And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. - Luke 2:48-50
It's Christmas Day and it's a sunny 49 degrees outside and I've taken my young men to the park to ride their bike and roller blades, but mostly just to flee the thick-with-virus air that is our house right now.
Christmas day isn't turning out to be all I was hoping for. My husband woke with a fever and fever blisters with a vengeance lining his mouth and throat. The boys were up at 6 am wanting to open presents and begin the festivities, but the sick man on the couch next to the Christmas tree had just barely fallen back to sleep at 4am. So kids got their first gift today: laying aside your will for another's good. A hard gift to receive, says the 42 year old mom who's still trying to accept that one with a joyful heart.
At 8 am, the too-sick-to-speak dad nodded his head yes to the question, "Can we open gifts now dad?" and the ripping of paper off packages began. Ryland got his Rollerblades and the Frisbee and boomerang he wanted. Connor got the all-things-survival gear and books he wanted. And I got the joy of giving them some gifts I had been inspired to give recently: The Gift of Time with Mom, The Gift of Wisdom, The Gift of Responsibility and The Gift of Giving.
After listening to some messages this week on parenting with a God-centered vision, I put together these titled gifts.
The Gift of Time with Mom- A $25 Starbucks card to be used only with one on one time with me and them individually. I admit, this one is more of a gift for me than them, but I'm hoping it will help build bridges that'll need to be crossed in the future and someday seen as a real gift.
The Gift of Wisdom- A challenge with a monetary reward (and prayerfully seeds planted with much longer lasting rewards than dollar bills).
- Read the book of John and discuss it with mom over desert.
- Read the Proverbs and write 5 proverbs you like and what you think they mean and 5 proverbs you have questions about. Discuss it with mom over desert.
- Read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, write a 1 page essay and discuss it with mom over desert.
- Read A Case For Christ by Lee Strobel, write a 2 page essay and discuss it with mom over desert.
The Gift of Responsibility- A $15 iTunes gift card with a contract for cell phone use to be signed.
The Gift of Giving- A savings account opened in their name with the following rule: Each month a fixed amount deposit will be automatically added to the account and each month they may withdraw 10% of the account for spending but only after withdrawing 10% for giving and selecting a charity they would like to give to.
I wasn't expecting lauds of praise for these certificate gifts wrapped in prayer and desire for seeds of faith to be planted. They both said, "Huh. Cool. Thanks mom..." which was more than I expected and then set those things aside to play with the fun stuff they got. That was good.
It's the part about my husband being very ill and church starting an hour earlier than I had written on my calendar for today's special service that had today not turning out as I had hoped. We arrived in the church parking lot as the service was letting out and I realized I had missed it.
Today didn't go how I was hoping, and it got me thinking about Mary and Joseph. I am sure, being the chosen parents of the Messiah didn't go how they expected. And it's not just Mary and Joseph who had to deal with their expectations about the Christ. The misguided expectations of the Pharisees and 12 chosen by Jesus and the crowds led to various conflicts too.
I'm sure Mary and Joseph didn't expect that Mary would give birth alone in an animal cave and place the newborn Son of David in a feeding trough. I'm sure they didn't expect him to leave them to go to the temple when he was 12 without telling them what he was doing and then when questioned about his actions say, "Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" I'm sure that when he started publicly showing himself to be the Messiah they didn't expect him to get himself betrayed and crucified. I'm sure along Jesus' life here as the son of Mary there were many expectations Mary had to deal with and let go of and trust God for answers to.
Jesus still messes with his people's expectations. His birth isn't what we would expect from the King of kings. His thoughts are not our thoughts. And his ways are not our ways. They are much, much higher. And other. And good.
This life is hard and doesn't always make for happy holidays, but the One who's birth I celebrate today is greater than all my troubles and expectations. It's him I go to with my questions and struggles and disappointments. He exposes my expectations and causes me to lift my sights much higher.
I hope your Christmas was flu-free and very pleasant. But if it wasn't, I hope you could see the totally expectation-breaking God made into flesh- at least a glimpse- and breath in the out-of-this-world peace and indescribable joy even a glimpse of him brings.