Monday, November 28, 2011

Preparing Room

The season of advent is upon us.  Time, I suppose, for the obligatory blog post on doing Christmas the "right" way, whatever that is.  Less stuff, more meaning, less shopping, more praying?  I'm not sure.

Truth be told, it's really hard to know how to make Jesus' Christmas surpass the grandeur of Santa Claus--especially with small children.  Try as I might, Molly's favorite part of Christmas is the presents, even though she knows all about Jesus and his birthday.  What is a parent to do, really?  There's a big part of me that loves the gift giving (and receiving) part, too...

And so I struggle to figure out what this "real meaning" is that I am trying to prepare for.  Probably not the most p.c. thing to own up to, but it's true.

This morning, while listening to Christmas music, I was floored by a line from Joy to the World: "Let every heart prepare ye room."

I'm not sure why it struck me.  Why it kept circling through my mind as the rest of the song played.  Why it kept coming back as I did other things.  Why it's still stuck there, hanging on.  Let every heart prepare ye room.

Still unsure why this line clung to me as it did, I began to reflect on what it might mean to prepare room for Jesus, the baby King, the one who would save.  The only frame of reference I have for this is preparing for the birth of my own babies.  Thinking back to those times, I recall the planning, the careful shopping and selecting and readying that took place to make their rooms ready for them to come home.  Especially with Molly, the firstborn, I chose all of the things--linens, furniture, decorations--with such care.  We set things up so proudly, washed and folded things, made her some special things and placed them in the room even before she was born.

Why do we feel compelled to do this?  Why has readying a nursery become such an important part of having a new baby?  Surely, it's not because we think the baby cares about all of these things, is it?  We don't believe that the baby, upon seeing the wrong quilt, or upon realizing that the changing table is a hand-me-down, will become indignant and refuse to remain in our family, do we?  Of course not.  Setting up the nursery with care is simply a way that we communicate to the baby, to ourselves, and to the rest of the world that we are making room.  A new one is coming into our world, and we will stop everything to make a place where this new one can live and grow and make their home.  Making room shows that we are eager, we are expectant, and we realize that once the baby arrives, we will be ready and available for life to be different.

Perhaps it's a helpful metaphor for the advent season, especially in light of the fact that the One we await came as a baby.  So what might it look like to make room this season?  How are we preparing?  Are we choosing carefully the things that we are spending our time on this season?  Are we aware that the things we are preparing--the actual, physical things--aren't the important part, but what is important is that these physical things point to a heart that is eager, excited, expecting to stop everything and make room once the awaited one arrives?

The problem with the advent season, in my opinion, is that it is just the beginning, yet it gets all of the pomp.  It is like celebrating a wedding without realizing that the marriage itself is the gift.  Or having a baby shower and not knowing that the raising of the child is the fun part.  Advent is the preparation.  Advent is the beginning, the entrance, the starting gun.  It is loud and shiny and exciting, and Santa and Rudolph join in, and there is hot chocolate and ice skating.  It is all so much darn fun.

But what comes after--when the King has come--that's the point.  That's what we wait for.  Life after the Christmas tree has come down, after the New Year has rung, that's what all of this is for.  That is also the point at which we find out if we have done a good job at making room.  If life is different, if we have received Christ who has come, if we are fundamentally changed, if our priorities have shifted come December 26th....that's how we know.  That's how we know if we've truly made room.  That's how we know that the baby has arrived.

How are you making room this season?

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Transferable Treasure

I am told to ask, so I do.

It is early, and I am willing--just barely--and I ask, knowing there will be an answer.  But at this point, I'm not sure if I am ready to hear any more.

"Storing up treasures in heaven.  What does this look like?  Really?  What does this mean?  What do you want us to do?"

I hear.  But it makes no sense.

That's how I know.  These aren't my thoughts, borne from my brain.  These belong to Another.


That's it.  That's the answer.  Not the answer to everything, mind you.  But the answer to this question.  This storing up treasures question.

Not tithing more?  Not doing more?  Being more?

I am confused, but I know to wait.  I know, by now, how this works.  I just hold it loosely, keep it there floating around.  Soon the wrestling begins, as it always does.  The wrestling to take the word that's heard and bring it to life in my mind and my heart so that it makes sense, sinks in, rings true.

All day, I wonder: Worship?  Really?  That's the treasure that is transferable?

It strikes a chord.  I have been learning, thinking, mulling, these last few months.  Worship isn't a synonym for singing.  It does not always happen with a band, or a leader, or with others.

Certainly, it can.  It does.

But worship is so much more than that.


That is worship.  It's when my actions sing agreement with Him.  When their song mimics His tune, showing that I want what He wants.  Showing that I will follow, not lead.


That is worship.  Welcome worship around here.  When my body and soul lie still, knowing there is refuge from the storms.  Knowing that the worrying can cease because of the One who is standing guard.


That is worship.  That is recognizing Him for who he is.  For seeing how great, how long, how wide He is, and knowing--happily--that I will never measure up, and that I'm not expected to.


That is worship.  It is knowing that I am given good things to do, important things to do, a purpose.  And that I can make a difference in this world in a very real way because He has made me to do that.

Everything, really, can be worship.  It's not about what's going on.  It's about how it's going.

Worship is simply this: acknowledging Him as the starting point, middle point, ending point....for everything.

Worship makes me take myself off of the throne, and it allows Him to reign unchallenged.

Worship is not a moment.  Not an event.  Not a part of a service or of a life or of a religion.

Worship is the point.

Worship is the treasure.  On earth as it is in heaven.  The transferable treasure.

The one, which, if we store it up here, will be there waiting for us.  It will make us rich.  In heaven, for sure.

But here?

It might make us rich here, too.