Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jesus is the Reason...

I learned a lesson on Sunday when I set out to bake an award-winning, multi-layer Southern Living white chocolate cake. Nothing good has come out of my kitchen since 1993, so I'm not quite sure what possessed me to attempt the Martha Stewart thing. But I wanted to provide this outstanding baked treat to a few people for Christmas and attempted a "dry run" with the family to make sure it tasted as good as it looked.

After three-and-a-half hours that left my kitchen looking like an encounter with the Unibomber, the cake that flung from my oven tasted like leather smells and had the texture of a 14-day-old bagel.

"I think we need some ice cream here," I mournfully said to Todd. No doubt sensitive to the subtle quiver in my lower lip, Todd bolted for the freezer and returned with a gallon of Blue Bell Pralines and Cream. The kind of ice cream that fixes most anything.

"Do you want this on the side?" he gently asked.

"Please pile it on the top," I croaked.

Then I waited. And waited. And waited. The ice cream clung to the surface like a bobber on the lake.

"It won't even soak in!" I wailed. It was then I realized I had just baked a patent-pending recipe for tire traction on frozen asphalt.

Disappointed but undaunted, I tossed my award-winning cake into the trash and set myself in front of google to search for "five-star cookies." What emerged was a winning recipe for pumpkin drops. It didn't seem too Christmasy, but, after my cake disaster, I just wanted something people could actually consider eating. After a trip to Walmart for the new ingredients and about two more hours in the kitchen, I slid from the oven two cookie sheets of brownish orange lumps that bore a striking resemblance to East Texas dirt.

"Who wants to try these?" I cried. Todd and the boys exchanged worried glances. Baking project number two was an unmitigated flop.

I could see now grief just streaking Todd's face (no doubt contemplating his own front-yard disaster the day before involving the re-stringing of the lights on our swivel-headed lawn reindeer. "It's not as easy as it looks," Todd explained as he gestured to the metal creature on the lawn that looked a bit like a sheep with alopicea and rickets.)

So here we languish in Colleyville with a trash can full of baked goods they wouldn't throw at a Medieval prisoner and a lawn ornament that is borderline frightening to young children. Then it occurred to me, at last, that I was losing my way this Christmas. That Jesus is the reason and He was nowhere in my limited sight.

So, yesterday, I pulled out my trusty Sugar Cookie recipe and decided to go with what I know works. In the background, I had my laptop playing Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) sermons, including this amazing fusion of improvisational music and preaching by Richard Allen Farmer. I could feel all the stress of the baking and the shopping and the field trips and the recitals and all the other stuff we pile on top of Christmas just melt away. Talking to a friend this morning, she suggested that Jesus be brought into every activity we engage in, whether we are stringing lights or waiting in a long check-out line. I believe this is the key to maintaining our focus and our grace at this time of the year, and the true source of our joy.

Question: Where is Jesus in Christmas preparations for you?

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