Free Stuff

“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
    a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
    The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
    He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, The Voice).

I confess. I love free stuff.

I periodically go by the Brentwood Public Library where they have two bookshelves off the front lobby to the right where they put all the books and other media that they can’t for whatever reason take.

I always look for hidden treasures there. Mostly, it’s old VHS tapes and 80’s-era computer manuals and other equally useful items.

Every now and then, I do find something worthwhile. A few months back, I found a 1945 Book of Common Prayer in more or less decent shape. Win.

I also like to look through the bins in front of McKay’s Used Books, Movies, Music, and So Much More Store (which isn’t really the name, but what it should be named).

Again, there’s a reason a lot of these got discarded and left behind. Still, every now and then, I can find some really cool stuff. Like the last time I was there, I found three Christmas CDs that I’ve added to my already astounding and amazing collection.

The best gift of Christmas was also free. It came in the unlikeliest of places– in a stone manger inside of a barn on the outskirts of the little town of Bethlehem. It came wrapped not in a fancy package with ribbons and bows aplenty, but in a worn-out cloth.

That gift was Emmanuel. God downsized into human flesh, infant flesh, born ultimately to be the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me.

The gift wasn’t free to God. It cost Him everything. But the gift is free to you and me. The only problem with a gift– any gift– is that it doesn’t become yours until you take it. So will you?

This Christmas, don’t get so distracted by the gifts under the tree that you miss the best gift in the manger.

The end.

And The Star Stopped

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“And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the east. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” Matthew 2:9, 10 GNB).

I never thought about that part of the story. I’ve heard all my life about those wise men who travelled so far to see this baby Jesus. I knew they had a star to guide them.

But I never thought about how they knew when to stop looking and start worshipping.

Most people chased hopes like the cartoon of the rabbit chasing a carrot that is always dangling in front of him, just out of reach. Yet that silly old rabbit keeps chasing.

I’ve chased after my share of hopes, did a lot of running, and never got any closer to realizing them than when I started. Sometimes, I got to a place where I could see my hopes but couldn’t find a way to actually get there.

But the beautiful part of the story of Christmas is that true hope and true joy are always accessible to the ones searching for them. They can not only be found, but embraced and cherished and celebrated every single day.

Hope is not wishful thinking. It is a reality so certain that it is as good as done. In other words, it is a future event so guaranteed that it can be spoken of in past tense.

May you rediscover hope this Advent season. Or may you find it for the first time.

Not only is it available, Jesus Himself offers it to whomever will simply reach out and take it.

Will you? Will I?

I hope so.