What does Christmas mean to you . . . presents under a tree or the presence of Christ? I realize this question may make some people uncomfortable or stir up controversy. However, I don’t write to make people feel good, but rather to share the Good News.
The Good News has nothing to do with holiday doorbuster sales, coupons, cash-back, or bright paper packages tied up with string. The birth, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus, along with the free gift of eternal life through salvation, are way better than any of the seasonal deals mentioned above.
Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m not anti-gift giving. Presents are not bad--as this is often a way of exercising kindness to others. Many people like to give or receive gifts as part of their love language. The problem is found within the shift--when the presents take over the spotlight of God’s presence and demote the reason we even have a holiday called Christmas.
(Below is an excerpt from Purpose Through Perspective.)
Have you ever seen the movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss? Can you visualize the scene toward the end when all of the citizens of Whoville woke up and discovered that everything was taken away? Their reaction was not despair, but joy. Their response to having nothing but one another was to join together and rejoice by singing! Christmas wasn’t dependent on presents and trees but rather on the presence of love. Now transfer this image from a cartoon movie to the message from a Biblical passage.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NLT)
Everything that could go wrong with crops and livestock did--and all at the same time. The situation appeared hopeless and depressing, but the solution was joy and strength in God. Just like the empty-handed citizens of Whoville, we can respond with praise, because even if we have nothing of this world, we have everything in the love of Jesus.
The Grinch became puzzled by the citizens of Whoville. He thought that by stealing their belongings, he would be able to defeat them. Instead, he learned that Christmas doesn’t come from external conditions--that there was something much deeper going on inside their hearts. This was the factor that changed the Grinch. Likewise, it would be amazing to have those surrounding us curious about Jesus because they see our joy. We have the power to help transform hearts all around us through the way we respond to our circumstances. When our feelings are not based on earthly conditions, we are able to find joy, even in sorrowful situations.
Then we know that even if everything in life is stripped away from us, we still have the opportunity to strengthen our character, develop our faith, and reap the far greater eternal gift of life through salvation.
This is one of my favorite Christmas decorations. It was given to me as a gift:) I pray that as you exchange presents this season, you are not just reminded of God's presence, but that you experience it. Peace and Joy are not just holiday cliché sayings, but rather gifts that are freely given to all believers who seek first the Kingdom of God.