I'm trying to prepare myself for the Christmas that is God coming to dwell among us. The Christmas of Immanuel and babies born in inconvenient places. A baby loved and longed for - by generations of God-followers. A baby in a feed trough and angels that bring joyful news. A God who gives all for his people. His stumbling, small-faithed people.
I'm putting off the shopping because what do I really need to buy anyway?
Tonight we sang carols and Christmas songs. The curious blend of hymns to a child who brings grace and peace for all, and songs of a bearded, red-suited man who brings a list of naughty and nice and only rewards the good. No presents for me, then, Santa.
It is strange that we love Santa, the legalist, that he makes us cheer. And that we admonish our children with his gracelessness. Is it just that worldly push to measure and compare, to be able to be good enough ourselves? Does Santa speak to that part of us? Or is it that he demands so little of us? Nothing but a carrot and a glass of milk once a year.
We long for a jolly-faced man who visits with presents, out of the blue. Somehow Santa is a symbol of mystery and magic and the 'universe' blessing us. It is the love we long for, the belonging we seek. The comfortable lap of the one who lets us tweak his beard and nestle on his knee.
Again I come back to Romans 8. It's about belonging. To Christ and his father and finding real life and real family. This father lives in us. It's not just a visit each Christmas. It's God with me every day, hallowing my struggles and blessing my small joys with his presence. He's welcomed me into his family, with an embrace and the privelege of affectionately speaking his name.
This curious mix of awe and familiarity seems paradoxical. But it's real family.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.
Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”