spiritual life

I lost baby Jesus!

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

Somewhere in the dank, dark basement is a blue tub. And, in that tub is an abundance of crumpled bits of wrapping paper left over from Christmases past. And, CIMG5895_edited-1.JPGin one of those bits is the baby Jesus figurine that is usually hidden away in a buffet drawer until the morning of Dec. 25.

It’s true. I’ve somehow lost baby Jesus!

There’s no doubt a blog in that — losing the reason for the season in a house that is already decorated ABT. (All But Tree — wink, wink, grad students.) But, that isn’t where I’m going.

On Facebook, my Fresh Mercy mini-blog is presenting a name of Jesus and a corresponding scripture each weekday. Lamb of God, Light of the World, the Amen, Beloved Son, the Rock, He Who Liveth and Was Dead and so forth. Some of the name scriptures are from the Old Testament, particularly the book of Isaiah. Most are from New Testament books written by the Apostle John, one of the 12 men who spent three years or so directly ministering with Jesus.

It’s those latter verses that have captured my attention. John seems to have understood Jesus at a level that even the other disciples did not. It likely not an accident that he was the one Jesus chose for the vision of Revelation. And, John’s awareness of the fullness of Jesus’s identity is most often expressed in names that make me shiver. They’re throughout his gospel, where every action seems to be tied to one. And, in Revelation, the names fly fast and glorious, almost as if there is not enough space on the page or in the world (as John once suggested) to contain just who God the Son is.

Those thoughts were on my mind when I realized the wee figurine that we once used to set the story of the Nativity in our daughters’ minds was missing. They’re nearly grown now. They know the story. We know the story. And, it is a story far too big to be, well, contained.

So, resin baby Jesus will stay wherever he is and I am going to do my best to celebrate a Christmas and a life that lets God the Son be God. Vast, complex and full of mysterious glory.

books

Top 5 Christmas reads

“The only other sound’s a sweep of easy wind and downy flake.” Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Are there certain books you make time for, no matter how busy the holiday season? I know I have a handful that I come back to time after time. So, if you’re looking for a good book to curl up with anytime soon or you have other favorites to share, scroll on!

  1. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. I’ve never seen the movie (Christmas with the Kranks) because I fear it won’t live up to the book. John Grisham’s legCIMG5821_edited-1al thrillers are amazing, but this novella displays the breadth of his range. Hilarious, wry, heart warming. It’s all there in this story about a couple who attempts to skip the holiday hoopla when their only child heads off to the Peace Corps.
  2. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This vignette of life at the edge of the American frontier is worth reading for the food scenes alone. Food, in fact, should be listed in the roster of characters, right alongside Ma, Pa and the rest. Sitting on pumpkin “chairs” in the attic. Making candy from molasses and snow. This is a book you can practically taste.
  3. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, written by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. Frost’s poem must be read aloud, with its whooshing alliteration that mimics snow. Jeffers’ mostly black-and-white illustrations are pure magic, full of hidden creatures and a story line of their own.
  4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Christmas is laced through this coming-of-age story about a group of sisters whose father heads off to the Civil War. There are carols I’ve never heard before, food scenes, family, humor, heartbreak. A perfect read for a cold night.
  5. The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber. She’s written a lot of beloved Christmas stories, several of them made into Hallmark movies, but this is my absolute favorite. A young woman disgusted with the dating scene (or lack thereof) employs a matchmaker who gives her a series of holiday-hero tasks before he will introduce her to her “best match.” The Salvation Army bell-ringing scene had me laughing so hard it hurt.
spiritual life

Why does God matter?

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis, British author

It wasn’t a game of stump the teacher. The kid — eight years old and messy haired — looked at me in all sincerity and asked, “Why does God matter?”

Used to years of teaching church kids — who tend to answer any Sunday CIMG5848_edited-1.JPGSchool question with “Jesus,” even if it’s about Elijah or manna — I was flummoxed. I said something about God as creator and judge. It was theologically correct, but in no way satisfied her curiosity. Nor mine.

That question — why does God matter — has been floating around my brain for the last seven years. It shows up in my speech, my actions, my writing. It, in fact, has changed the way I look at all things church.

Which is a good thing — as there’s not a whole lot of “church” left in this world. There is, instead, a vague spirituality that ranges from blatant hypocrisy at its worst to an open curiosity like that little girl’s at best. That latter spirituality — often found in younger people who grew up completely outside of the church world — is disarming. And charming.

It reminds me of God and Moses, meeting nearly face to face on a mountain. They were already acquainted, but Moses wanted to know more. God responded, in person. And, fascinatingly, He literally walked by Moses, both naming and describing Himself as He passed. “Merciful.” “Gracious.” “Longsuffering.” “Abundant in goodness and truth.”

Why does God matter? I suspect that mountaintop encounter probably holds the answer. We only figure out why God matters — and how much — as we get to know Him. And, we only get to know Him bit by bit — the same way He unfolded facets of Himself on that mountain.

Those descriptor names — merciful, gracious — are critical. As are the many names of Jesus, whom church folks all over the world are celebrating this season. Morning Star, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Man of Sorrows. It’s true. The who of God the Father and God the Son drive the why.

So, if you are among the curious, you may enjoy visiting my Fresh Mercy blog on Facebook/NoraEdingerBooks (which can also be viewed on this site by scrolling lower on the page) over the next few weeks. Beginning with today’s Bright and Morning Star, bite-sized weekday posts will focus on the who of God.

Stop by. Hear His names. Take in those names. And, don’t be surprised if you suddenly know the answer to that little girl’s question for yourself. Christmas blessings!