Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Gingerbread Cookies
The leaves are turning, changing, and falling. Acorns litter the sidewalks and the air smells crisp. The mornings come a little bit later and the evenings a little earlier this time of year. Fog shrouds the mountain that I call home keeping its beauty a secret just for us. Everything this time of year tastes like Pumpkin Spice, it’s finally sweater weather, and boots, infinity scarves, and flannel once again become staples as they make their yearly comeback. Football is back, baseball is ending, and scare crows and Jack-O-Lanterns decorate most doorsteps.
It looks, smells, tastes, feels, like, well…
Let me explain that a little bit. I work with Operation Christmas Child, so Christmas is something of an everyday thing for me. Everyday I see red and green, I pack shoebox gifts, and think about Christmas.
You know how growing up, parents used to tell their kids that if Christmas came everyday, it wouldn’t be special anymore? It was only special because it was confined to a season, one season. Twinkle lights up for more than a few weeks would get tacky, the tree would die and dead pine needles are never fun, and Gingerbread and Peppermint aren’t really great go-to flavors. Quite simply, the magic of the season would very quickly become the mundane.
Now that I am living in this Christmas everyday reality, I’m realizing, those warnings simply aren’t true.
I think about Christmas every day. But I don’t think about Santa or Rudolph or chimneys or snow. I don’t think about kitchens that smell like sugar cookies or mistletoe or sleigh rides. I don’t think about hot chocolate or ornaments in the shape of bells or holly leaves, and I certainly don’t think about a grinch with a heart three sizes too small or an Island of Misfit Toys or a holiday ham. For the sake of my waistline, those things are best left confined to December.
But the Christmas that I think about, the real Christmas, has none of those things.
Because when I think about Christmas, I think about Creation. I think about a creator God who created light from an eternal darkness just by opening His mouth. I think about six days and all living things under Heaven and it being good. “It was good.”
But then I think about the fall. I think about how the finite created thought that they knew better than the infinite Creator and how they gave up paradise to know evil. The knowledge of good and evil sounded great, until they learned knowing evil meant experiencing evil. I think about self indulgence and overpowering, rotting filth that needed to be washed away by a cleansing flood of righteous judgment. I think about a promise marked by a rainbow of “never again”. I think about promises made and promises kept.
I think about a futile, human attempt to reach Heaven through the construction of a great tower. I think about how this prideful attempt at self deification led to the creation of people groups, of languages, and with it, the need to reach the nations. The need for missions. And how the very first verse of the very next chapter in the story of humanity records God’s sovereign plan for reaching the nations and for bringing them back to himself. And in that, I see an invitation to join Him on His mission.
I think about a long and rich history of sin and forgiveness and rebellion and reconciliation, bookended by a 400 year long captivity in Egypt and a 400 year long silence.
But then, as a newborn’s cry blended with the braying of donkeys and the bleating of sheep, God spoke again. I think about angelic proclamations that go something like this:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
I think about a perfect life followed by an atoning death followed by a victorious resurrection and how with the lash of a whip, the pounding of a hammer, the tearing of The Veil, and the echo of a once again empty tomb paradise lost became paradise restored.
I think about a call to action. To go and make disciples. To take the Gospel to Jerusalem first, and then to Judea and Samaria the ends of the earth. And I think about a promise.
He’s coming back.
And it’s these things that I think about. Christmas isn’t just December 25th. Its Genesis to Revelation.
This is why I pack shoeboxes, and this is what I pack inside shoeboxes. Because a little cardboard box takes not just toothbrushes and match box cars and erasers, but this message, the message of Christmas, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
This is the Christmas that I celebrate on a daily basis. Emmanuel. God with us. In us. And something this great, that I meditate on day and night, becomes more than what defines my thoughts. It defines me.
Good News. Great Joy.
I wouldn’t want to be defined by anything, or anyone, else.