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UnknownWork days fill my calendar for most of the year. Long 10-12 hour days define my work week. When the work week has surpassed reasonable tally, more time is poured into writing, studying, preparing for weekend ventures that support my work.

I am one of those few who loves what I do for a living. That old adage, “Find something that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life,” applies to me. I love going to work.

But, there is something that gnaws on my soul.  I, along with my wonderful wife, sigh often when we are getting ready to leave church and head back home. There are many around us who weekly gather their brood and head out for a family lunch.

We watch them laugh together, hug one another, tease each other, and agree to rendezvous for a shared meal. Sometimes, not often, they wave to us as they leave. We toss them a polite wave and nod our heads. Our smile is envious.

Can you feel the longing that we feel so deeply? We miss our family. But, the Good Lord has given me an assignment far away from our children and grandchildren.

Every chance we get, we sock away a few dollars here and there. We look long into our calendar and plan our next vacation to travel to meet them thousands of miles away. The bank savings account grows slowly but steadily so we can enjoy meals, gifts, and treats together.

Christmas is a great time to gather. The tiring air flight is worth the weariness and very-early-fisherman style wake-up time to catch the plane.  Early departure tickets are less expensive.

What else will get us up at 3AM to load luggage and make the hour-long drive to the airport? Waves of sleepiness waft over my consciousness. One helpful reward: the notorious Houston traffic is very light that early in the morning.

Air travel does not rank any where in sight of my favorite things to do. Sore from sitting too long, cramped aggravating conditions, and the nerve-wracking sneezing, coughing, and wheezing in recycling air sends chills up and down my spine can be held at bay as long as I concentrate on the embraces that are soon to come.

All is forgotten when squealing grandchildren call out our names. Enthusiastic hugs are welcomed to linger long. Words of love, affection, and delight soothe my mind. Family!

CA21CBB4-FFA4-4F38-B4B2-5D4B31BB3479_1_105_c.jpegChristmas is a hands down favorite time of the year. It is crazy busy, no doubt. Normally, I shy away from busy, especially if crowds of people are involved.

Once in a while, however, the stop-and-go, pushing, shoving, long lines, and stifling absence of oxygen is worth the minimal discomfort. Our Christmas program at our church, Houston’s First Baptist Church is one of those “worth it” evenings. “Celebration” is an annual gala with a repeated storyline with amazing variations. I love it!

This year, the silk acrobats deftly spinning and twirling and climbing to brilliant orchestral music had me mesmerized. How do they do that? Is that safe? Are they in danger? Oh, yeah, I remind myself, my daughter-in-law, Breanna, does that. She loves it! These artists had me entertained, putting visuals to familiar Christmas music.

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Angels are a favorite feature of our annual program. These stars are suspended from a high, very high, ceiling. Their costumes flow in the air. Yes, they are not the real heavenly ones, but surely give us a sense that they are very close to portraying the real McCoy.

Their role accomplishes a special purpose. Christmas is not about an earthly event, populated by earthly beings, and added among a myriad of earthly stories. Rather, it is what it is, a supernatural story of true history, giving testimony for all generations that the one and only Almighty God visited the earth to give the most precious gift he could as an expression of his love for all people.

This sensational Christmas program is full of entertainment. I laughed, smiled, sang along, remembered childhood moments, and found myself wondering about the story that gave it to us all. It is a true story of a little baby born 2,000 years ago in a country far away, today locked into great controversy. God knew that mankind was in trouble with sin.

D8E6ED1F-526C-43C4-B253-43AEAC002682_1_105_c.jpegJesus was born to die. Odd, isn’t it? In a similar sense we are all born and will some day die. Yet, Jesus was born specifically to die on behalf of all people. His death, as the one and only perfect one, paid the price of our sin.

The climax of Christmas is not opening presents tucked under a splendidly decorated tree. Nor is it family time with relatives traveling from parts unknown. Instead, the crescendo of Christmas is Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, a gift of eternal life to all who believe.

Merry Christmas!

 

FullSizeRender-3My calendar is full and getting fuller as the fall season picks up momentum.  Work responsibilities move like a rising tide with appointments, meetings, reports, problems and initiatives.  Woven inside the fabric of the ministry is life at church, home, friends and the events of the season.

Did you catch that last one?  Halloween is coming.  Or for many of us it is the Harvest Season.

Not long after that Thanksgiving is waiting to get us even more busy than ever.  Family events, travel, food and reunions line up for attention.  Home decorations increase as the fall season moves deeper toward winter.

Of course, Christmas is the zenith of all events as the calendar year closes out.  The decorations are the pinnacle of everyone’s planning.  Just about everyone looks forward to Christmas.

Organizing our lives to make room for each of these calendar events crowds even the most gifted of administrators.  Unless we get a jump on the forecast we will miss out or even overlook important opportunities.

Our church, Houston First Baptist has a spectacular Christmas program called “Celebrate!”  Note the exclamation point.  It is fitting.

FullSizeRender-2Getting tickets for this sensation production is not difficult but it calls for a little planning.  Ticket sales opened up on Saturday October 17 at 8:00AM.  When I saw the notice, my lips pursed tightly.

I could make it to church to buy tickets that day, but I needed to be an hour away for a speaking engagement that very morning.  My mind was organizing that morning carefully.  If I showed up at church by 7:30AM and got my tickets by 8:45AM I could hurry to my speaking engagement in time for a 15 minute early arrival.

In my mind I was certain that I could be one of the earliest in line on a Saturday morning.  Who wants to get up early on a Saturday to buy tickets for a Christmas program that is months away?

That strategy was way off the mark.  The conversation that spawned that plan had no clue about the interest of Christmas even in October.  Hundreds of people who were in line before I showed up testify to my tactical limitations.

At least I made it to my 10AM speaking appointment on time.  But, the wait for Christmas tickets sure shows the joy of the season.  Merry Christmas, even in October!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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