Wednesday, December 25, 2019

What Everyone Needs at Christmas

I love the Christmas season! Sure, people are rightly critical of the commercialization of Christmas, but if our goal in the season is to give, even extravagant giving, how does that reflect the love of God? 

When we give of our time, our talents and our resources to others, that is the very embodiment of love. And when we look more toward giving than allowing ourselves to dwell upon what we want, how much more do our hearts change? What would our world look like if we maintained an attitude of Thanksgiving, grateful for what we have rather than counting the things we are missing, giving to others out of love throughout the year, mindful of the One who by His example showed us that love is sacrifice? It looks a little bit like heaven, doesn’t it? And when love overflows from our families to our friends and our communities, it transforms the world around us. 

This romantic view of the Christmas season is not a foolish fancy. While some might paint the Christmas spirit as a winsome fantasy, for those who believe and persevere it will someday be a reality. There is a godly longing in our hearts for peace and prosperity, goodwill from God between all people, giving to the point where no one is in need. Socialists believe this utopia can be attained through the inherent good within everyone without the need for God, but the historical record shows a different story. Wealth is distributed unequally in both socialist and capitalist countries, resting in the hands of the ones who have obtained power. 

And if we’re honest with ourselves, examining our selfish nature, we know that this utopia is beyond our grasp. Each of us struggles against the inner man to do what we know is healthy for ourselves as well as what is best for others, choosing immediate gratification over greater good. Our seasons of victory are inconsistent, interrupted by a selfish nature that refuses to die entirely. Some people give up the struggle, hopelessly convinced that they are beyond redemption. Others refuse to acknowledge their hardened hearts and instead rationalize selfish behavior as somehow acceptable rather than admitting to the ugliness of their inner man.

But this is what I’ve discovered: that I am changed as I spend time with Jesus. Every single person is an “image bearer” who was created in the image of God. We were made not to become God, but to reflect His image. A mirror kept in darkness reflects nothing, and likewise we need to be continuously in His light to reflect the beauty that is His. The spirit of Christmas is not a winsome fantasy; it is a future reality for a world that stays forever in His light. The longing in our hearts that will be fulfilled with His second coming, when our hearts of clay will be replaced with hearts of flesh. So the Kingdom of Heaven is for both now and the future. Our reflection of His image, however muddied, is something that we bring to a darkened world, and that spirit of Christmas can persist beyond the Christmas season. 

For us to be effective in this, we need 3 things: 
  1. a vision for what it looks like
  2. awareness of both our inner and outer realities 
  3. walls / guardrails to protect us from distractions

So while the rest of world prepares New Year resolutions, may I suggest taking some time to consider answers to the following questions:
  • What do I see (or want to see) at Christmas that makes it special?
  • What is it that I really need to carry the love and joy of the Christmas spirit into and throughout 2020?
  • How can I love others better? What does it look like?
  • How can I better stay aware of my inner and outer realities?
  • What guardrails do I need in my life to stay more focused, more intentional in reflecting God’s love?

copyright ©2019 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)