All that is left on this Eve is the crown

As I sat reading this morning while drinking diluted, doctored coffee, my eyes and mind went over and again to this Advent countdown with cutout cardstock in the center of the kitchen table.

My youngest and I have worked our way, day by day, cutting and sorting and displaying the individual steps.

I realize as I stare that all that is left on this Eve is the crown. It is the final piece and with it we are to crown Him King.

Each of the steps has walked us through the reality of that mind-boggling event.

The baby is in the manger.

The shepherds have been stunned.

Joseph and Mary have both borne shunning but now become something more. They are now bearing Grace, Relief, Comfort not yet fully known.

Wise men have perceived and studied and journeyed.

Jealous rulers have raged.

The angels have declared, proclaimed and worshiped.

The Innkeeper gave the only small space remaining.

We are down to this final piece, here on the table.

That crown.

That crown and the question of what we do next.

As I rejoice in a home that is literally warm on a cold winter morning and was filled with laughter into late night hours, I am thankful.

I am thankful for a 23-year-old who would choose to be home with siblings and enjoy silly times with third graders and teenage girl sisters and a best friend brother.

There is a part of me that still feels broken.

The breaking part comes when I think of unrest, unwelcome, cold, desolate ones who aren’t experiencing these same grace-filled moments. Strangers on borders looking for a home, mobs in stores emptying shelves, those fighting and tearing one another down, death and disease—there is desperation all around. 

I think of brokenness and it lurks within my own heart. It is all because we have enthroned self, not Savior. The crown is still looking for its rightful place.

My own heart has chosen self.

I think of this Christmas Eve, the Eve of all eves.

I recall original Eve and there it is again, original sin. It is the choice handed down, born in time and throughout the ages. Choosing self even in the midst of beauty and wonder. 

We chose that one other thing we didn’t have, hadn’t tasted. 

Not unlike today, there is one more think I didn’t have, I haven’t tasted and thus the tree in my living room is stacked high with gifts. Like a tree in a garden bearing fruit that was not intended that way. 

I stop and thank God on this Eve that He has more than restored what was wrought in that Eve.

This King arrived in humility and arrived to give all that He had. His very life yielded up willingly that I can sit safe, rescued and reassured that this is not for naught.

He has overturned the selfish choice by demonstrating that selfless love. 

He entered the mess and made the way.

So that cutout crown lies in the middle of my table and the last step is my choice. 

What to do now with this God King, humbly cut out, cut up, raised up on a tree. 

I look to Mary and Joseph in that quiet moment on a silent night and find rest in the grace of the One who came to save.

This Eve I rejoice for the King who came to save and gladly give up the crown.

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Christmas has come

The wee hours of Christmas morning, maybe even still Christmas Eve, I recall heart racing as I huddled under the covers with dad’s digital green glow watch. Not able to necessarily “tell time,” I stared and waited for the numbers 5-0-0 to come across the face for that is when I was instructed to return to my parents’ room. This seemed an eternity staring hard at the glowing face, anticipation building. It wasn’t long in reality, in the larger context of tired parents who’d been up late to assemble, to set up, to lay out.

They (I would later understand) were equally excited about what was to come and their plans were delightful but because they were the parents, they knew the appropriate timing. They knew what should be—for their sakes and mine. Even on the simplest of levels, fatigue and health, they had my best at heart. I had no realistic sense of this, only the promise of what was to come and my own unbridled excitement and limited knowledge that it would.

Over and over again God teaches through my children and He uses my own childhood and perspective gained as a parent now looking back. I fully recognize now their cooperation, their giving, their kindness and gentleness in the face of my impudent longing.

Our great God has held fast by His own gentleness and encouragement in long, dark hours.

Abraham comes to my mind. The promise—the calling of what anyone of stature and prominence would have during that time and place—to have a family name that stretches boundlessly throughout generations. To have the stigma of barrenness eliminated, erased. The promise fulfilled would do just that, but the timing must be right. He endured for more than 25 years just to receive Isaac. For Sarah and Abraham to watch month to month while evidence of pregnancy evaporates—dirt and heat and filthy rags reminding the waiting weary. Hopeful hearts diminish to the point of “helping God.” It must be time they demanded—their own timeline pulling a handmaiden into the plot. It’s like any of us fumbling in the dark, all the way to our parents bedroom, insisting in the dead of the night that morning is here!

Hard consequences chase foolish decisions in moments of second-guessing faithfulness. Just ask Eve.

I think of John the Baptist who knew that he knew from inside the womb. Ready, proclaiming, unworthy to unloose sandal straps. He speaks truth. He knows that Christmas is coming. He’s seen Him with his own eyes, but locked away on the whim of a guilty leader he awaits the morning. He doubts his own assurance in dark hours, sending word by disciples to Jesus: Are you the one to come or shall we look for another? (Matthew 11) He waited, expecting, believing and found all confirmed the moment a drunken Herod succumbed to take his life. Our God is faithful to the end, in the darkest of moments—never asking more than what He himself fully gave.

Today we look hard at the time, the times anticipating all the promises, all the good we know to come. Our own longings and long hours weigh heavy on heart and mind. Wasn’t it more than this we were promised? He has plans for good, we know.

A groaning world groans louder, longer. The ache of the broken, the lost, the angry thunders loud all around. Rumors of wickedness flourish, and worse the rumors are true. “As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:10)

The world asks the taunting question while we turn again to Christmas, and a baby.

Mary’s excitement over an angel’s pronouncement must have faded some as whispers around from family and friends suspected the worst. Joseph surely fumbled with words and felt face warm with shame when he stared hard at the love of his life and tried to take in the prospect she could be pregnant without him, without any man. Surely this is not the way God intended.

Yet once again He sent word of encouragement, of assurance. Angels appeared. Cousins cried out. A baby lept for joy. Shepherds witnessed in amazement and went searching for themselves. The wise from afar recognized the signs and followed to logical resolution—the King has come.

The singular Word of all—of encouragement, of rescue, of promise fulfilled—was made flesh. Because He was, because He is, we can hold fast in the dark. We can stare hard at the light of His promise under the cover of a dark place and know the promise is true. Every longing will be filled to overflowing. Real rescue is palpable and Christmas has come. This day. Every day.