And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Christmas has been slow in arriving at our house this year. We usually have the tree up Thanksgiving weekend. By now I have usually baked all sorts of Christmas treats. In past years, by the second week of December, we would have already gone on several Christmas light expeditions in search of the best lights in Austin.
But this year, we’re slowly setting our Christmas decorations. Our tree went up a day ago. We haven’t had a night yet to go joy-tripping along any streets strung with twinkling lights except our own.
One of my boys said it didn’t really feel like Christmas last night. He blamed the warm temperatures Austin is experiencing, but I suspect he’s also feeling the unusual shift in our Christmas pace. Part of this slowing of Christmas is our kids’ schedules, but mostly it’s being caused by all the work my book launch requires of me.
Subconsciously, I suspect I am riding the brakes a little bit because I want to slow time down before Holy Guacamole launches in February. While half of my heart can’t wait to find out what God’s plans for this book are, another part of my heart wants more time to get all the things done before the book is out there in the world, living its best life.
I wonder if this is how God feels about us and heaven. Maybe He can’t wait for the day we arrive in His presence, but He also wants to give us as much time as possible here on earth to live our best gospel lives.
A piece of heaven arrived on earth with Jesus. Likewise, a piece of heaven arrives with us in our families, our workplaces, at our dog parks, in our cars, in restaurants, in our churches.
I’m beginning to understand what it means to be a heavenly people, and I want as much time as possible to bring heaven to earth.
Heavenly people light the world with hope.
Heavenly people are merciful and kind.
Heavenly people humbly repent for their sin.
Heavenly people love others more than themselves.
Heavenly people feed the hungry and clothe the needy.
Heavenly people fill the earth with beauty.
Heavenly people smile at strangers, wave at the person on the corner, and put more money in the offering plate when they can. They play another game with their children, and then they read another story. They tuck their animals in warm beds on cold nights. Heavenly people encourage their friends, show up on time to work, and check in on their neighbors. They laugh at their coworker’s ridiculous dad jokes, take their teenage child out for burgers, and pray that all who are wandering alone will find a place to belong.
Heavenly people long for the comfort of Christ to fill the ache of humanity so much they are compelled to offer comfort to anyone they see in need of it.
Although our Christmas traditions have been slow in coming this year, I realize now that Christmas itself is right on schedule in our hearts. In all our slowness, we have been fighting to be present every day as God’s heavenly people, proclaiming His glory to a world hungry for salvation and hope; which is better than a cup of cocoa and a night spent looking at the best lights in town.
I hope Slow Christmas becomes our new tradition, and I never forget the lesson of this year.
Oh Lord, slow us down a little so we can see who needs Your comfort this Christmas. Let us be Your heavenly people, building Your Heavenly Kingdom here in increasing measure one day at a time. Help us to savor you and offer Your goodness to all the people we encounter so that Christmas Day will be a celebration not only of all You’ve done for us, but also all You’ve done with us. Amen