We got home from our road trip on Tuesday afternoon. After I unpacked our bags and started a few loads of laundry, Caroline and I snuggled up on the couch and I turned on “Polar Express”.
P came in a few minutes later and joined us. Our little family of three spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the movie while a fire roared in the fireplace and the lights twinkled on the Christmas tree. It was one of those sweet, unplanned moments that takes you by surprise, yet is now etched in my mind as one of my favorite memories of the year.
I kind of dozed off as we watched the movie because I’ve seen it a million times, plus I was a little tired from all the travel and festivities. But when the part came on where the kids arrive at the North Pole, I made myself stay awake and watch it because it’s one of my favorite scenes. In my imagination, if a North Pole full of elves and Santa were to exist, it would look exactly like it does in the movie.
At one point the little boy is standing in the midst of all the elves who are overcome with excitement at the prospect of Santa Claus’s appearance. Everyone is cheering, the reindeer are jumping up and down, and the elves come out with these huge reins of solid jingle bells. The little boy begins to look puzzled, he can tell he’s missing something that the rest of the crowd is hearing and experiencing.
About that time, the little girl next to him whispers, “Aren’t those bells the most beautiful sound?” It confirms what he already knows, something is lacking.
When I watched that scene yesterday it made me wonder how many people are out there this Christmas who know something is missing. They have the beautifully decorated tree. They have the wrapped packages tied up with pretty bows. They have a turkey thawing in the refrigerator and family that will gather around a table.
They may even go to church on Christmas Eve and listen as the people around them sing and celebrate the birth of a baby born over 2000 years ago. And they’ll sit there and wonder what’s missing.
I know how that feels because I spent a lot of years feeling that same way. I grew up in church. I was there every time the doors were open, but something was missing. I’d hear people talk about what God had done for them and the difference He’d made in their life and I just didn’t feel it. And it wasn’t because of lack of desire, I wanted to know Him but I just didn’t know how.
Years of listening to sermons and going to church camp gave me glimpses, but I wanted more.
In “The Polar Express” the little boy watches the bells that he can’t hear, he hears the crowd roar as Santa appears, and he stands there and says, “I can’t see him! I can’t see him!”
That’s how I felt for so long. I couldn’t see Him.
Finally, in desperation, the little boy closes his eyes, grabs the jingle bell that has fallen to the ground at his feet and says, “I believe. I believe. I believe.” And at that moment, he hears the bell ring and Santa appears right behind him.
Sometimes it takes a leap of faith.
Because no matter how much everyone around that little boy believed in Santa and saw him clearly, he had to see him for himself. He had to believe even when there was a part of him that wanted to hold on to logic and reason.
Logic and reason don’t require much faith. They may keep you from looking foolish, but they can also keep you from going on the greatest adventure of your life.
Fifteen years ago, I reached a point of desperation. After all those years in church, I had to see Him for myself. It didn’t matter what my preacher said or what my friends experienced, I needed to take a leap and let Him pour out His grace and mercy on my life. Then one night, in the middle of a Bible study surrounded by people who were experiencing something I wanted, I closed my eyes as tears fell down my cheeks and whispered, “I believe. I believe. I believe.”
And life has never been the same.
A virgin birth. Angels appearing to a field full of shepherds. Wise men following a star from the east. The son of God sent to save us from our sins.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
It doesn’t make sense until you see Him for yourself.
My prayer is that we all see Him this Christmas. In the midst of family drama, bad fruitcake, and attempts to get Barbie dolls out of boxes that have been welded shut, He is there.
Waiting for those who will take the leap and believe.
Merry Christmas, y’all.