Sunday, December 21, 2008

Away ... and a manger

"...See Tighe, that's just like Jesus' manger..."

Now I KNOW I've read the Christmas story to my kids. We've talked at length about the real meaning of Christmas (that's a phrase used so much it needs its own acronym, "trmoc").

So it shocked me when my friend Connie said something to my youngest about a manger and he said, "What's a manger?"

I felt devastated. I felt like I'd absolutely let my kids down. Like they had been given no Christian training by me at all. Like I was a heathen of a parent.

If you've followed my irregular posts, you know I've said how surprised I am at times at the shape of my life. There was always a picture in my mind of a sweet Christian family gathered around a table and praying. Learning. Drinking in Jesus.

I don't mean to demean that picture, it's a beautiful one. I wish it for my kids.

But God had work to do first. And it all kind of crystallized today, Sunday.

What a wonderful church God has blessed us with. During this advent service, our amazing worship team has been encouraged by our pastor to cut loose after the benediction with any appropriate Christmas song they want...

They've rocked us out to fellowship time to Rudolph. They've done the Eagles Please Be Home for Christmas. Today they left us with Jingle Bell Rock.

I grabbed a coffee and boogied back to Connie and Rand. Yes, I was... GASP... dancing! I passed the wife of one of our elders... I honestly don't know her well but her husband, Darryl Erickson, is from Montana I believe and has a background in the Evangelical (Swedish) Covenant Church as have I. Darryl is one of my favorite people, though I know him far too little as well.

As I passed Darryl's wife I said, "I suppose I shouldn't be dancing... I went to Seattle Pacific". She laughed and said, I want to dance to, and I went to Wheaton.

We stood there swapping stories of restrictions on activities... hers more extreme from being in the Christian College movement a few years before I was.

And tonight as our worship bands absolutely rocked the house it hit me... ALL of this I've gone through... Tighe not knowing the manger story well (though he DOES know Jesus), my kids not having been in church for years (there's a story behind that)... but all of that... has been a grace.

So much of the legalistic crud I had woven into the heart of my worship is gone... and none of it is in them. They come to Jesus free of the idea that their works will make them whole. They are moving joyously (finally) into a church relationship and a knowledge of the Bible free of the idea that some kinds of thinking about God might damn them... didn't we who grew up like that have to cross every theological "I" and get it right? I did! God forbid I should think an Arminian thought or a Charismatic one.

THANK GOD for the freedom we have in Christ. Thank God for the hard, painful path that has flushed this OUT of my family.

As the psalmist said in Psalm 16...

The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. Psalm 16:6

Praise you God, for although the road be rough, the destination is gold.