Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Best Gift Of All...

Yesterday, our entire family was under our roof for a Christmas celebration. Charlie's brother flew in from Boston Friday evening, my parents drove in from Ohio to celebrate my birthday with us Friday afternoon, Charlie's folks arrived Saturday around noon followed shortly after by his sister; and my brother, sister-in-law and sweet niece, Lilly Marie, showed up around 3:30 PM. Our house was brimming with people we love and who have loved us all our lives. Our girls were radiant with expectation and excitement. They adored having so many people shower them with love, attention and affection...oh, and the gifts that accompanied those people as well!

Charlie has to be on call for his office Christmas day, so we knew months ago that we wouldn't be able to travel to see either side of the family over the holidays. I have long dreamed of hosting a Christmas weekend, filled with festive foods, Christian fellowship, music, games, laughter, and general merry-making. I seized the opportunity to invite everyone to gather here. I scoured every back issue of Fine Cooking I own, searched through recipes online and poured over my own recipe box. We scurried to finish the downstairs portion of our remodeling projects and spent days cleaning and organizing closets, drawers, cabinets and the guest room. We shopped and chopped, cooked and cleaned and wore ourselves out thoroughly--all before one guest ever arrived! Two days before our first guest was to arrive, I found myself with a list too long to possibly complete and barely enough energy to put one foot in front of another. Instead of being energized about our Christmas extravaganza, I was wondering if I was going to survive!
Friday morning (which happened to be my birthday, as well!), while the kids were playing at a friend's house, I took a break from my final cleaning marathon and found this gem at Ann V.'s:

Christmas 1 Corinthians 13
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,
baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and
arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime:
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen,
carol in the nursing home,
and give all that I have to charity;
but do not show love to my family,
it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata
but do not focus on Christ,
I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love does not envy another's home
that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return;
but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.
Love never fails.

Video games will break,
pearl necklaces will be lost,
golf clubs will rust,
but giving the gift of love will endure.
--Author Unknown

I started thinking about why I wanted everyone at my table in the first share the tremendous love with which Christ has overwhelmed me; to minister to those who have made my way smoother and easier; to soothe secret aches and pains, too tender to disclose; to bless my children with the memory of their childhood home filled with love and joy; to allow the humble beginnings of Christ to be center-most in our celebration. The list went on and on...I was reduced to grateful tears as I remembered all that my Jesus has laid on my heart these last few months and the middle-of-the-night longings I have poured out to Him concerning our families. I felt the Holy Spirit lifting me out of the dreary valley of "doing" to the vista of "being." Being His daughter, His beloved, His chosen and anointed. There is so much freedom in relationship.

Soon, my tired feet were eager to complete the task of bringing the gospel of peace to those who would cross our threshold. My aching arms were now aching to hold the hearts and cares of those who were in need of the love of Christ. My dishpan hands were ready to be immersed in Living Water that would quench thirsty souls. My heart, which once was numbed by a relentless pursuit of perfection, was covered in the precious, life-giving blood of He who is perfect. My lips began to make gutturals of praise instead of complaint. Love's hope was re-born...

Yesterday was a blessed day for us all. The food was delicious, the house was shining, the gifts were appreciated, and merriness was made by all. My children went to bed rejoicing over the birth of Jesus and the love they had been able to share with family through the day. But, the best gift of all was God's reminder to us that He came to show us His love. He afforded Charlie and I the opportunity to be used as instruments of His love. He allowed us to express His love in our lives and allowed that love to overflow into the lives of our family. His love, His precious love, is the best gift of all.

Thank You, God, for Your love...thank You for always drawing back into the center of it. Thank You for loving through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.


Ann said...

Yippee, I'm glad you were able to really celebrate Christmas! You hit the nail on the head for what it's about--and not about :)

Charity Grace said...

What a beautiful post! Merry Christmas! (Hey, I'm back online, BTW)

mrks said...

What a blessed day it sounds like! I, too, spent the day with a huge bunch of my family and am eternally grateful that I still have time to share with them about God's love. I'm happy for you!

Sniz said...

I love the Proverbs 31 poem. How true.