season. Do you? I'm not satisfied yet on this Christmas Eve as the seconds tick away. (The Grinch has finished, and now we're watching Polar Express.)
In just a few short hours, Christmas Eve will have moved on, and Christmas will be here. Then, it too will vanish in the jet stream of the year's incessant activity.
I'm pretty sure my longing is my soul's cry for "more time." I want to enjoy every moment, but I'm mentally and physically incapable in the here and now. I simply have to make do with being as fully present as possible. However, there's coming a day when I'll literally have all the time I need. Heaven. I really think my momentary longing for more is simply the imprint of eternity on my heart.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God's gift to man(Ecclesiastes 3:11-13)
Perhaps this poem by C.T. Studd expresses my mental meanderings best:
Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way; Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat; Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn; Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne; Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say,”Thy will be done”; And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”; Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.
I deeply hope that you and yours drink deeply of the joy and beauty of Christmas. It's a gift to be opened slowly, being mindful of its origin in a manger. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone.