The Crown or the Crowd?

I was simply washing dishes at my kitchen sink when I heard the familiar small voice.

 “The Crown or the crowd?” 

I heard it clearly, as though it had been whispered into my unconscious without any anticipation or explanation. Caught off guard, I stopped scrubbing and repeated the words to myself…

“The Crown or the crowd? Hmmm - that’s kinda catchy!”

I turned around drying my hands on my jeans and typed the five words into my ‘notebook’ app. I didn’t know what they meant, but I did know that God was attempting to speak to me in His frequent and unpredictable way. I catalogued the phrase into the ‘possible future sermon series’ classification and went back to my dish washing. Little did I know God wasn't ready to move on.

Eventually the dishes were finished, dinner prepared, children tucked in. A whole day passed and evening came with zero consideration of what I had heard earlier that day. It wasn’t until the next morning that those five words returned to my recollection. They greeted me as I opened my eyes.

Unprovoked by any thinking of my own, I heard the phrase again.“The Crown or the crowd?” 

I lay in bed, enjoying the unhurried pace of my Saturday morning. “God, please no puzzles before I’ve had my coffee” I thought as I flopped over and attempted to fall back to sleep.

It’s pretty cute that I imagined I would be able to lull myself back into dreamland, what was I thinking? Between my three ravenous boys, my nagging full bladder and a husband who was over zealously enjoying his brand new coffee maker (an early Christmas gift from the day before) - I could not avoid that all signs pointed to “it’s time to wake up.”

I bought myself some time as I doled out three oranges to my half-dressed children, and sat for a quiet moment with my coffee in hand.

“The Crown or the crowd?”

I slowly sipped my coffee and read my Bible, expecting the divine interpretation of what I had now heard on two separate occasions. Surely God wanted to speak…

… Nothing!

So instead I began to journal.

“God, I find it so interesting that You so often choose to speak to me at the most unexpected times. Washing dirty dishes, Half asleep with morning breath? Why do you choose to insert yourself into these unglamorous and unplanned moments?”

As I wrote, my mind intuitively went straight to the Christmas story.

I lifted my gaze to see our own Nativity scene displayed in the middle of our living room. It looked so tidy, so pretty.. I chuckled as I thought  how vastly different the real birth experience must have been.
Oh, how often we try to make tidy what God never intended to look that way. 

Jesus came as God incarnate, the Immanuel - God WITH us. The Majestic-Eternal Crown, not even greeted with a bath. His perfect lungs gasped in the stench of the stable while the mess of birth was wiped away by strips of cloth. Likely the same rough and humble rags that  wrapped his fresh skin before being placed into a feeding trough. This is where the King of the Universe chose to insert Himself.

We sing songs at Christmas, romancing how silent, beautiful and Holy that night was..
...but the truth is - it was messy and God was never afraid of it being that way. 

God enters into our mess - this is what He loves to do. This is the way of His Crown and His Kingdom. His Kingdom is not of this world, His Kingdom does not follow the crowd. His Kingdom runs toward the ugly, the broken, the uncomfortable, the messy.

As I was contemplating this, I realized that God was speaking to me and asking me what I would choose this Christmas.

Would I choose the Crown, or the crowd?

Would I choose to lay down my life, to trade my comfort and my preference in pursuit of love?
Would I choose reconciliation over self-preservation?
Would I choose humility, rather than demanding my own way?
Would I choose to give - expecting nothing in return?

Would I choose the way of the Crown? 
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:28

As I sat, confronted with the reality that my life has so often followed the voice of the crowd, I asked God to help me choose rightly. I am so prone to deception, to follow the crowd only to find disappointment as the end destination. The thing God wants me to know is that His miracle is often not where I think it will be. Happiness isn't waiting for me at the end of the perfect Christmas experience. I've tried to pursue my idea of perfection in the past - thinking that I could manicure 'messy' right out of the picture. The truth is - it's impossibly arrogant and ridiculous, incredibly selfish and unsatisfying! I've been there - done that..and I don't want to go down that road again.

"Oh God, help me! Why am I so enticed by the voice of the crowd?"

I think it is because the crowd is so loud and so persistent in my ear. It demands that I “buy more gifts, hang more lights, bake more cookies, send more cards,  sing more carols, host more parties, spend more money.....More, More, MORE!" 

The voice of God isn't so loud, in fact - I can even miss it the first time it comes. Sometimes it takes multiple times for God to speak to me before I understand what He is saying. His voice is much softer than the crowd's. It comes  like a whisper, and it requires the very opposite thing of me.

The Crown inquires gently... "LESS Sharon? 

Will you choose LESS for yourself?  Will you to be content to live more simply so that others may simply live? Will you choose to give generously to others, because that is how I have chosen to give to you? Will you forgive before being asked? Will you hold your tongue when you want to speak your mind? Will you pick up your cross and follow me into the way of everlasting joy?"

Jesus says;
 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way,
take up your cross, and follow me." 
(Matthew 16:24)

Deny myself?
That message goes against EVERYTHING the crowd is shouting in my ears!
Daily I hear the voices -
"If it doesn't feel good, than just don't do it. Do what's best for you."

I've begun to see these messages pop up all over my social media newsfeeds:

“If showing up for family is uncomfortable - just don’t go.
“Choose self-care this Christmas.”
“Spend more, you deserve it.”
“Choose YOUR happy and YOUR comfort.”
“If you’d rather not… just don’t.”

It sounds enlightened, and to be honest, I’ve told myself these very same things. The problem is, choosing self is always a temporary counterfeit to experiencing lasting joy. There’s only so much you can pour into yourself before you run out of space.  Deep down, I think we all know our greatest satisfaction comes when we spend our lives serving something GREATER than ourselves. The happiest people are those who live their lives not for themselves, but for others.

God was challenging me, and now I want to challenge you. What will YOU choose this Holiday season? Will you choose the way of the Crown, or the way of the crowd?

The way of the crowd is motivated by self, and selfishness has a tendency of leading us toward disappointment. The way of the Crown is motivated by love, and you know what God says about love? It NEVER fails. You and I, we have a choice this Christmas. What will it be,

The Crown or the crowd?

I pray that you choose the Crown.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thingsLove never fails."
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8