You know I love sweet little baby Jesus.babyjesus

Sweet little eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus.

And that little baby in the manger is the reason for Christmas, right?

Well, here’s the thing.  I love Christmas.  I love baby Jesus.  But I’ve rediscovered something recently, through conversations with friends and singing old songs and revisiting well-worn stories.  Sure, Christmas isn’t just about shopping and toys and eggnog.  But Christmas also isn’t just about a baby in a manger, arms outstretched like he’s in a classical painting.  It isn’t just about a mom looking reverently at her baby, looking positively divine, mere moments after giving birth.

What if even our Nativity scenes and songs about that baby even missed the point of Christmas?  What if we’ve managed to turn sweet little baby Jesus into an eight pound idol?

I think I’ve relearned something that just might save my Christmas this year…

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In little over a month, I’m leaving the country.

I’ve been looking forward to telling you about this for a whileRwandan Girl and Boy

In January, I will going to Rwanda and Uganda with World Help and four other bloggers and storytellers.  We will be visiting orphans, widows and villages that are struggling to rise up out of poverty and war.  We will be raising money and awareness for their orphan rescue operations and some specific building projects that are going on.

Guys and gals, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this.

Not just because I’m going to places I’ve never been.

I’m not excited for all the things I hope to do over there.

No, I’m excited for an entirely different reason.

Here’s why:

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This week, TIME announced their person of the year is Pope Francis.time-person-of-the-year-cover-pope-francis

He’s been in office less than a year.  But he hasn’t wasted any time attracting attention, ironically, through a demeanor that oozes humility.  The attention he has garnered has been just what the papacy and the church needs, even if there are critics who don’t want the kind of attention he is attracting.

But clearly, Francis is winning over the world.  I’m not even Catholic, and I think the guy is amazing.

The Pope has been the most talked about person on Facebook and other social media this year.  TIME magazine’s choice doesn’t crown a person of the year, so much as it acknowledges what everyone already knows.

Now we are coming up on a new year, which is the perfect time to make a resolution.

What if I resolved that next year, was going to be Person of the Year?

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I genuinely love Christmas…

I feel your pain, buddy.

I feel your pain, buddy.

Well, I try to love Christmas.  I try really hard.

Because between the decorations that have been on display at Home Depot since Halloween and the Black Thursday insanity and the stress of shopping and social events, I have a love-hate relationship with the holiday now.  Christmas has become hard to love.

Of course, there are a lot of people who are trying to combat the disease that plagues Christmas by waging a war on Jesus’ behalf.  There are signs in my neighborhood yards now that say:

“Merry Christmas! (Happy Birthday, Jesus!)”

Yeah, if you didn’t catch the “Christ” in bold, they spell it out for you by wishing Jesus a happy birthday.

And of course, there is the annual tradition of demanding that store clerks wish us “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”  After all, Jesus said, “Why do you wish each other Happy Holidays?  Do not even the pagans do that?”

It’s all in the name of “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

But I ask you: does Christ even want to be kept in Christmas?  Did we ask him in the first place?

Maybe it would be best if we just left Jesus out of the whole thing altogether.

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I have perfect vision…

…when I’m looking backwards.

Forwards, not so much.  Try as I might, despite my experience, my past failures and successes, my reasonable and educated guesses, there is still that “fog of war” that keeps me from seeing the future clearly.

That’s the way it is with everyone.  No matter what you are creating or doing, today is a new day.  The challenges are new.  The obstacles are fresh.  And so, creating and working and just living is always kind of a leap of faith.  Because no matter how good our hindsight may be, it rarely gives us 20/20 foresight.

I can look at everything I have written, every lesson I have taught, most of the major events of my life, and find something I would change if I could go back and do it again.  Many things I have done seemed great at the time, but even the great things could be tweaked.  

And there have been times in my life when I have been positively paralyzed by hindsight.  Always looking back, criticizing yesterday, too fearful to go into tomorrow for fear that it will be just as imperfect as the past.

But God doesn’t call us to create through our hindsight.  He calls us to create for the future, with all of our guesses and doubts and a lot of faith.

hindsight

In hindsight, it is all the little nicks and cracks, the imperfections that give life its beauty.  Perhaps I should stop trying to cover and erase and correct and just go with it.

From the looks of the title of this post, this week had a lot of variety.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to post a Friday Fuel.  To be honest, with our hospital stay and then the holiday, I’m just kind of getting back into the swing of things, which makes me very glad.

On My Bookshelf

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I cannot believe I was not familiar with this series until this week when my Dad loaned me his old copies of The Singer, The Song, and The Finale by Calvin Miller.  The books are retellings of the Gospel, the book of Acts and the book of Revelation, retold in poetry.  If you are looking for something contemplative to read this Advent, I highly recommend any of these.

In My Wishlist

Okay, it’s not on my wishlist because I already own it, but my buddy Jeff Goins’ book, The In-Between is on sale for two bucks right now on Amazon, which definitely puts it in the category of impulse purchase.

In My Blog Reader

First, I am so happy to hear about Ed Cyzewski’s future plans with his writing.  We live in a time when we are so busy and often so discontented, that I can’t think of anything much better than the book of meditations he is preparing for us.

Even though I’m not a twenty-something anymore, I love Paul Angone’s blog and book.  And he nails it on the head.  Generational stereotypes are as old as the generations themselves.  Old people have been characterizing young people as lazy, clueless narcissists for decades.  The stereotypes do every generation an injustice and they have got to go.

When Nicole Cottrell speaks, I have to give her credit for being brave.  Stepping into the foray of gender roles is no easy task, but she speaks with incredible clarity.

Finally, if there is one thing that my wife’s and my journey with infertility has taught me is that we are not in control.  Control is an illusion.  And for most of my life, I have been a bit of a control freak.  I’m probably a recovering control freak now.  Anne Marie Miller gives us control freaks some tips on how to overcome this fruitless burnout.

I’m so thankful for all of these writers.  They fueled and encouraged me so much this week.  What fueled you?