Sunday, December 25, 2016
Sure, I was a brat like most kids can be around that time of year. My mom loves to tell the story about how one Christmas when I was about fourteen or fifteen, she decided to wrap my presents in one kind of paper and my sister's presents in a different kind of paper, without any names on them. I promptly threw a fit. Apparently, I made life so miserable for her, that she finally relented and put names on the packages. So, you see, a total brat.
When I turned sixteen, I started to feel frustrated with the holiday and all of the expectations that were (and still are) placed on gift givers. I started to get angry with people for not celebrating what I considered the true meaning of Christmas, which was the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I used to feel out of control and helpless about the situation because I wanted to change the world's attitude and opinion of the most special holiday of the year. I wouldn't even have called myself a Christian back then either, which is quite humorous, given my righteous indignation about the whole thing.
As I've gotten older, though, my frustration has given way to introspection and self examination. Now, I know that doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun to do at what is supposed to be one of the most exciting and happiest holidays of the year, but I think it's necessary. We are called as Christians to examine ourselves and our hearts on a regular basis, even when it isn't Christmas. The thought alone that God would love this world enough to wrap his love in flesh and then sacrifice his son; his one and only son so that we could live in heaven with him for all of eternity? That, my friend, is the sort of thing spurs me on to want to be better, or to try to be better.
Something else that happens when you think about God's love for us is that it makes you want to remove all impurity from your heart and mind and life and replace it with obedience and joy and happiness. God gave us His son and His Word for our benefit, for our life to be lived abundantly, not to punish us or to hinder us. He gave those things to us because he knows that we need limitations to protect our hearts from sin.
I pray that this Christmas night, as I sit here and type this, that you and your family are experiencing joy and peace and love. Not because of the gifts that are under your tree, but because of the gifts that are around your tree. Your family and friends are the real gifts in your lives. Forget about the commercialization of the holiday, as I so fervently wished for the world as a teenager, and make it about a wonderful blessing of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Merry Christmas to your family from mine.