November 22, 2008

That Time of Year

I'm sitting here at my dining room table looking outside noticing that pretty much all of the leaves have fallen off the trees in my neighborhood, it's cold out, and the holiday season is upon us as Thanksgiving is now only days away. Before you know it, it will be 2009 and we'll all wonder where the last month of the year went. I don't know about you but it's at this point in the year for me when time seems to fly by. Between all of the hussle and bussle of the season, traveling to see family, Advent events at church, using vacation time before the end of the year, scrambling to figure out program budgets for 2009, end of year meetings, etc etc I start wondering if I'll be around for the holidays, let alone enjoy them.

I was driving around town the other day and saw a bumper sticker that said, "Put Christ back in Christmas." I started thinking about that and two thoughts got stuck in my head:

  • Bummer for anyone that has already taken Him out of it.
  • Christmas is about Christ, it's that simple.
Our senior pastor just finished leading a class called 'Simplifying Christmas', which talked about practical ways to keep the holiday season simple. You know, things like don't buy an excessive amount of gifts for people, don't spend all of your time running around but enjoy the friends and family you're with or don't waste a lot of money on presents. I like this time of year and am not someone that gets stressed because of everything going on but I can get too busy and then I find myself missing the main points...a) be thankful and b) the coming of Christ. I am determined to keep this time of year slow and simple.


dk said...

I actually thought about having our family not buy any presents for each other but think of gifts we could give to someone who's homeless downtown. The expectations, the let down when it's all over, it kind of robs the season of what it's all about.

I remember a couple of years ago the church I was attending had a banquet in a parking garage downtown for a bunch of homeless guys who were living there at Thanksgiving. We got all this great food, tables, linens, the whole nine yards and then we ate with 'em and gave them some warm clothing items and stuff that people had donated. My son and I went and it was really cool. We just shared a meal together and exchanged a few stories. And then we all got in our cars to drove back home to our warm houses as they walked across the garage to their cardboard mansions. In those few moments we had together I felt like I knew those guys. I felt like if I was ever downtown I would say hi to them. But in my busy-ness, I've never been back. I never saw those guys again. For some reason whenever it's really cold outside like it is now, I think about those guys. I thank God for a warm place to sleep. Somehow I need to find a way where my life intersects theirs. Jesus said if you've done all of this unto the least of these, you done it unto me. Somewhere in the exchange, he's there, he's a part of that. I don't know that you can replicate that anywhere else.

dk said...

Another thought about fall....

I'm originally from Texas. Grew up there. I remember fall as this time where there was just more work. Fall meant all the leaves fell off the trees and my brother and I would have to spend endless hours getting them into bags to be taken away. It was just kind of a dismal time. You knew summer was over, the warm weather was coming to an end and pretty soon it was gonna be cold (in the 40's was cold in Tx!) Then I moved about 9 years ago to Indiana.

We moved during the summer and I remember how the upper 80's and lower 90's felt so cool. It was such a relief from the heat I was use to. Then came Fall. To my wonder, all these colors began to emerge. The oranges, the yellows, and the fiery reds. I had never seen such color before. I'd never seen a fall like this in Tx. Everywhere I drove I would just stare at all the amazing colors. Then I began to wonder, "Why do leaves change color? How do they all go from their green to these amazing different colors?" I read their color came from their pigment. Leaves have 3 types of pigment: chlorophyll (green), carotenoid (yellow, orange, and brown) and anthocyanins (red). Chlorophyll and carotenoid are in leaf cells all the time during the growing season. But the chlorophyll covers the carotenoid -- that's why summer leaves are green, not yellow or orange. Most anthocyanins are produced only in autumn, and only under certain conditions.

It occurred to me that a leaf's true color is always there, it's just covered up most of the time. What causes it to be seen? Death. As the amount of sunlight diminishes, the tree stops producing chlorophyll seals off the veins of the leaf to protect itself from freezing weather. The process "kills" the leaf. Only in death are they the most beautiful. A couple of years ago I was thinking about this thought and God hit me...only in death, will my beauty truly be seen. In order for God to truly be seen in my life, I need to die to myself. Sometimes how I live my life, I'm like chlorophyll - I cover up the beauty and truth of God. Less of me, more of him - that's real beauty.

Every fall it reminds me of how I need to die. My life lasts but a season and then it's over. Where can I pull back the parts of me that cover the parts of Him? I haven't really taken the time to do that this year. But after reading your post, it's time. All the leaves have fallen. I need to do the same.