I love this season. I love the festivity of it all. For example, all the twinkle lights that brighten my commute to work; the completely irrational inflatable characters that dangle precariously from our neighbor's roof (ie the Santa on the motorcycle or the ice skating snowman); and the overwhelming smell of cinnamon that emanates from the holiday section of Walmart. However, more than that, I love the real reason for this time of celebration. I love that Jesus came to save us. I love that He knew what His 33 years would consist of, and that He chose to come anyway. I love that His beginnings were humble; born in a stable, surrounded by animals of burden, to a poor family with no ceremony or pomp and circumstance. The King of the Universe chose to came quietly and into the lives of the "lowest of these". Can you imagine how different it would have been had He entered the world as the son of a queen? Surrounded by servants and palaces of gold? Instead, Jesus grew up very quietly. He didn't have a job in the spotlight. To the contrary, he was a carpenter. I think this choice, to begin his life in semi-anonymity, makes it easier to accept that He could possibly love me. He wasn't afraid to sit with lepers or to be seen with prostitutes... He made it obvious that He wasn't ashamed of those He called His children and that, just because a person was ostracized by society, it didn't mean that Jesus would turn that person away. Jesus made it clear that He worked with a different set of rules and that He wasn't concerned with the outer person - His only concern was the heart of a person.
Lowell and I have had a chance to learn more about this lately in a decision that we've been trying to make. We have been on our knees in prayer about what path to take for the future of our family - seeking to understand God's will for our lives. And then we heard an interesting sermon... The topic was on God's perfect will versus His permissive will. To clarify, this is a belief that is very common in churches that says that God has a perfect will for each person - a very specific path that they should take throughout life, and that He also has a permissive will - the life that a person leads when they don't exactly stay on the path or make choices that aren't aligned with God's will for them. The pastor likened it to hopping from one lily pad to the next in an attempt to find the "right" path across the river. Then he explained the silliness of this belief, especially when applied to the hunt for a spouse. If, for example, a person chooses the "wrong" spouse - a person outside of God's perfect will, whatever children they may have won't fit into God's perfect will. They won't even have a chance - and, because they weren't ever supposed to exist, they won't have mates that are within God's perfect will either.. And on and on..
That being said, while I had never had it explained to me or had this label placed on it, I know now that I grew up in a church believing in the perfect/permissive will of God. I had been taught to agonize over each decision to be sure that I was living in accordance to the will of God; that I attended the 'right' college, made the 'right' job choices, etc... But then after listening to this pastor, I have come to question that belief. This pastor explained that God's concern is the heart of a man - not the occupation. God is not limited by the choices that we make. He can use us wherever we are, so long as our hearts are open and obedient to Him.... So, this has made our decision much easier... As long as we are following God's word and keeping our hearts pure and open to His direction, the rest is just details.
In my attempt at metaphor, I tried to compare this to our Christmas tree... The ornaments on the tree may be beautiful and the twinkle lights may be relaxing and hypnotic, but they can be moved about the tree without making much of a difference in its beauty. However, unless the star at the top of the tree is pointing heavenward, there's a problem. (Like the tree is falling over :)) So, yes, we have some decisions to make but the details are no longer so important. The focus for us now is that our hearts and lives are pointing heavenward - the rest is just colorful balls and twinkle lights.