Hearing Sleigh Bells in the Snow

sleigh bellsMark 4:24 (ESV)
“Take care what you listen to.”
Romans 10:17 (ESV)
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ.”

Legend says that Irving Berlin was staying at the La Quinta Hotel in warm La Quinta, CA when inspirtation stuck. After writing all night, he told his secretary: “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”
“White Christmas” has always been a favorite of mine at Christmas. But it has always been a wistful, “gee I wish we could get a light dusting of the white stuff somewhere around the 25th”. That was always my intent while listening to old Bing croon.
This year I’ll have no need to wish for a White Christmas. Here at my new church in Lucas, Ohio… the snow has really been coming down… and winter has yet to begin! Check out my newly acquired shoveling skills.
The song “White Christmas” begins: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the tree tops glisten and children listen… to hear sleigh bells in the snow.” I’ve always chalked up that last line to a time where people traveled in sleighs to get around.  But “White Christmas” is not that old of a song. (1940)

I think the “sleigh bells” the kids are tuning their ears to hear are the bells on the sled of one Mr. Kris Kringle.  They are listening for what they most want to hear during the season.
What are you listening for during this advent season? It so easy to go through another Christmas season and not hear anything.  You end up thinking: “I’m trying to hear from you God, but you seem so far away! How can this season hold meaning when I seem to so deaf to your voice?”
A suggestion this season: pull out your Bible and read through the story of Jesus again… as though the first time… from Matthew 1-28… straight through.  There is no better tonic for a failing faith in winter time, than a fresh encounter with the Word of God: Jesus. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Don’t just watch another Christmas special or attend another Christmas concert… read… about the King who came down.
Those silver bells can be loud at Christmas can’t they? The spirit of consumerism, the demands of creating the “perfect” holiday and the psychological desire to “catch the Christmas spirit” can leave one deaf to the season’s Birthday Boy. One thing I know for sure… Jesus is speaking… calling out to his sheep (John 10:27-28). The question is: Can you hear him over those sleigh bells?

White Elephant Gifts

2 Corinthians 9:15

“Thanks be to God for HIs indescribable gift!”

Pastor John Huffman once hosted a church staff Christmas luncheon at his home. It was a “white elephant” gift party.  The gifts were zany and meant to be fun.  Everybody was laughing and enjoying themselves until the tenth person or so picked out a gift.  Lifted out from a gift bag was a little baby Jesus in a manger. Everything just kind of stopped and everyone seemed puzzled.  Pastor John’s wife exclaimed:  “That looks like our Jesus!”  She left the room to check her nativity set, and sure enough, the baby Jesus figurine was missing. It had fallen off the table and into the gift bag on top of the tissue paper in which the real gift was wrapped.

      They all laughed and continued on with the party.  But later Pastor Huffman reflected on the mix up:  “So often Jesus is swept off center stage in all of our Christmas festivities, relegated to a kind of “white elephant” status. How sad, when he is so central!”

As we prepare for Christmas this year it is vital that we keep Jesus the central thing.  Do you remember the sermon the angel (played by Cary Grant) wrote in the Christmas movie classic, The Bishop’s Wife?  

You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. Its his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.”

Let’s thank God for Jesus the year!  And make Him the central thing!