Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season of Rejoicing

I wanted to write a post for Christmas, but I wasn't sure how to tie everything that I was feeling into one blog post. The commercialization of Christmas is all around us, and threatening to choke the Christian's out. The only way I could think of to express this was in the following short story. Before I post the story, let me share again the Scripture I used last year at this time.
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

And now, for a short story. Enjoy.

A Season of Rejoicing
Emily slammed her fist on the steering wheel and mentally screamed at the car in front of her. It was noon on Christmas Eve and in front of her a seemingly endless row of cars stretched out towards the mall. Horns echoed across the highway as other impatient Christmas shoppers angrily navigated the holiday traffic, confirming that she was not the only one who had forgotten Aunt Sally and Cousin Jim's presents. She navigated her way through the sea of cars and found a parking spot at the end of a row. By the time she walked to the store it was nearly 12:30 pm. Her guests would begin arriving soon.
Inside the department store she fought through the crowds of people, silently agreeing with the complaints she heard in passing. After selecting the last presents she needed, she joined a line at the register which stretched into one of the aisles. As each minute eased past her she grew more impatient and more upset with the cashier and other customers. She finally made her purchase and hurried out of the store, brushing past the red-clad Salvation Army worker. The steady clang of their bell gave her a headache, adding to the irritation she felt.
By 3:00 Emily made it home with her purchases, having made a second stop to pick up needed cranberry sauce and gravy. Barely pausing to acknowledge the group of family and friends steadily gathering in her living room, she hurried to the kitchen and began to cook. In between stirring the gravy, defrosting the pumpkin pie, and peeking at the turkey in the oven, Emily hurried to the garage to wrap the last of the gifts. She then turned off the stove before depositing the gifts beneath the tree, only partially noticing the laughter filtering through the house.
The last few hours of the day seemed to fly by as Emily prepared the meal and then cleaned up after everyone had eaten their fill and more. By 7:00 pm exhaustion began to hit her and a wave of sadness passed over her as she realized that Christmas Eve was nearly over. Picking up the last of the dirty dishes from the table, she added them to the pile in the sink and donned her apron one last time to begin washing.
Just then a sweet melody of Christmas music drifted towards her from the living room. The voices of her friends and family carried the sounds of the season to her ears and exhaustion overtook her as a silent tear slipped down her face to join the murky dishwater below. The joyful voices of those around her did not reflect the feelings that the busy, commercialized Christmas season had taken for her. As she tried to regain her composure and ignore the thought that no one had offered to help her, no one had noticed her hard work and preparation, she felt a warm hand on her back. A strong voice behind her whispered in her ear “Emily, Emily, you are bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…” Turning around to see her brother standing there, Emily looked up with confusion. “Luke 10:41-42,” her brother Christopher said, still gently. “When Jesus was in the house of Mary and Martha, Martha was so caught up with the preparations of the season that she nearly missed the entire reason that she felt the need to prepare – the Lord was in her house! I know you want to make Christmas special for us, but don’t let that desire overshadow the reason we celebrate. We would much rather see your smiling face praising God with our Christmas hymns and joining with our fun, than have the table clean and floor vacuumed. Those things are nice, but Em, please don’t let man’s ideas of a perfect Christmas overshadow God’s perfect Christmas gift. Let’s spend time together, as a family.”
Conviction filled Emily’s heart as she realized that not once in the past month had she stopped to think of the birth of Christ, not once had she thanked God for His precious gift. Tears filled her eyes as her brother wrapped his arms around her. “I wanted everything to be just right…” she whispered. Christopher stopped her with his hand on her face, gently wiping the tears. “It is Em, it is. The Lord is in your house. That’s all we need…”
Emily let her brother lead her into the family room where her tears were soon forgotten. Before tearing open the gift wrap and exclaiming over material gifts, the group gathered around the Christmas tree and in front of a roaring fire read from the Bible the first story of Christmas.