Almost all my weekday morning miles are run on the same route with the same friend … a loop around our neighborhoods.  I don’t know why we never tire of it.  It hasn’t occurred to me to take a different route.  My friend may be dying of boredom, but she hasn’t mentioned it.  I like it – we know exactly how long it takes to make the loop, where the sidewalks harbor nasty cracks, and when the hills will strike.  Despite the predictability of our path, every run is unique thanks to changing seasons, shifting hours of daylight, and varying topics on our minds.  The comfort of our tradition has become a good foundation for newness and growth.  Rolling out of bed is a bummer, but once I’m awake, I look forward to our familiar steps and the fresh perspective they bring.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

Christmas exploded in our home last week, and watching our familiar decorations find their December resting places warmed my heart.  Our kids devoured the pile of Christmas books, reaching – OK, fighting – for their favorites and squealing about the ones they’d forgotten over the past year.  We uncovered our stockings with excitement, our nativities found homes on tables and shelves, and we’re still working on getting the ornaments on the tree … just like last year and the year before that.  And every year, we celebrate and reflect on the same wondrous story of our King’s humble birth.  Many things about Christmas are predictable, and our traditions give us comfort and joy.  However, the peace, hope and love the season offers come only from the baby King and the story of His arrival.   The Gospels’ Christmas story never changes.  What I’m open to hearing and experiencing, however, varies year to year.  The changing seasons of my life influence my hearing and willingness to listen when God speaks from Bethlehem each December.  As a child, I heard a miraculous story of joy and wonder, sprinkled with precious lambs, sparkly angels, and a starry night.  I held in my heart a magical, awesome vision of love and perfect contentment.  When I was 8 months pregnant, I found new admiration for Mary’s patience as she endured a bouncy & lengthy donkey ride and the anticipation of an outdoor delivery amidst dirt & animals, without an epidural.  The following Christmas, I more fully understood the fierce love a newborn inspires and the humility of Jesus’ arrival as a helpless infant.  Mary and Joseph’s courageous and joyful acceptance of God’s will despite the judgment from society they surely endured strikes me now, and I wonder if I’m capable of such courage.  Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth is one of my favorite scriptures, and it’s there for me every day.  As I reflect on the story this Christmas, I hope to hear what God wants to tell me right here, right now.

Dear God, please help me listen to the message you have for me this Christmas.