Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Story

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." ~John 3:16 &17 (NLT)

Have you ever seen the movie "A Christmas Story"?   Set in the 1940s little Ralphie is on a mission to convince his parents that he must have a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. It's his only wish for Christmas.....he's desperate for it! But his parents response is always basically the same "no way! you'll shoot your eye out!"

I have a couple of wonderful family Christmas stories but my personal favorite, involves that clarinet I mentioned in an earlier blog . Although several years have passed, it still brings tears to my eyes when I re-tell it.  My daughter, Chelsea was in 4th grade at the time. Her older sister, Kristi was in 7th grade.

We were in a crazy busy time of our lives. Each of the girls were 3 sport athletes in separate age groups, often playing on two teams EACH  during the same season. Rec soccer and travel soccer for example. There were practices every night of the week for one or both of them. In addition, there were birthday parties, tournaments, appointments, practices, games, CONSTANTLY! It was a very full but very happy phase of our life. We were busy but we were always together.

One fall afternoon, Chelsea came home from school, unloaded her backpack and dumped the contents on the table. With excitement in her voice, she said "Mom, I want to do this" and handed me a notice for the sign ups for band. She described in detail the demonstration that day at school. The musical instrument company had visited and brought along an assortment of instruments for the children to listen to, touch,  hold and admire. Chelsea was SOLD!

"No way! Chelsea, we are already soooooo busy! We have games and practices every night of the week. There is no way, I'm paying for an instrument and then fighting with you to practice. Absolutely NOT! This is not gonna happen" I insisted.

She begged and she pleaded and she begged some more. I said "NO" over and over and over again. For weeks we went back and forth. When I arrived at school to pick her, the band teacher greeted me. "Chelsea really wants to do this" she said. I explained my case, we're too busy, there just isn't time, I'm not wasting money on something I know she'll quit in 3 months. "We have a two week trial period, I can get her an instrument on loan at no charge. Let's just try and see how she does" the teacher persuaded.

I finally relented. Chelsea borrowed a clarinet from a former student and began her lessons. Now, this is going to sound like I'm bragging but the God's honest truth is..... that girl took to the clarinet like a fish takes to water. She didn't squeak and cause her parents to wear earplugs. She didn't fuss and have to be told to practice. She couldn't wait to get home from school and get her hands on that clarient. It was amazing......her passion for music and her instrument was incredible. Not being musically inclined, I had no idea of what she was capable of. Impressed is an understatement!

 By late November, it had become clear that Chelsea was in love with music. She was talented and it wasn't a phase. It would become a lifetime passion. As we worked on our Christmas Lists it became very clear what Chelsea would wish for .....her own, very new, very shiny clarient. She knew it was impossible. She also knew that she wanted it more than anything.  It was an outrageously extravagant gift,  financially,  I mean. Even so, I contacted the instrument company and arranged for monthly payments and delivery of the highly sought after, much loved clarient.

That Christmas morning, I honestly cant remember if it was the first gift or the last. Probably the latter, because.....well, I like to mess with my kids like that! Chelsea stood there ready to open her gift. Camera poised, I waited and watched. She tore the paper...... she realized the gift...... she screamed!......and then in a moment that took me completely by surprise.....she bawled. She clutched that gift to her chest and...... she sobbed. My 9 year old daughter was so touched and awed, she stood there and cried tears of gratitude and love.  It was without a doubt, probably  one the most genuine moments I have ever witnessed  of my children. She was in love. To this day, she loves her clarinet. She sat "First Chair" in the band her Freshman Year of High School and continues to excel and impress us all. The gift of this clarinet far surpassed anything I thought or expected.

This Christmas as we get caught up in all of the busyness, the decorating, the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, let's not forget that we too have been given a gift.  An outrageously, extravagant gift that is impossible to completely understand.

 A gift that arrived wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. God sent us the gift of his only son, Jesus. He came to earth, suffered, died, was buried. He  rose again three days later and ascended to Heaven. He came here so that we would be forgiven of our sins and could have eternal life in Heaven. He came here and left with us, the Holy Spirit, to guide and teach us how to "do life".

As with any gift, it must be given and it must be accepted. You may be  saying  to yourself, just as I said to my sweet daughter,  "I just don't have time for this"..."There's no more room in my life for anything else! There's no money, there's no time, there's no energy"......"Absolutely not! This just isn't what I need right now".

I can with all honesty tell you, accepting God's  gift will change your life. It's changed mine. Just as I couldn't have anticipated the joy Chelsea's talents would bring to her, and to all who hear her play....I never anticipated the joy having a personal relationship with Jesus brings. Please understand it's  not about going to church on Sunday, sending your kids to Bible School, or obeying all the rules....that's religion. The gift I am talking about is RELATIONSHIP.  Its about having a personal  relationship with God, with Jesus.

The benefits, you wonder? More love to your life, my joy to your world, more peace to your every day existence. It brings the assurance that no, you are not perfect, but you are forgiven and you will be received in Heaven when you leave this world.  It's too easy? You're right, it is the most simple, beautiful gift you ever receive. Here's the just have to accept it! Once you do, I have no doubt the tears of gratitude and love will pour out of you as well.

Have you accepted the gift that God has given you? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If not, why? If you want to know more,  please ask.

Father God~

May we never forget the Christmas gift you gave each of us. That you sent your son, Jesus, to save each one of us. May we accept that gift with open hearts and in absolute awe.  May our response be that of a child, clutching tightly to our hearts the treasure it is. May we love that gift and honor it and share it with others,  the way you intended us to do. Thank you Father God for the most incredible Christmas gift we could ever receive. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Holiday Hugs!

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