Last night someone asked me if I was excited and ready for the new year.
I told them I was still grieving the passing of Christmas. And that 2010 would be pretty hard to top.
Until God spoke this morning, I have been pretty bummed that Christmas has come and gone, its imprint shriveling up like the melting snowman in our backyard. The carols have dried up like a puddle in the mojave and holiday movies, while still around, are the worst of the badder ones. Is that a word?
I mourn because Christmas, for me this year, was akin to a moment in sport’s history.
In 1991-1992, the Atlanta Braves went from “worst to first.”
In 2009-2010, Christmas, in my household, also went from worst to first.
In 2009, I was in the hospital, quite nauseous, feverish, and barely sniffed my hospital fare of turkey, dressing and slice of red velvet cake. There were no presents to exchange, a son who was ‘God only knew’ and I fell asleep early while my Sandy, ever faithful and vigilant to see to my comfort, spent the day in a quiet hospital room while her family gathered nine hours away.
She would add the word “gladly” to that last clause. ‘Cause she’s just like that.
But this Christmas was magical. It seemed draped in a veritable Kinkade coziness where the amber light glows through winter fog, snow and night. I was “bound and determined” to make sure this season would be memorable for all the right reasons and from Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas night it was mission accomplished.
Amid constant carols, absorbed in wholesome novels and novellas all written in Christmas settings, sitting before blazing fires and cupping mugs of specialty coffees in my lap, I relished the season in grand style. The television only played the better of the Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies (which slimmed their lineups considerably) and the home was festively donned with gay apparel and halls bedecked by my favorite decorator and live-in companion. Who is also my wife.
Everything really got stirring all through the house on Christmas Eve when the Mrs. and I ventured all the way across town to a festival of lights Sandy had heard about on the radio. I figured traffic would be a dog so I rousted us into the van earlier than necessary and we arrived three hours early. What to do, what to do?
Eat! Yes, eat. Of course.
Yadda, yadda, the meal was quite delish and OMG (goodness, not God).
When the meal was ended, we approached the van and spied a mall across the way. Yes, a mall. On Christmas Eve. People passing (too close), rushing, meeting mile after mile, bumping, honking. You know the drill.
And still we defied logic and braved the tempest.
And it all turned out…okay. Really. We got a few treasures of our own (note: our definition of “treasure” may not be that of the general public’s), received no mean looks or challenges of chicken, then, with no desire of pressing our luck, got out of there and headed off to the light show.
One word: W-O-W.
Needless to say, Sange and I worshipped for an hour and a half in a fairgrounds parking lot while Christ-prioritized music permeated the van, and watched in awe as lights in every festive color danced, blinked and twinkled in perfect time with the songs. It was a (near) silent night but a sure ’nuff holy night in the idling van.
Then Christmas Day. All I can say is its been decades since Atlanta has seen a white Christmas but around 3:00 in the afternoon, the rain turned to all-snow and engulfed our town in fluffy white down for about six or seven straight hours, covering everything in a wonderland of peace and beauty. I’ve described our Christmas to several by using the word “magical”, as though Currier and Ives took its time machine into our living room and Andy Williams’ Christmas show was rebroadcast for our private viewing.
When the calendar page turned to number 26, I was making like Atlas, pushing against its arrival, trying to milk more time out of the 25th. Every day since, I’ve been stubbornly pressing the clicker on the remote, settling on anything that looks Christmasy, thinking of dusting off the CDs since radio is silent on the matter.
Where are you, Christmas?
How can I find you?
Okay, okay, enough of that. Now down to business. Today I awakened to my daily email encouragment from the Lord, which read, in part: “Many of you, My people, have been trying to rescue things of the past that are no longer working or relevant to your life.”
Don’t get me wrong. There is much in these past twelve months worth holding on to. There is so much good and eternal in the past year that I will fondly remember for the rest of my life. Such grace, such peace, such contentment! A year of being set free from much, downsizing our lives of so much extra that seemed to incapacitate us, a series of memorable day trips this summer with my lovely, peace in the home, less worry over our son…we’ve seen how God delights to take care of His own who are in the wilderness and how He abundantly supplies. I’ve reconnected with old friends and family and though there have been episodes of sadness and parting, there has been ample draughts of joy brimming over.
But I must be on guard against perpetual reminiscence! It must have to do with turning 50, but I seem to be more sentimental and looking backward more than I ought. Paul told us the secret to Life in Christ is pressing, reaching and stretching to the things that lie before—especially THE thing of final glorification, when all is settled in me and on earth and the Father dwells among His people. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to be as the patriarchs of the faith who refused to settle, but traveled as pilgrims and centered their focus on a “continuing City”, made in Heaven, assembled on earth.
Just as the stones of Solomon’s Temple were quarried, measured, chiseled and shaped elsewhere, then assembled in its divinely appointed place, this is the project that should occupy my attention: God finishing His perfect work in me until His Son appears, who reigns until He puts all enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:25) then delivers the Kingdom to the Father-come-to-earth (v24).
Here, we have no continuing city, it is said.*
Snow melts, seasons pass, carols fade, memories vanish and bodies fail.
So Scott, stop holding on to things that are not meant to carry over. They are nice in the moment. But not fitted for eternity. Look ahead. You have surgery in the New Year. And a long-absent son will be coming home. But keep looking. There’s more to see, and know and lay hold of. Who knows what!
2010 will be hard to top.
So I’ll stop mourning what has been.
I’ll do what those ’92 Braves did. They kept their eye on the ball, not the backstop. They relished the season for a while, then got to work on the next. And even though they went from worst to first in that one magical, shining season, there was a ‘first-er’ still to come three years later.
I’m waiting on the bestest yet to come.