Monday: John 4
Tuesday: John 5
Wednesday: John 6
Thursday: John 7
Friday: John 8 and 9
So every year I have every intention of not getting caught up in the Christmas craziness.
I’m going to revel in the beauty and wonder and family magic.
I’m not going to worry about all the shopping and the baking and the commitments and the wish lists.
And then its December 2nd .
And I’m already worried about delivery dates (seriously – when I ordered the thing it said “in stock” and now you’re saying it won’t be here until when?!?!?),
and Christmas treats (I need more notice than 1 evening to be ready for a bake sale. Can I get an amen?!!?),
and too many things happening on one day (how in the world can they not know our basketball schedule until the day before?!?!?!?)
Even advent feels like another thing I’m behind at.
This? This is my family advent calendar devotional this year.
Each day we read a scripture written on the back and discuss or do an activity together.
Essentially we do whatever the card says. Magical right?
But look closely.
You’ll notice that there are 5 cards hanging – which would indicate that I am writing this blog on December 5th.
But the jokes on you. Because:
1. Today is actually December 6th.
2. We did the 1st and 2nd cards on Monday because I forgot to start the advent calendar on Dec. 1.
3. We did the 3rd and 4th cards on Wednesday because we didn’t eat dinner together on Tuesday.
4. I actually hung the “cover” card which explains how to use the calendar. It isn’t actually part of the advent devotions.
So to recap. It is December 6th. I am 2 days behind on an advent calendar that started 5 days ago and we had to double up on half the evenings because we were so behind.
Just keeping it real, friends. #adventfail
What I think I find so confounding in all of this is that I am desperate to be present and unencumbered in my life in general, but especially at Christmastime. I mean, did you read Pastor Tony’s blog last week?
Christmas is all about Jesus coming near – being present here. With us. Isn’t that amazing?
I want to bask in that.
I want to get excited and anticipate the manger scene and the birth of my Savior.
I want to savour the waiting.
But most of the time I feel like I’m missing it.
I’m so thankful that none of this surprises Jesus.
Like somehow I know that He is softly chuckling at my pathetic advent calendar and waiting for me to remember that the shopping and the baking and the get togethers and even the advent calendar itself is not the way I am going to experience His presence this season.
Because they are not the first things.
And He is gently reminding me that all I need to do is put first things first.
Jesus modelled this for us through His time on earth with His disciples.
He wasn’t hurried or rushed or burdened by societal pressures or norms.
I have a distinct feeling that He would not feel panicked to receive a ‘revised delivery date’ email from Indigo or a reminder on his iphone about a turkey He forgot to put in the oven.
He always put first things first.
The first things are God’s love for His people.
Not due dates or wish lists or even spiritual practices or guidelines.
People are always first.
Check it out.
In John chapter 4 Jesus hangs out with a woman at the well who was not only morally questionable but from a people group His Jewish brothers and sisters would never associate with.
But first things first – she needed to hear about the living water. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (ch.4:10)
In chapters 5 and 9 Jesus mercifully heals a man ON THE SABBATH.
First things first – these people needed to know they were seen, and loved, and that both their bodies and their souls could be healed through Jesus’ love and power. The Sabbath is subject to God, not God to the Sabbath. “…I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (ch.9:39)
In chapter 6 Jesus is doing miracles everywhere – feeding thousands, walking on the water, healing the sick - even though He is trying to get a bit of space and take a rest.
Because first things first – these people need to know that for them to do Gods’ work they need “to believe in the one He has sent” (ch. 6: 29)
In chapter 7 Jesus is explaining how He has been sent by God to them but they can’t receive Him because they are consumed with the law and what they expected the Messiah to look like.
First things first – “stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement.” (ch.7:24)
In chapter 8 Jesus is chiding them on the pride they have in their lineage and their arrogance in their identity as God’s chosen people.
First things first – God alone chooses His people. And “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (ch.8:47)
So what does this mean for me?
First things first – people over performance. Presence over perfection. Love above all else.
Even above the advent calendar.
What about you?
Some things to ponder as you read this week:
1. Spend some time talking to Jesus about how you can make first things first this Christmas season. I know you’ll find He isn’t going to shame you or make you feel terrible – but ask Him to point out where your priorities might be shifted.
2. As you read, ask Jesus to show you who you are in the story. (hint: you are never, ever Jesus). Embrace the affirmation or conviction this may bring. Remember, we are looking to be made ever increasingly like Jesus and it isn’t always easy.
3. Thank Jesus for the gifts He has given you this season. Express your gratitude for the way He works – both during His earthly ministry and in your life today. Ask Him to remind you of these gifts throughout this season and enable you to keep first things first.