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Stumbling Through Christmas?
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A well-traveled footpath winds steeply upward to a vista named “God’s Window,” situated in the Blade River Canyon on the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga, South Africa.” Arriving at my destination, I smell the floral-scented air that wafts up the sheer cliffs in the scenic splendor of this remote, tourist destination in “Paradise Country,” which includes ravines, waterfalls and a panoramic view of mysterious, lush, dense foliage and private nature reserves as far as my eyes can see. I find myself holding my breath.
 
God’s Window seems rightly named. It seems God is truly here, watching over His creation and sharing His handiwork with me. I stay on the mountain as long as I can, taking in the majestic views in the tranquil setting until prompted to return to the descending footpath that takes me to the bus below. As I hike, I attempt to file away in my mind images of the magnificent views, scenes I hope to long remember.
 
As I step down the last few, carefully positioned stones on the footpath, what comes into view momentarily erases the ethereal beauty I just witnessed above. Before me is a long string of makeshift booths erected by hungry locals hoping to capture the attention of tourists with big purses. My eyes quickly capture the scene: carved statues, brightly-colored cloths, beaded necklaces, goatskin-topped djembes and more trinkets than anyone could possibly fit in their weight-restricted luggage for the trip home.
 
I take a blind step forward toward the marketplace, oblivious to what blocks my path. My foot kicks something solid, stationary — jarring my flow of decisions about which souvenir vendors I might dicker with first. Startled, I quickly glance down. The object I kicked is a brown, rectangular cardboard box — about the size of a fruit box. Draped over its four sides are brightly colored blankets. Nestled comfortably inside, with wide, dark brown eyes and furrowed brow, is the sweetest-looking South African baby I’ve ever seen. Our eyes meet.

The precious image catches my breath, and the reality of his humble resting place begins to sink in. Carelessly gazing at the superficial novelties to purchase, I almost miss the precious, little bundle. I bend down to admire the pudgy-cheeked child and try to converse with his mother who graciously honors my request for a photo — my souvenir for such a special, memory-filled day.

I often think about that little, worn, soiled box in South Africa and its precious content. And when I do, my mind usually dwells on another small, primitive container — a manger bed cradling a most precious baby, a love Gift from my heavenly Father.
 
I ponder how easy it is to also stumble through the Christmas holiday season, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells, and inadvertently also kick my most precious Gift, Jesus, out of my schedule to make time for decorating, baking, shopping, gift-wrapping, concerts and parties.
 
I sense this world is winding down rapidly, and each year I find less pleasure in the Christmas the media tells me to create and enjoy. Spending more time with my precious Jesus stirs a stronger desire in my heart to tell others of His wonderful love for them — a love that compelled Him to come to Earth as a babe, a love that modeled the Father's tender mercy and compassion, a love that stretched His hands out willingly on a damaged tree for a damaged humanity, a love that intercedes on our behalf for an eternity with Him, a love I cannot comprehend.
 
I invite you to join me this year in a different kind of Christmas season 
— one that never ends, one in which we spend more time reflecting on and communing with the best Gift ever, one in which we don’t hold back from telling others about His extravagant love and the gift He is preparing for His children to unwrap soon when He takes them home.
 
That Holy Child born long ago,
Came to the Earth God's love to show.

As King, He's coming back again,
To save this dying world from sin.

Thank Jesus for that Christmas night,
That fills His people with delight.

 
Kenneth R. Wynn
(Diane Thurber's father)


Diane Thurber lives in Franktown, Colorado. She is the Ministerial Spouses Association leader for the Rocky Mountain Conference. Diane works remotely from her rural home as assistant communication director for the Lake Union Conference and managing editor of the monthly publication, Lake Union Herald. She also is managing editor of Fresh Strength, the bi-monthly electronic newsletter for ministerial spouses in North America. Diane enjoys photography, whitewater rafting and golfing with her husband, Gary, and sons, Ryan and Justin, and daughter-in-law, Baylie.