I always so enjoy Christmastime. The lights, the scents of cinnamon and evergreen, and of course the wrapping of gifts with the hope of eliciting smiles from loved ones all bring me joy. Not to mention that the stories that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside abound.
Right? Well, not always.
Honestly, Christmas this year made me weary.
I wanted to make an honest attempt to focus on Christ, and not all the trappings and yet still enjoy that “holly jolly Christmas” sort of spirit (whatever that actually means?).
However, the stories that I heard this Christmas season have been anything but warm and fuzzy.
I initially wrote out a list of these stories, but it was rather depressing.
It’s easy to look around and spot sin and its consequences.
It is easy to look forward to the day when we are in Heaven so we don’t have to deal with pain, or the results of people’s sin. And yes, there IS hope for this, I thought to myself. But there was still something missing.
But as I pondered, a reason to delight became so much apparent.
My verse for this Christmas was the following:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10
You might think this a bit morose, but it actually led to a source of joy. Stay with me for a minute.
My heart is desperately sick. Yes, mine.
And oh, how I recently have seen this, much to my dismay.
However, I like to forget this fact. I like to look around at all the things that are happening because of people rejecting God, and wearily look to a day when I won’t have to deal with it all anymore. But in doing only that, I miss something. I miss the fact that every single one of us, has, without Christ, a heart that is desperately sick.
I pray often to be disciplined by God. The results are not always enjoyable, but they are good for me. He has revealed to me a glimpse of the state of my heart left on its own, and I shudder. Let me tell you, I don’t enjoy the thought that I am someone who has spat in the face of God: a lying, stealing, unfaithful, murderer (to mention a few). I do not enjoy typing that out in the least.
We are all, unable on our own merit to stand before a holy God. My heart is capable of the same wickedness of anyone else. How uncomfortable that is. When I forget that though, I am in danger. Pride begins to sneak in and I begin to think that, well, I’m really not that bad. I forget that without Christ I am just as capable of any sin there is, and just as guilty as if I had done them all.
It is when this realization of how much I deserve punishment, how I deserve to be eternally separated from God that I begin to appreciate my need for a Savior. That I begin to rejoice in the idea of Christmas. It’s not just to give a hope than one day I won’t have to deal with pain. It is personal.
I was in chains, on death row, something that I had earned. Deserved. We have all heard that the wages of sin is death. I have earned death, there is no way around it. So have you.
But because of nothing I could ever do to deserve it, the perfect, holy son of God came to live among us who were desperately sick. He lived among us at a time when things were not easy, in a world we had ruined. And we killed Him. He suffered God’s wrath for us. Willingly. Lovingly. To restore us to a right relationship with Him. To bring glory to His name.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV)
What is this? How can this be?
It boggles my mind.
I don’t like realizing how weak I am. How flawed I am. But when I reach this point I am able to better understand the wonder of a God who would suffer the worst thing ever (separation from God and death) that I, you, we, might by surrendering ourselves to His Lordship obtain the best thing ever (a relationship with the God who created the universe).
How much more dear that becomes when I see how much I am in need of Him!
And what a delight it is, as I see that what seems beyond what I could ever hope for has already been given.
“the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16 ESV)
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11-14 ESV)