“Daddy, are you coming to the Look-pot today?” A wide-eyed three-year-old looks over at her daddy at the breakfast table.
“The Look-pot?” A moment of confusion, and then the daddy (our son Lars) replies: “Oh, you mean the potluck. Yes, I am coming, Linnea.”
“And Daddy, are you gonna look?”
Linnea’s question remained with me long after this charming little conversation. It remained even after we ourselves got to go to the Thanksgiving Potluck at our granddaughters’ preschool during a recent wonderful visit to Kodiak, Alaska.
Even now, mid-Advent, I hear the question. “Daddy, are you gonna look?”
Linnea’s question took me back many years, to the time when “looking” was very important to another daddy (my husband, Woody) and another child (our young son Bjorn). Bjorn, who loved “manger scene people” almost to the point of obsession, convinced Woody to tour around throughout our town, and even throughout bordering suburbs, to search for nativity scenes wherever they could find them—in front of churches, in peoples’ front yards, even at one shopping mall in days long past. Delightful father-son outings. And valuable Christmas prep time for the mama at home.
There was only one glitch. Bjorn was absolutely adamant that all the “manger scene people” be facing the baby Jesus. He begged to get out of the car and re-arrange any that weren’t looking the right way. And, don’t quote me on this, but I felt pretty sure that, in at least some instances, his father let him do just that! I began to worry about local news headlines: “Local Doctor and Young Son Arrested for Trespassing and Tampering with Private Property.”
After all, Bjorn could be very convincing: “Mom, if you were at the stable when Jesus was born, wouldn’t you be looking at Him? Why on earth would you be facing the street and looking at other things when you could see Jesus?” Good question, Bjorn.
Recently I spoke at a local Mom to Mom brunch on the topic “Don’t Let the Grinches Steal your Christmas!” One of the grinches we talked about was the “grinch of distraction.” During this season we are deluged with voices—grinch voices—calling out: Look here (at this extraordinary online sale which will last only 5 hours and 42 minutes—act now)! Or look here (today is markdown day at the mall—be here to get your best deal)! Or even, at home, look here (at your long unfinished list of gifts to buy, cookies to bake, and cards to send)!
In and of themselves, these things are not bad. Buying gifts for those we love, spending our resources wisely, baking cookies, sending cards, enjoying Christmas festivities with friends—all good. All things I love to do, actually. They only become problems when they cause us to lose our focus. To look out at the street only, and somehow miss the Baby whose coming changed everything. For all time and eternity.
It occurs to me that many of those present at that first Christmas missed it. Roman census-takers saw a few more names on their lists. Weary fellow travelers on the road to Bethlehem saw only a very pregnant, exhausted teenager on a donkey, helped along by her also-very-tired husband. The innkeeper saw—well, who knows? An annoyance, a problem to be solved, a few extra shekels for renting the cave out back? You can’t blame them, really. They were busy. They had lots of things to do.
And besides, how could they know that God was about to visit their planet? Who would believe that “the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village”? (Max Lucado, God Came Near, p. 24) God was up to something more—so much more—than meets the eye. He always is. Even in our very own, very “everyday” lives.
So what if we looked—just a little more closely? What if we asked Him to sharpen and redirect our focus even at this busy, wonderful Christmas season? What if we reminded ourselves that, no matter how things look on the outside of our lives, He is always up to something more? We just have to be looking.
So, my Christmas question to you this year: “Are you gonna look?”