A CHRISTMAS LESSON FROM GRANDMA ELYSE
Over the next few weeks, many of us will spend a lot of time decorating, crafting, and baking for the holidays. For those of us with young children, it will be a time when they will ask over and over, “Can I help?”
Although I grew up in a home without much holiday fanfare, with one grandmother working most of the time and the other one being Jewish, I learned about celebrating Christmas from my mother-in-law, Thelma. She was a woman who knew how to make every day a party, and she especially knew how to celebrate Christmas, with days spent in the kitchen making homemade fudge and delicious raisin-filled cookies.
Today I am a grandma too (they call me “Mimi”). I am getting ready for the holidays and hoping to make memories with my own grandkids.
“CAN I HELP?”
Over the next few weeks, many of us will spend a lot of time decorating, crafting, and baking for the holidays. For those of us with young children, it will be a time when they will ask over and over, “Can I help?” Now, when my grandchildren ask, “Mimi, can I help?” usually what that means is that I have to slow down, invite them in, and be willing to alter my plan for how the cookies, the tree, or the mashed potatoes will look and taste. It means I have to condescend, to humble myself; it means that the ability to look with pride on my accomplishments may be diminished.
The “Can I help?” question gets asked a lot around my house because all six of my grandkids live nearby, and two of them actually live with me while their dad is in seminary. So when it comes time for the outside of the house to get decked out or when the sugar cookies need decorating, I’ve got built-in little elves wanting to help. They love to climb up the ladder (while I nervously hang on to them), and they really love to stir. Stir what? Anything! Cookie dough or the pan with the Victorian (Toffee)—it doesn’t matter, they really love to help.
SHARING THE WORK
Letting my grandkids in on the work means that I’ll know what it is to be generous with my reputation and share the joy of my accomplishments with someone I love. And in those moments, I’ll get a taste of what it is for God to patiently wait and work with us to accomplish all he is doing on this earth.
I’ll get a taste of what it is for God to patiently wait and work with us to accomplish all he is doing on this earth.
God is sharing his reputation with us. We get to work and hear the commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” as if what we had done was something other than get glue on the table and glitter in the carpet. It’s like me saying to my grandson, “Well done, Colin. Your drawing of that stable is beautiful!” when in reality I had to guess what it was.
God chooses to use our words and work to bring us the joy of partnering with him. He shares his accomplishments with us. When we say, “Can I help?” he doesn’t respond with a “Sorry, this is really important. I’ll do it myself, but thanks dearie.” No, he responds with a resounding “Yes! I’m glad you’re here! I’m glad you asked! Let’s get to work!”
GOD LETS US HELP
God doesn’t need our works to accomplish his. He has decreed his will and purpose from the beginning of time, a plan he originally set forth in Christ, when it was decided that he would save a people for his glory in the fullness of time (Eph. 1:9–10). The work that God has purposed to do has been and will be accomplished.
The thought that his kingdom is coming and his will is going to be done is both amazing and comforting to me. It is amazing because it demonstrates his power over all things. He is sovereignly ruling and overruling over everything to bring all things together in the Son for his glory. It is his prerogative to do as he pleases as sovereign King (Psalm 135:6). This amazes me. It also comforts me because it frees me from the thought that everything rides on my getting it right, on my determination and perfections—which is not to say that God doesn’t use us to build his kingdom and do his will, but that he uses us the way we will let our little children help us during this holiday season.
FLAWED BUT LOVED
Make no mistake: The works we bring him are stained through and through with sin: selfishness, pride, anger, ambition, greed. Our works are very deeply flawed because our understanding, our skill, and our wisdom are so finite. Like little children, we look at the papier-mâché ornament we have made and think, “Now that really makes that tree glorious!” And he joins in and out of a heart of love says, “Yes it does. I love the work you do.”
Perhaps this is how we are to remain like little children (Matt. 18:2–4), offering our paste, glitter, finite words, and meager efforts to him. And when we ask, “Can I help?” he smiles and welcomes us in. Why? Because he loves us and loves sharing his joy with us. Do you really think he needed Mary or the magi to accomplish our salvation? No, but he chose to use them, along with Herod and the Sanhedrin and the frequently dim-witted disciples, to demonstrate his great love and humility.
God uses us the way we will let our little children help us during this holiday season.
Make no mistake: We’re not nearly as important or skilled as we think we are. But still we offer our gifts, flawed and weak as they are, and we work with all our might for his kingdom and out of love for our neighbor, remembering all the while that it’s really his grace working in us. We’re the little children in this story, and it’s his grace and great power that turns our “Can I help?” into works that build his kingdom and accomplish his will.
So during this season, when you see the mess that your little ones are making trying to wrap those presents or get that colored sugar just right on Santa’s big belly, remember: Your heavenly Father loves you even more than you love your children (or grandchildren), and it’s his pleasure to give you his kingdom (Luke 12:32), even though you’re spilling more glitter on the carpet than you’re getting on that star.
Don’t miss Elyse Fitzpatrick’s new Advent devotional, Counting the Days,
Lighting the Candles.