What is Christmas? Does it matter? Maybe it is a fun family celebration where we get to forget the reality and mundaneness of everyday life. We can remember how important relationships are and cherish those moments spent together. Maybe it is the “celebration of winter solstice” or maybe it truly is a Christian holiday! Maybe it is an opportunity to escape from the pressure of the daily grind and experience generosity towards others, quickly followed by the unsettling reality check of a January credit card statement.
Christmas is not always a time to be looked to for comfort. For some it is a reminder of those who they have lost to cancer, old age, or some sudden tragedy. There are children who will spend this Christmas for the first time separated from one or both of their parents. There are parents who will spend this Christmas experiencing the fresh pain of losing a child. Somewhere a spouse will spend this Christmas without their love and it will feel like a part of their own self is gone. What is it that happens around Christmas that can affect us so passionately?
The God of the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament (before Jesus Christ arrived in human form), established many holidays for people to enjoy! Why would He do this? God knew (and knows) that we need landmarks in life. We need something to cause us to remember AND look forward. God gave people multiple “feasts” to be celebrated and they had specific purpose behind them. We will not dive deeply into these feast for now, but suffice it to say their purpose is what we are talking about right now.
“On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.” Numbers 10:10 ESV
Think about your own life. Think about how easy it is to get “stuck” in the rut of routine, and how quickly you can lose site of the goals or dreams you use to have. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we need routine and we need reminders. When we lose routine and forget why we are here, the ability to find satisfaction and purpose in our responsibilities disappears. Our “job” becomes something we do simply for the hope of finishing it! Church becomes something we “attend” out of habit or maybe even guilt. Life becomes so routine that we can forget that there is anything to look forward to.
God is amazing at knowing exactly what we need… and when we need it. The fact that we have seasons is a reminder that things will not always be the same. Yes, I know why the seasons happen scientifically, but why were they put in place? The very nature of how our weather works reminds us of the Gospel. Maybe you are asking yourself “how does nature or the weather remind me of the Gospel?” I am glad you asked.
“For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 (ESV)
I will admit, Romans 1:20 is in the context of the depravity of mankind and how even the very nature we are a part of and surrounded by screams evidence of an Eternal Creator God. We have no excuse in denying God as our Creator, because He has made it evident to us. With that said, I believe it is clear in the Bible and in our very experience of life that God has made it evident He exists, is eternal, and amazingly powerful.
Think back to how the summer comes to a close. The warm summer nights slowly begin to fade away. You feel the air begin to change. The memories of days at the beach or the park are still fresh in your mind. Look around. The trees are changing colors, the grass begins to hibernate and refuses to grow, the blossoms and flower pedals have disappeared. There is still something enjoyable and beautiful about the fall, but we quickly miss the summer.
You have finally began to accept the inevitability of fall being a reality in your life. You embrace wearing sweaters, hoodies, and occasionally having to fire up the furnace. Reality check. Winter is knocking at your door. Days become gloomy, wet, and overcast. The memory of summer days begins to seem so distant. The smile and happiness they brought is quickly forgotten. How can this be a good thing? And how is this about the gospel? This doesn’t sound very “gospelly”!
What is it that gets you through tough seasons of life? We are very creative at adapting to our environment and making opportunities for fun, despite our circumstances. We have “snow toys” and make games for the winter. We enjoy it… for a while. These things are not answers. They may be distractions.
I’ll get to the point. If I try hard enough, I can close my eyes and imagine standing on a beach. I am facing the ocean, listening to the waves crash onto the shore. There is an occasional cry of a seagull, the site of a few dolphins cresting in the distance. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I am witnessing the rising of the sun as it comes up from behind the distant horizon. Wow. I love it! How can that memory bring me happiness? Because I know I will experience it again someday. I look forward to it! I have hope.
Christmas is about hope. No matter who you are or where you are from, if hope is taken from you, you will not make it. Why is the suicide rate for teenagers and young adults so ridiculously high? They feel hopeless. Why do marriages and intimate relationships not last? They feel hopeless. Why do people turn to drugs and other forms of escape? They feel hopeless. If you take hope away from a person, you have crippled their ability to live life as God intended. This kind of life, apart from God, only leads to death.
I have grown annoyed over the years with hearing people refer to God or Jesus or Church or Christianity in general as “an important part of my life”. I want to give some the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to semantics, but I unfortunately believe that this is honestly how many people think. Why? Because this is how so many of us live. Jesus is a part of my life? The truth is, Jesus IS my life. Jesus IS my hope. Jesus IS my source and purpose for living! Why do people lose hope? Because they have misunderstood why they are here. My hope is not in my career. My hope is not in my house. My hope is not in my car. My hope is not in my savings, investments, or retirement plan. My hope is not in my spouse or children. My hope is not in my reputation or friends. We chase so many false hopes in life and we wonder why we grow frustrated, stressed, anxious, tired, lonely, and hopeless. We were created to desire hope and to pursue it! This is not the problem. The problem is where we think we will find our hope. Jesus is our Hope.
The entire world cries out for peace! We desperately “fight” for peace treaties to be signed, peace with our family, peace with ourselves… and some are even pursuing peace with God. The best we have been able to do on planet earth is have periods of time without declared war. Question for you. Is “not fighting” the same as peace? Think about it in relation to God. If you and God are “not fighting”, but you ignore His existence, live life with your own prerogative, and do not consider your decisions in light of there being an eternal existence… does this mean you are at peace with God? The answer is no. The same as if two countries who are diabolically opposed in their goals, vision, philosophy of government, religion, and more are simply restraining themselves from war are by no means at peace. There is instead tension, fear, hesitation to communicate, speculation, doubt, hatred, and bitterness.
God has given us the ultimate gift in His Son Jesus Christ. God has made Peace available to all mankind. Jesus, who is fully God, came and became a man, lived a literal human life on Earth, died a physical horrendous death, defeated death by coming back to life, and returning to His Father to receive His inheritance. We as human beings have been given THE GIFT of Reconciliation. Jesus experienced death separation from His Father to pay the debt that sinful people owed to God. We can have Hope because of Jesus. We can have Peace because of Jesus. We can have Security because of Jesus.
“Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies. With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem.” ~from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”
It really does matter what you think about Christmas. It really does matter what you think about God. I am asking to do yourself a favor this year… give yourself a present! Rethink what you believe and why. Allow God to Renew you and your zeal for life. ReGroup with others who share your conviction for truth and allow them to sharpen and challenge you.
Rethink. Renew. ReGroup.
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