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Sneaky Christmas

Christmas has been sneaking up on me for years.

Here it is, the first Sunday of Advent and I am, as usual, unprepared to meet the opportunities of the season with a ready receptor and available resources.

Every year I declare it will be different the next in both business and ministry. I will be geared up to reach the greatest number of people in every dimension of my life. I will have new books ready to sell and give as gifts. I will have amazing sermons ready to preach, cards ready to send, and e-commerce possibilities ready for big boosts to my income and that of my church.I will visit every lonely soul with an annual pastoral call and make contact with every old friend I have ever know. Those I miss will be centers around which I attract great guilt and regret to myself and I will sit beneath the tree wishing I had done a much better "job" of Christmas.

I plan for optimum. Then, it doesn't happen. It never really has. I have never been ready. I have always been ambushed by Christmas.

Yesterday, Andrea came home with all sorts of Christmas paraphernalia and she, Elijah, and Kaibian hung Christmas lights while I tended the baby and backed up Microsoft Outlook. Then she had the audacity to build a fire in the fireplace and host a cozy pre-Christmas moment in the living room.

The most infuriating part of it all was that she was 100% right and everyone enjoyed the time - some of us quite reluctantly.

All this is going on around me, and I am not even at the starting line. I am sulking over the fact that another Christmas has apparently already arrived without giving me the appropriate heads-up.

I am learning to do everything I do in the tiny cracks between other things in my life. No more protracted thinking times or solitude (some of which, I have quite frankly wasted away).

Yesterday, for instance, Kaibo did something unbelievably cute  which reminded me of a deep spiritual truth and - (Wouldn't you know?) - I didn't have a pen and paper with me to reflect upon it. And if I had, he would have grabbed it out of my hand with an expression of glee and called out, "BOOKIE," proceeding to write on it and everything else.

I guess I'll just have to live these moments and reflect later.

I had my alarm set for 3:50 A.M. - I had intended 5:00 A.M.. Adrianna roused me at 3:30 A.M. and the alarm went off as I was feeding her. Something inside me deceived me into resetting the alarm for 5 and returning to sleep. When it went off, I rolled over not to rise till 6:00 A.M.

So much for beating the rush - morning or Christmas.

For years I have had myself convinced that I was not experiencing anything unless I was writing, preaching, or singing about it and that it was even possible to miss the actual events as long as I expressed them with words.

Now I am wondering if anything I have ever done is as important as what I am doing now, wiping baby spit, changing diapers, playing cars, reading stories, and making breakfast.

In a little while, I will walk onto the platform of my church and preach on Jesus changing the water to wine. I will relate the words He spoke on that occasion indicating that His time had not yet come to the timeliness of all God does and the wonder of Christ's coming in the fullness of time with the new wine of grace and the ruddiness of incarnation. I will point out the significance of this event and its meaning to the Advent season and lead our people to the Lord's Table to partake of the bread and juice symbolizing His sacrifice for us and His abiding presence with us.

The service will begin at precisely 11:15 A.M. whether or not I am ready.

Christmas will come on time too even as Jesus came on time.

I may not feel that I have time for anything, but my times are in His hand.

A friend of mine in business was telling me that recently he had not been sure what his "WHY" was, that great dream that gets a person up and going and propels him over obstacles and frustrations. It is the reason for all we do and when we lose sight of it, we are a bit lost.

I think I know mine. It is an extension of one I have had in my heart for a long time, but it is currently taking a different shape that I had expected.

Our economists are on the clock. They measure things by quarters and points. They calculate the minutest details to formulate their forecasts and evaluate Christmas by  growth in predefined indicators.

What that still small voice that the prophet Elijah heard is yelling in my ear this Christmas is that there are no predefined indicators available to us which can define the bottom lines of our lives or the value of these moments. There is no adequate preparation for what had always been an invasion.

Light has invaded darkness suddenly. Praise has overwhelmed the noises of traffic. Hope has burst upon the scenes of despair all around us and we don't have to manage it, capitalize on it, or seize it. It seizes us.

Do what you can while you can. There is no problem there. Work hard, work smart, and work quickly. However, when you have done what you can and the results may not be what you projected, don't beat yourself up. The greatest loss to your bottom line is missing the unplanned, unanticipated moments of wonder. Success is a big part of what I teach and write, but it is not everything - especially our limited definitions of it.

Applause is fulfilling (for a few seconds) - making a sale is cool - commissions are great - a well attended event is gratifying - a smooth program will be remembered for a while ---- BUT - the smile on a baby's face when she has a clean diaper is HUGE.

And being surprised by Christmas sneaking up on you and realizing what it means for a sad and angry world to be visited by a joyful and loving Savior - That is amazing.