I love music. It often carries me through a sluggish workout or a long drive home. It brings peace to stress and drowns out annoyances. And it frequently triggers thoughts and memories I might have otherwise missed out on. In the middle of a slow, rainy drive to work yesterday morning, one of those memory triggers occurred.
During December my favorite radio station plays its fair share of Christmas music. The particular song that came on and took me down memory lane was Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant. You may not be familiar with this one. I wasn't. But in the song, Amy Grant shares how in spite of yearnings to visit other snowier and more exciting places over Christmas, she can never bring herself to be away from her home in Tennessee.
Another tender Tennessee Christmas
The only Christmas for me
Where the love circles around us
Like the gifts around our tree
Katie and I were actually living in Tennessee the first year we were married. Neither of our families were in Tennessee, so we weren't as confident as Amy Grant that love would surround us there - at least not like gifts around a tree. So we actually responded to the pull to head elsewhere. Where we headed wasn't an easy decision. It was our first year of being married. Katie had never spent Christmas away from her home and family in Virginia. So I did what every good husband does. I took her to my home in Ohio......
There was quite a bit of sadness that first Christmas. Katie was said being away from home. And me - well you know the the thing about sad wife - sad home? Believe me, it's more than just a saying. But I completely understood it. Katie's Christmases had become about the same thing mine were. Family and friends and the memories created through both.
Christmas, with all of it's pageantry and decorations and presents tries to trick us into believing this is a holiday of things. Things we can touch and hold. The reality, though, is the only thing God is interested in us holding during this holiday and beyond is each other. We can never forget that God sent the son we'll celebrate at Christmas because the relationship he wanted so badly to have with us was broken. Sending his baby, who would ultimately grow up to tell us that the best way for us to love His father is to love one another, and then die on a cross to put an exclamation point on that lesson, was God's first and last words on the importance of relationships. With Him. With one another.
This holiday season, keep in mind that when the baby in the manger became an adult who was challenged to boil down God's ultimate commands for each of us, he didn't balk at the challenge. He answered with confidence: we are to love God and love one another. That is the Christmas message. I pray it won't get lost in all the tacky lights or wrapped up and hidden under the tree in last year's wrapping paper remnants.
I pray we'll keep in mind that God isn't about exchanging presents, He's about exchanging love.