Christmas, Then & Now

I usually avoid the use of tired cliches and groan-worthy hyperbole like the plague when I express my thoughts in writing, but somehow this time it just seems like the right thing to do. So here we go. My 2013 Christmas was the best ever.

Here’s why.

Growing up, it was all about the stuff, stuff I could have fun with. Manipulable action figures of the cartoon characters I loved, NERF guns, electronic gadgets, video games…you know, the desires of the typical American boy. This was the case when I was seven, seventeen…and even beyond. There may have been a few years where I experienced a small twinge of extra thankfulness in my heart for the coming of Jesus Christ, and what He ultimately accomplished for me…but 99% of the time, my mind ached for the next seemingly cool thing I was about to receive, and my hands itched badly for the looming opportunity to tear the wrapping that would separate me from said cool thing to shreds. That’s how it goes for someone not walking with God.

Luke 12:15
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

I was such a selfish child and teenager (even young adult!) in this way, one who had the very interesting ritual of anticipating the annual landing of Toy R Us’s Big Book of toys in my family’s mailbox. I poured over those publications for days when they arrived in the late fall, and circled every last thing that created the slightest hint of excitement or interest inside my material-obsessed heart. Of course I had to reduce my completely reasonable “list” from about 50 items…to around 25, then 10, and only finally, to between 3-5. Even then, there was no guarantee of anything. But hey, at least I knew what I wanted with the aid of the nation’s largest toy retailer, right?

It was further impossible for gifts to be purchased and brought home without my knowing. Being so convinced that my next stage of childhood nirvana was just around the corner on that December 25, I made sure to study when items were purchased, how they were “hidden”, and so on. The year I came into possession of the Nintendo 64 especially, I practically memorized the writing on the box before it was ever wrapped. That’s what you’re able to do during Christmas break when no one else is home!

I could tell many more goofy stories, but I think my point is well-made. And did any of those things ever truly satisfy? Well there’s a “duh”, no of course not. I don’t even have the majority of all the crazy things I received all those years, and don’t particularly care either. In fact, I’ve sold a lot of those kinds of useless things on eBay over the past couple years, and feel most liberated.

That’s work that the Lord has done on me, in my heart, and I’m now enjoying a closer walk with Christ than ever. Christmas Eve as well was most special. Though I was looking forward to exchanging gifts with my wife, and eventually other family, for probably the first Christmas I simply marveled at what the incarnation means to me. I think it’s also helped that in our evening services this month we’ve focused specifically on Jesus Christ…His Godhood, humanity, and so forth. I also loved the singing of O Holy Night as special music. You can’t listen to those words without noticing the purposeful repetition of Christ being king, a king worthy of our daily bow. And above all else, how that night changed humanity forever. It brought us a Savior. It brought me a Savior. A Savior from my sin, and its well-deserved penalty.

Without the Christmas cradle, there is no Calvary cross. Without the cross, we are simply without hope. But not only is that hope of eternal life real, it is also sure and unchangeable for the one who has faith in Jesus Christ. And most precious of all perhaps was my gaining a better understanding of how every day can and should be Christmas. You might consider that a cliche, but it’s really true. Every day we should be remembering the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our loving, humble, and gracious Savior Jesus Christ. I know I don’t, and by grace that may change. But as I sit here now about to finish this post on a vacation day, the day after formal gift exchanges took place across the world…my heart is filled with wonder, joy, and amazement knowing the greatest gift possible on a personal basis. And God’s gift was not prompted per se by the calendar. It wasn’t prompted because of anything about us, at least not anything good certainly. It was prompted because of who He is, because of His love…a love that we as believers try to discuss and make sense of but more than likely fall pitifully short of more often than not simply because that love is plainly incomprehensible. Jesus Christ, God’s gift, was given for us, for me, and in spite of us. If that hasn’t dawned on you yet, please let it start now and praise God for the incarnation of the One and only God-man Who came to seek and save the lost. I absolutely appreciate the books and running gear I received this year and will undoubtedly enjoy them, but they mean nothing in comparison to the great I AM, God with us!

Alleluia, what a Savior!

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