Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
My favorite Christmas inflatable is waning. The lights have weakened to a barely noticeable glimmer and the motor now runs with a half-strength whimper. My animated Gingerbread Man no longer pops up with his same yuletide enthusiasm; he will likely not even make it to Christmas. The hot cocoa party is over. This is a bummer. It has been a staple in our Christmas display for many years. I did look at some online videos and considered purchasing replacement parts—but it appears to be a bit too much hassle and more money than I originally purchased it for. I'll see what I can do this weekend to rig it up and squeeze a few more weeks of life out of it. But this might be a bit tricky as not even duct tape or WD40 is going to solve the problems. So as much as I hate to admit it, until another suitable replacement is found, there will be a large, mug-sized void in our front yard.
There is often much excitement as we turn the calendar to December. The countdown to Christmas becomes a bit more real. Christmas movie specials are on TV each night. Stores begin to entice us with great savings and sales. Neighborhood houses light up their festive displays. Christmas cookies are baked. Community concerts and events (like Live Nativities 😉) start to become available on just about every weekend night from now until the end of the month. But with all that excitement, there will inevitably be things that seek to deflate our Christmas spirit. The loss of a loved one. The piling up of credit card bills. The news we receive of poor health or a scary diagnosis. More senseless violence in our schools. More acts of hatred and terror in our streets. We can listen to all the non-stop Christmas radio stations we want, but we are hardly sheltered from the scrooges and grinches that try to steal the joy of Christmas from us.
Perhaps then, there is a lesson to be learned in the collapsed aftermath of a not-working inflatable. For life does have a way of knocking the wind out of you sometimes. Particularly at this point in the year, it’s easy to find our expectations for the season flattened as well. As your list of “things to do” grows, you find yourself overtired, stressed, and discouraged by the extra preparation this season brings. Many years the Advent season brings sadness to the surface for all the reasons mentioned above and many move. Make no mistake, this is the work of the evil one. The great villain of the Christmas story will do whatever he can to deflate our Christmas spirit. After all, he knows that if we become consumed in despair and disheartened by the broken world in which we live, how can we excitedly celebrate the birth of our Savior? If our lives are overrun by the commercialized distractions of this season, how can we truly kneel before the crèche to worship our newborn King? How can we bear witness if we are simply exhausted? And so, the devil seeks to turn this sacred holiday into one which we Christians talk about in terms of survival, and not celebration.
Yet the original Christmas story is one which very much puts our brokenness on display—front and center. This is the very reason God came nearly 2000 years ago. In the midst of sin and darkness, God breaks into the world He created to bring hope and light. Christmas is not about having all our boxes shipped or everything just the way we want them. It is about knowing that God provides what we actually need. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” The Lord steps down from His heavenly throne, enfleshed in the person of Jesus, to redeem and save us. This Advent, prepare your hearts to spend time with Jesus, to celebrate God’s love for you in the humble in-breaking of the Word made flesh. To borrow a few clichés—keep Christ in your Christmas and celebrate Him as the true reason for the season. In Hebrews 1:6 it says, "And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, 'Let all of God's angels worship him.'" (NLT) The angels provide a good model for us this time of the year. They bow down before Jesus. They shout with incredible joy as they sing songs of praise. Through worship, angels spread the news of God's glory and exhibit holy reverence. Angels intentionally and deliberately spend time praising God. This is my prayer for us all this Advent and Christmas season. Let’s be intentional in our worship and boisterous in our singing. Let us tune our hearts back to the Christ Child and discover the peace which is only found in Him. And if, by chance, you’ve been feeling like a deflated Christmas inflatable these days, maybe that can put the wind back in your sails.
“Joy is the true gift of Christmas…” (Pope Benedict XVI)
Pastor Steve Vera