Happy Birthday, Jesus

When I was younger, every year on my birthday, my mom would look at the clock and tell me exactly what she was doing at that time on the day of my birth.

“Eight years ago right now, Dr. Anstey was making me walk up and down the stairs to induce labor.”

“Fourteen years ago right now, I was seeing your face for the very first time.”

I imagine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, would do the same thing every year on his birthday.

“Eleven years ago right now, a bunch of strange shepherds burst into our little room telling us amazing stories about how angels came and sang about your birth.  They came to see you, because you are the one we’ve all waited centuries for.  You, my sweet, growing baby, are the hope of this world.”

Maybe she still makes her way over to Jesus in Heaven and whispers in his ear, “2012 years ago right now, the inn keeper found some extra space in his stable.  Joseph made a nice bed of hay for me to lay in as you prepared to enter this world.  It smelled of donkeys, but I’m so thankful that we had a place to stay.”

I wrote this last year, trying to bring reality to the story I’d heard so many times.  Here is the story of Jesus’ birth as I imagine it may have really happened:

God had promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people.  Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be.  I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior.  They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this:  He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years.   People probably lost hope over the centuries.  They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.

Then one day God approached an angel.  “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding.  Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?!  This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years.  Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.

Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news.  Still they had to wait another 9 months.  The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come.  They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem.  But the wheels were set in motion.  Joseph and Mary set off on their journey.  They took their time and arrived about seven days later.  There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.

Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction.  The angels waited with eager expectation.  They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on.  “Breathe,” they chanted.  “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!

After much labor, He was born.  He was here.  God was on earth.  It was done.  Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife.  He would be beaten and bruised.  Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus.  He would have to work hard and study harder.  He would have to feast and fast.  He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders.  But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby.  As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.

The angels cheered!  God, in heaven, wept over the beauty that is new life.  Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die.  Over the pride he had in his newborn baby.

Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night.  Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration.  Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge.  Something big just happened.  The One that people had prophesied for years about was here.  The new King.  And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.

Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them.  It was a being of some sort.  Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them.  They were terrified!  What was going on?  The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke.  He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited.  He had to spread the good news!!!

“Calm down, don’t be afraid.  Shh, shh.  Listen up!  I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you!  You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!”  The shepherds stopped, stunned.  The sheep calmed, too.  They all listened intently to what this being had to say.  “Today, just now… He’s here!!!”  The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief.  “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem!  He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for.  He’s the Messiah, the LORD!  Go, find him!  He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in strips of cloth.  GO!”

ANGELS-IN-PRAISE

An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer.  They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing.  I assure you they did not stand still like a choir.  The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels.  They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration.  Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.

The shepherds stood in silence.  They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream.  “What just happened?” they asked each other.  “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said.  They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy.  They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.

Then they found it.  I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were.  And there He was.  “So, it’s true?  This is the One?  This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”

Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him.  This is God’s son.  He will save us all”

The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes.  What an amazing night.  Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!!  They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets.  They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them.  They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping.  They fell to their knees and started crying.  “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise.  You said that He would come and he is here.  You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said.  You told me.  You let me be a part of this night.  I will never forget this.  I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story.  May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all.  May it be as you said.  Thank you!”

Baby-Jesus-mary

And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in.  She didn’t get any sleep that night.  The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true.  She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart.  For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history.  A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth.  It. Was. Huge.

 

May God remind you on this Christmas Eve of the amazing things he’s done to save you.  And may you and yours be blessed this Christmas season as you celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Singing

There’s something about singing carols together at Christmastime.  Everyone knows the Christmas songs.  Everyone sings them aloud.  I sat with my grandmother the other day listening to Christmas music on the radio.  Her memory is sadly declining.  Her brain can’t remember what she was saying at the beginning of each sentence just four words earlier.  But she sang along to White Christmas.  She was able to remember some of the words, but when they left her, she hummed in perfect harmony with Bing Crosby.  I loved it!

I stood in a crowd of about 60 high schoolers and adults last night as we sang old familiar carols together.  The music was soft, and the instruments even dropped out all together at the end of a couple of the songs and we could all hear each other.  In moments like those I get choked up.

There’s something about singing that brings unity.

It’s not every day that you get to sing with a group of people.  The average person, with no particular talent, doesn’t sing together as a family.  I have a family of exceptional talent and we don’t sing together either.

I can remember one holiday in my life when my grandma asked her talented kids to sing together.  We all sat around the piano as their voices blended perfectly, as if they were made to be used that way.  I sat and listened and tried so hard not to cry.  But that kind of beauty always brings me to tears.  I think it runs in my family.

I’ll never forget the Christmas my cousin made up a song about Randall.  It was funny and irreverent and completely made up.  Sean got out his guitar and sang about a youth minister who accidentally dropped the f bomb.  And my grandma (the same one as above) had tears in her eyes.  “Why don’t you do this more often?” she asked him.  She wanted him to use his creativity and talent more often, not necessarily sing about cussing.  We laughed so hard about that.

Every once in a while, Randall will get out his guitar and sing with the boys.  They make up funny songs and the boys always want to play along.  We haven’t done that in a long time.

I wonder why we don’t sing more often, together.  It’s one of those awkward things to do outside of certain situations.  But I can’t think of a single moment when a spontaneous sing-a-long did not make me smile.

If you decide to incorporate more singing in your holiday season or not, enjoy the moments of song this month.  Sing in the car.  Go caroling!  Pay attention to the feeling of unity; being one of many as you sing in a congregation each weekend.

May God bless you with moments of unity, harmony, and song this Christmas season!

Heartbroken

I am heartbroken. I’m devastated.

It happened.

Just like I knew it one day would, but it happened way too early.

My boys asked the question we, as parents, thought would one day come. We had an answer all rehearsed, but “the talk” never goes exactly as planned, does it?

The older neighbor boy exposed my boys to some information that they were way too young to hear.

I guess I should be thankful that they came to us to verify the information.

Still, I’m saddened that we had to have the conversation at all.

Randall took Isaac home from church on Saturday night. I had Asher in the car with me. We put the boys in bed and Randall and I got in bed ourselves and Randall told me that he and Isaac had talked about Algebra in the car. Three days later, Randall confessed what they had really talked about.

Isaac asked Randall the question.

I heard Asher ask Isaac the same question all week long. They must have talked about it at one point before Isaac got The Talk from Randall. I was in another room every time so I didn’t feel the need to answer quite yet, but I heard Isaac ignore the question three or four different times this week alone.

And then it happened. The boys and I were on our way out the door last night. Randall was holding Asher in his arms, saying goodbye, when Asher blurted out:

Do you think Santa is real?

Can you hear my heart breaking?

I replied quickly that Santa absolutely is real. His name was Nicholas and a long time ago he secretly gave presents to needy kids. And we keep his spirit alive every Christmas by giving to people we love. I confessed that Randall and I were the ones who put the presents under the tree, but Santa is absolutely real and you can tell everyone you know that you still believe in Santa.  I do!

We also mentioned that it’s a secret you learn, and you don’t get to tell anyone else.

Randall confessed that when he and Isaac had the talk in the car on Saturday, he told Isaac, “Don’t tell Asher, or your mom.”

It was a short conversation.

Asher accepted the news and went on with his evening. I dropped the boys off at my parents house last night and went to volunteer with my 11th grade girls at church.

My parents said they were asking the boys about Santa and talking about the elves and the boys seemed pretty quiet about it all.

I talked to my girls at church about it. We went around the whole circle and each told our memory of the moment we found out that our parents were putting the presents under our trees and signing Santa’s name.  It’s a defining moment in every kid’s life.  You never forget the moment you learned the truth about Santa.

I honestly had to blink away some tears.

I was told years ago to pay attention to tears. Your emotions tell you what’s going on in your heart. I’m really trying to figure out the root of my devastation of this simple conversation I had to have with my boys.

I think it represents the loss of magic at Christmas. I think it’s the loss of childlike wonder at it all. I think that conversation last night means the loss of a huge piece of childhood. As I listened to my 11th graders tell their stories, the majority of the girls were in third grade when they found out for sure. Isaac is in second grade and Asher is only 5! I am so angry at our 5th grade neighbor friend! He stole my kids childhood!

I don’t know how to have Christmas anymore. I don’t know if I should leave some gifts unwrapped (because Santa doesn’t wrap his gifts). I don’t know how to talk about presents with my kids. I don’t know if we should not visit Santa this year. I don’t know how to do Christmas!

I know there are a lot of Christians out there who never emphasize Santa because they fear that their kids will lump Jesus in with all of the other fictional characters we talk about.

I guess there is still wonder and magic and mystery about Christmas. I guess I can emphasize the truth about the indescribable event that happened 2000 years ago that we celebrate every year. Maybe I should be sad that we’ve never looked at the virgin birth of a perfect son who was fully human and fully God with as much wonder as we look at a fictional, albeit jolly man in a fuzzy red suit.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Santa. I’m his biggest fan! But maybe our Christmases are just going to be different from now on but not for the worse.

But for old times sake.  Here’s Santa through the years:

I’m convinced he’s the real one.

Just last year my boys sat in Santa’s lap as he read their cards and wish lists together.

 

<tear>   <sigh>

 

O Holy Night

Raise your hand if you love Christmas music!  /

Raise your hand if you can hardly stand to hear a Christmas song by December 26th. /

It’s just the same 20 songs over and over and over again.  They are some of my favorite songs, but I do get sick of them.

I’m not there yet, though!

But I wonder how often I gloss over the songs that once were written with so much meaning.

We sang a number Christmas carols at my Bible study this morning.  A few of the phrases I’ve sung so many times really stuck out to me.

One of them was in O Holy Night.  It’s probably my favorite carol.  The music is so hauntingly beautiful that it may overpower the significant lyrics.  Read what they say:

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining;

Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

The author of these lyrics was Placide Cappeau.  In 1847 he understood what occurred to me just last year.  People had been expecting a Messiah for centuries and in the past 400 years, God had been relatively silent.  His people lay brokenhearted until this night.  A baby was born in the most humble of places and hope spread across the world.  When he appeared, everything made sense again.  I can only imagine that for centuries people doubted God even existed, that he would really keep his promises.  But now the soul felt its worth.  Life had meaning again. A thrill of hope spread across a weary world.

I can see how that kind of hope makes you want to fall on your knees.

 

In the third verse Cappeau wrote shockingly, liberal phrases for his time:

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother.

And in His name, all oppression shall cease.

He got a lot of flak for these words.  Cappeau was a Frenchman and though slavery was rare in France in the 1800s, there were many slaves in America when he wrote these words.  A few short years later, our country would go to war over slavery.  I can only imagine how the oppression Christians have dealt throughout history in God’s name breaks His heart.  “Truly he taught us to love one another.”  May that lyric burn in your heart this season.

 

 

The lyrics to this song, but more so – the promise Jesus fulfilled that Holy Night, make me want to fall on my knees.

I pray that you pay attention to the words that you sing this season.  Feel the depth of their significance.  May there be moments when you enthusiastically mean what you sing, if you can get any sound out at all.

 

 

 

I’ll dissect more carols in the coming days.

The Most Beautiful Sound

When I was in labor with Asher, I got an epidural and expected things to move smoothly and painlessly from there, just like it did with Isaac.  Unfortunately, it slowed the whole birthing process down, so they let the pain meds wear off.  I think Isaac was born with Coldplay in the background so the first thing he heard was Chris Martin singing and piano keys playing.  The first thing Asher heard when he was born was probably one loud yell from his mommy…

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When Isaac was placed on my chest, he immediately started peeing in my face. The first thing I said when he was born was something along the lines of: “A little help here?!”  When Asher was placed on my chest, he let out a faint yet beautiful cry.  I remember my first words when he was born: “That’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.”

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I loved my babies with an unconditional love from the moment I first saw their faces. From the moment I first heard their cries, there was not a sweeter sound on this planet.

Then they started telling me they loved me.  Asher would tell me he had a secret and then whisper in my ear, “I love you.”  He still does that often to me.  It’s my favorite secret.  Is there a better sound than hearing those three words?  Don’t get used to hearing those words.  Don’t shrug them off.  When someone tells you they love you, pay attention.  It is a beautiful moment… every time.

This Christmas season has been filled with music.  Asher’s teacher gave him the Michael Bublé Christmas CD and we’ve been listening to it and singing along for weeks now.  Asher sang Silent Night in his preschool performance and played the hand bells to We Wish You a Merry Christmas excellently. Isaac had a performance at school the week before Christmas.  He was proud of himself and I was so proud of him!

One of my favorite moments this Christmas season was taking Isaac caroling with me.  He video taped my 10th grade small group as we sang to a group of retired folks.  He got bored pretty quickly and wanted to go home.  But on the ride there, Isaac and I practiced our Christmas carols.  I gave him a song sheet that he can now read and we sang together songs that have been sung for a hundred years.

Asher has been singing Christmas carols around the house too.  He sings Gloria in Excelsis Deo beautifully and it often merges with Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow.”  I think all of the Glooo o o o o os turn into the “oh”s of Tomlin’s song in his head. Whenever the house gets quiet and no one is paying attention, Asher’s been singing Silent Night to the dog.  I’ve caught him on multiple occasions when he didn’t think I was listening.  When he noticed that I was listening, he got louder.

Isaac got to sit in church with us on Christmas Eve and standing next to him, hearing him sing in his distinct small voice (the only time he has ever had a small voice) just melted my heart.  I struggled not to drop everything and pick my big 6 1/2 year old boy up and hold him tight the whole service.

As time goes by and boys grow and favorites change, I think this favorite may stick for a while:

Hearing my boys sing praises to their God.  It’s not perfect, some of the words and notes are wrong, but the heart of it makes it the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.

 

Imagine

Well, Christmas season is over.  I took down all of the Christmas decorations this week.  I sent my boys back to school today.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with my family this season.  I intentionally made my schedule less hectic and planned for time to just be with my family while they were in town.  Still, we kept busy.  We hit the Magic House and the Science Center and two Christmas Eve services, we celebrated Christmas three times in one day and hit the road 12 hours later for Oklahoma City to do it all again.

Oklahoma-city-memorial-1

In OKC we hit a lego exhibit and the lego store.  We shopped, we visited the Oklahoma City Memorial and museum, we played a lot of games and celebrated some more.  I stayed up way too late reading but slept in longer than I have in years. Over the break, I finished reading the book Havah: the story of Eve by Tosca Lee.  The fictional book is written in the voice of Eve, the first woman.  It was beautiful and poetic and haunting.  Though I’m not sure I agree with a few small points of the book’s theology, it gives imagination to a short story in the Bible and brings it to life as the reality it may have been.  It imagines the relationship between the first man and woman and their Creator.  But the part that haunted me most was the description of the DEPTH of the fall. We don’t even realize how far we now stand from how we were created to be.

That’s our problem with every Bible story.  We read the words and we commit them to memory, but we don’t give life to them by imagining the reality of the story.  That’s the problem with the Christmas story.  We’ve heard it so many times.  We know it backward and forward.  We can recite it in our heads in Linus’ voice “And the glory of the Lord shown round about them and they were sore afraid.”  This year, I got out four different nativity sets and played with them with my boys over the holdiay.  We told the story of Jesus’ birth in our own voices just like we’ve read it in Luke chapter 2.  It was fun.

Nativity

But can we imagine how it really must have been?  More than the words, but the sights, the sounds, the feelings?  I’m sure we have the nativity picture in our heads of a bright star over a stable and angels singing over shepherds but here’s the deal:  God promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people.  Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be.  I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior.  They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this:  He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years.   People probably lost hope over the centuries.  They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.

Then one day God approached an angel.  “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding.  Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?!  This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years.  Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.

Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news.  Still they had to wait another 9 months.  The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come.  They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem.  But the wheels were set in motion.  Joseph and Mary set off on their journey.  They took their time and arrived about seven days later.  There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.

Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction.  The angels waited with eager expectation.  They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on.  “Breathe,” they chanted.  “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!

After much labor, He was born.  He was here.  God was on earth.  It was done.  Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife.  He would be beaten and bruised.  Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus.  He would have to work hard and study harder.  He would have to feast and fast.  He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders.  But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby.  As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.

The angels cheered!  God, in heaven wept over the beauty that is new life.  Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die.  Over the pride he had in his newborn son.

Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night.  Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration.  Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge.  Something big just happened.  The One that people had prophesied for years about was here.  The new King.  And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.

Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them.  It was a being of some sort.  Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them.  They were terrified!  What was going on?  The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke.  He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited.  He had to spread the good news!!!

“Calm down, don’t be afraid.  Shh, shh.  Listen up!  I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you!  You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!”  The shepherds stopped, stunned.  The sheep calmed, too.  They all listened intently to what this being had to say.  “Today, just now… He’s here!!!”  The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief.  “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem!  He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for.  He’s the Messiah, the LORD!  Go, find him!  He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in cloths.  GO!”

ANGELS-IN-PRAISE

An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer.  They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing.  I assure you they did not stand still like a choir.  The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels.  They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration.  Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.

The shepherds stood in silence.  They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream.  “What just happened?” they asked each other.  “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said.  They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy.  They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.

Then they found it.  I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were.  And there He was.  “So, it’s true?  This is the One?  This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”

Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him.  This is God’s son.  He will save us all”

The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes.  What an amazing night.  Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!!  They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets.  They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them.  They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping.  They fell to their knees and started crying.  “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise.  You said that He would come and he is here.  You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said.  You told me.  You let me be a part of this night.  I will never forget this.  I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story.  May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all.  May it be as you said.  Thank you!”

Baby-Jesus-mary

And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in.  She didn’t get any sleep that night.  The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true.  She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart.  For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history.  A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth.  It was huge.

And we recite the story in Linus’ drone.  It. was. huge. Much bigger than I can even imagine.

 

God, may we be surprised by your story.  May we never grow bored with the miracles that you have performed.  Give us a glimpse into the reality of your story.  You created us with an imagination, help us to remember to use it like children do on a regular basis.  And thank you for inviting US into your story.  Thank you for using regular people to spread your word and good news.  Thank you for giving us hope that we can be used in spectacular ways even though we don’t feel like spectacular people. You are the God of the poor, of the normal, of us.  Thank you for giving up Heaven and coming to earth.  May we never forget your sacrifice.  May Christmas always seem like a huge deal and something to celebrate with whoops and hollers and singing and dancing.