Monday, December 2, 2013

The Promise of Christmas - An Advent Story, Part 1

This year, it is once again my privilege to participate in the celebration of the Advent Season with my church family. 
The story that God has prompted me to write will appear here on my blog each Monday this month. I am thrilled to be able to share these writings with you and I hope the story will be a blessing to you and your families this season. The story is a continuing tale that will take us through a contemporary application of the biblical truth of Christmas. If you wish to study the verses each week along with myself and my church, simply click on the graphic and it will open a window to the notes page of Impact Church NOVA. 

With a Courageous Heart, 
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." - Isaiah 7:14

“Christmas music? Where’s that Christmas music coming from? It’s not Christmas yet, I must be dreaming”, Isaiah thought as he tried to pull himself back into sleep. Too late. The sound of Jingle Bell Rock was hard to ignore as his alarm clock blared out its’ obnoxious reminder that it was time to get up.

“Get up! Get UP!! Oh, man!” The realization that he’d slept through his third alarm hit him like a wet blanket. “My editor is gonna kill me! I can’t be late for that assignment today.” 
Isaiah rolled out of bed and quickly hit the shower as he tried to focus his foggy brain. 
“Ugh! Black Friday. What a crazy name for a day that’s supposed to kick off Christmas. Shouldn’t it be green or red Friday? Or Christmas Plaid Friday? 
Hmmph. Black pretty much fits my mood today though.” 

Isaiah (Izzy to his friends) had gotten too little sleep and a little too much turkey yesterday. That, along with the long religious discussion he’d endured around the table yet again cemented the fact that he wouldn’t be in any kind of a good mood this morning. It certainly wasn’t his idea of a great start to his day. While he pulled on his jeans and button down, he thought back to yesterday’s family meal. What should have been a relaxing day with his sister Mary Beth and her husband Joe, had ended with tension over religion. 

Why on earth had he thought it would be a good idea to ask them the question he’d be asking all those crazy Christmas shoppers at the mall today? 
He knew better. Knew better
Since he no longer shared Mary Beth’s sentiment for all the religious nonsense they’d grown up with, what should have been a pretty simple discussion turned into a discount version of a sermon. 
How could she and Joe still believe all that Sunday School stuff about a virgin having a baby? 
And that he was born to save the world? 
The world needed some saving, that’s for sure, but there was no way he’d believe that a baby, any baby, could do that job. Izzy wasn’t sure anyone was up to the task.  
“What are the signs of Christmas to you?” 
That was his question. 
A Simple question. 
Should be easy answers. 
Nothing too deep. 
He knew he’d have more than enough responses from the mall crowds to write his article this afternoon.  But he’d had to go and ask his family what they thought. 

As he poured his coffee into his refillable Starbucks mug, he looked at the red package of Holiday Blend sitting next to the pot. That was a sign of Christmas! Didn’t everyone know that when those red bags showed up on the shelves that Christmas was right around the corner? And how about Peppermint Mocha? Can’t get that year-round. Or like today, all the sale signs he’d be seeing in the store windows. 
Those were the signs of Christmas – Black Friday sales, holiday shopping bags, Christmas music on the radio, the giant Christmas tree in the center of Old Town. And the biggest of all signs of Christmas – Santa at the mall. Those guys put in heavy training at the all-you-can-eat restaurants all year just to be ready for their ho-ho-ho’s to sound convincing. 
Yeah, Mary Beth and Joe just didn’t get it.

As Izzy took the elevator down to the garage, he thought about how much it bothered him that he’d been arguing with his sister yesterday. They’d been so close growing up, maybe that’s what was eating at him the most this morning. How far apart they’d drifted. 
He loved his sister, and spending time with her and Joe and their boys was something he really looked forward to, especially around birthdays and holidays. With Mom and Dad gone, Mary Beth was all the family he had left and she was pretty much the only one who cared that he even existed except for his landlord.

Yesterday, Mary Beth was talking about the prophet Isaiah – his namesake apparently – and how he’d predicted the birth of Jesus. Isaiah's prophecy, recorded in the Bible, said that the birth of a son from the virgin would be a sign from God.                   
A sign that her baby was to be the Savior of the world. 
He would be called Immanuel, God with us. 
A human baby, but God himself. 
That was the surest sign of Christmas to her, and to Joe and the boys. The knowledge that Jesus loved us enough to leave Heaven and come to Earth to save us from our sin.

Izzy shook his head in frustration. One of the reasons he’d become a reporter was that he dealt in facts. Not crazy stories about a baby saving the world. And even if it were true, it sounded like a storyline from a B movie. And everyone knows how believable those are.

Driving his car out of the garage, he headed over to the mall just as the sun started to peek above the horizon. The Christmas music on the radio station was already too much to handle and he snapped off the dial to get rid of the annoying sound. 

It was going to be a long December.

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