As I write this I am perched on the edge of a Christmas “celebration” threatening to become a cross between Christmas with the Cranks and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (complete with a Something-of-the-Month-Club gift for my husband, purchased online tonight due to my procrastination). My in-laws will be arriving in a matter of hours and the turkey is taking a leisurely candlelight bath in the kitchen sink right now because I neglected to take it out of the freezer 3-4 days before Christmas Eve as recommended and it is currently suitable only for bowling. The ham is in another county, caught in an internecine family “misunderstanding” which may result in the turkey flying solo on the big day. The presents are unwrapped, not a single cookie has graced my oven, and I am seriously considering punting on my one contribution to Christmas Day with my own family — the dessert.
In addition to the food and gifts and unsent Christmas cards — okay, no, I did not even purchase cards, let alone address and mail them — and while we are on the subject, I cannot even bear to open another one of those braggy Christmas newsletters to hear about everyone’s perfect life — and now I’ve lost my train of thought. This is what the Christmas “festivities” can do to a person.
As I was saying, add to all of this the heaviness in my heart for friends and family members who are struggling during what should be a joyous time of year — grieving lost loved ones, dealing with parents in the hospital and in nursing homes, struggling with health issues and marital difficulties. And then there is the migraine monster that battles for control of my head and my life. Will this second round of steroids knock out this 2-week cycle?
When my husband walked in the door, sans meat, and announced the ham embargo, I lost it. By lost it I mean I completely checked out. I ran to the pharmacy before it closed and then came home and sat in the car in the cold garage on my own personal pity pot for a very long time. I let calls about tomorrow’s plans go to voice mail and then shut my phone off.
So, Merry Christmas, right?
As I desperately worked on an attitude adjustment tonight, I realized that the problems are not Christmas cookies and syrupy family Christmas letters or even a ham that is MIA.
The problems are sin and Satan and I despise them both because of the destruction they cause in my life and in the lives of people I love.
If I were tempted for even a moment to believe these do not exist I’d need only to look in my own heart tonight — evil thoughts, anger, a lack of gratitude, self-pity and a heaping platter of selfishness. Humans are unique among all the living creatures on the earth — we are the only beings capable of sinful thoughts and behavior. Your cat, though he seems to spend his days and nights plotting your demise, is merely acting on his instincts; his behaviors are value-neutral because he answers only to nature’s call. Our yellow lab, bred to stay in the wolf pup stage throughout his adult life, mimics a primal survival urge when he pounces on the dachshund and scraps with the elderly chow mix. However, he doesn’t “choose” between right and wrong. Animals, unlike humans, will never give an account of themselves to God (Romans 14:12).
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
This is the problem that the Baby Jesus in the manger came to earth to solve — reconciling lost sinners to the perfect, holy God who created them. The fourth verse of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing tells of the first prophecy in the Bible related to Jesus:
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
In Genesis 3, Eve was tempted by Satan (in the form of a serpent), ate the fruit God said not to eat, and then gave some to her husband, who also ate. God banished the couple from the garden and cursed the serpent:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)
God said that there would be, from that day on, strife between the serpent and man, a war between Good and Evil. But He also foretold a day in future when the serpent — Satan — would try to kill Jesus, offspring of the woman. On the cross Jesus would be bruised, but would ultimately prevail when he conquered death by rising from the dead three days later.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
The “offspring of the virgin’s womb” who never once sinned — never killed, lied, stole — never once acted selfishly and never even once had a lustful thought would be the perfect, unblemished lamb to take the punishment for our sins, overcoming our “ruined nature”:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
In God’s magnificent plan, Jesus, son of God, equal to God — became one of us. God became flesh. He was born of a virgin and made a way for us to be forgiven:
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19)
In Acts 3, Peter explained it beautifully when he gave a sermon outside the temple in Jerusalem:
But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. (Acts 3:19-21)
John promised to those who believe and trust in what Christ accomplished on the cross: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, ESV)
Amid the decorations and music and stress and in-laws, we are reminded that this is the real gift of Christmas — God became one of us so that we could be reconciled to God. God and sinners reconciled. Amid the chaos of Christmas and our lives, we can have peace with God (Romans 5:1), and as a result, “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
I needed an attitude adjustment and a change in perspective today. God’s word reminded me about that peace and refreshing from the presence of the Lord — the true meaning of Christmas. I hope He speaks into your life today as well and that you have a blessed and joyous Christmas!
(And in case you’re wondering, Hamageddon was averted, the turkey thawed, and we will be a bi-carne family for Christmas).