by Christopher McRae, Discipleship Team Leader
We all know what a great time Christmas morning can be. It’s family time. Grandma silently surveys the scene, kindly presiding over the chaos. Kids atwitter with anticipation control (barely) their overstimulated imaginings. Mom bustling between the kitchen and the tree with hot cocoa and coffee while Dad sits exhausted but relieved that tab “B” finally fit into slot “12” and the assembly got completed in time. Everyone eager to see the delight and joy of the “perfect gift” revealed.
It’s a time of lights and tinsel, of greenery and berries. Ribbons, bows, boxes and wrappings litter the floor after the openings of the New Day’s dawn. Bing crooning of a White Christmas in the background is drowned out by squeals and beeps and buzzing. Clatter and clamor and chatter break out in “Thank you’s and You shouldn’t have’s.” Yet, even in this most sublime of scenes, there are the mutterings of frustration and the suppressed sighings of disappointment. That’s the natural expression of our inner nature. Billy didn’t get what he really wanted. Uncle Bob got something – he doesn’t know what it is or why it ended in his hands. Batteries are missing; instructions are unintelligible; pieces are misplaced. Even in this holy moment, the stain of self asserts its presence.
The Need of a Savior
The supreme message of Christmas is a reminder of just how much we need Christmas. Mankind is lost and without hope in this world of sin. Our center is misaligned and our souls wobble off-kilter because even as we give generously to one another, we’re looking out for ourselves somehow. Poor, wretched and blind we stumble in the darkness. Miserable, wicked sinners are ever in need of a Savior.
The good news is that the O Holy Night! of Christmas Eve prepared us for “the dear Savior’s birth.” It is of salvation that we sing. The angel chorus hailed our Savior’s arrival. Anointed to Be Our Savior, Jesus is found lying in a manger. There is Joy to the World because the Savior reigns!
God did not abandon his creation in her hopeless state. He knew in advance and planned before the first word was spoken to make all things right. He would have a family of sons and daughters who were like him in his imitable qualities …saved from their sin…re-fashioned in his image.
As this past year passes and we ring in a new one, let us as Christ followers follow his example and put on the qualities of character embodied in our Savior.
- Gentleness — This strikes home to me. My tendency is to be direct which often comes across as harsh. A friend once described me as being gentle – like a hypodermic needle. I guess he was making a point. (Groans for bad puns are appreciated.) One mitigating strategy I’ve employed over the years is to attempt to treat people in the same way I’m inclined to befriend a little puppy or a lovable kitten. Little boys in the two-three year old range with their princess sisters engender an outbreak of my soft side. So, when tempted toward “honest appraisal,” I’ve learned to think warm, fuzzy thoughts for those I’d otherwise be insensitive toward.
People of the adult persuasion can be of the sort that get my cold and calloused indifference in full bloom. When I embrace a tranquil spirit during this festive season, I am able to treat others with the tenderness we use towards those who are innocent and vulnerable. All of us, at some point in our day, need others to have compassion and grant us the blessing of a gentle response.
- Respect — It’s easy to be cynical. A jaded spirit is a sign of the times. All it takes is a quick glance around and one is easily led to the conclusion that there’s much which to be scornful and skeptical. Our age is one of pessimism, believing that the world is headed in the wrong direction. The result of this loss of hope is that we turn sour towards those we encounter. We treat the stranger with either indifference or disdain. In so doing we turn our backs on the soul of what makes us human.
During this season, I need to reject this tendency toward misanthropy. I must zealously guard against becoming suspicious of those who are not a part of my inner circle…keeping them at a distance. There are all sorts of responsibilities we have towards those who are near us, and while we don’t have any time or energy to give to strangers, we need to demonstrate respect for others through civility and the practice of some of these other heart attitudes. We need to value one another.
- Love — It was for love that God sent his son in the fullness of time to be born of a virgin to save his people from their sin. That’s about all that really needs to be said about the matter. God loved us…we should love one another. Just as he offered us a way of reconnection, during this time of the year we ought to display the same. There are those in each of our lives who have wounded us — some perhaps gravely.
As God did for you in Christ Jesus, go to them. Give them a way of reconciliation. Offer yourself in love. You may be ignored or rejected. But that end is no worse than the prevailing condition. And indeed, it may be better in that the opportunity to return has been offered. And new possibilities are presented. This is perhaps the greatest of Christmas gifts.
On these Days of Christmas
That we might become Christ-like is the reason the Son of God became manlike. God With Us as the Word Made Flesh devised a way for lost and sin-filled humanity to be restored. Like the prodigal, we need to “come to our senses” and flee the pigsty of the world’s ways to find our way home into our Father’s warm embrace. And we can show others the way as well by living the Disciplines of Christmas throughout the coming year.
“On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me…
Twelve loving hearts
Eleven valued words
Ten gentle nudges
Nine humble moments
Eight merciful deeds
Seven trusting thoughts
Six dollops of def’rence
F i v e l o a d s of g r a c e
Four heaps of kindness,
Three bits of balance,
Two generous acts,
and a pack of patience in a time of need.”