I am thankful not to be feeling this year like I did when I wrote this in 2016, but I want to offer it again as a gift to those of you who may be ready to throw in the towel in 2018.
Fight on; don't give up!
Earlier this month in an Advent devotional provided by our church, which includes Bible passages and selected readings from C.S. Lewis, I read:
Christianity is a fighting religion.
It thinks God made the world - that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colors and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God "made up out of His head" as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.
Christianity is a fighting religion. I don't know what December has been like for you, but I think that sentence really struck me because I feel like I have been fighting this month - fighting for Christmas to win over in my heart. Not Christmas-the-feeling promoted by Deck the Halls, White Christmas, and Holly Jolly, but Christmas-the-Truth proclaimed by Joy to the Word, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
December has been a tug-of-war in my heart and mind between the Truth and the lies. I have been more impatient and frustrated in the last few weeks than I have been in a while, and for no good reason that I can find other than the reality of the earthly battle every Christian faces against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And oh! How the latter would love to see us stop fighting:
- to give up on the Advent readings with our family, because it seems like no one is listening;
- to let go of the traditions, because they seem like too much this year;
- to give in to all the stress of preparations, because it's more natural to complain than rejoice;
- to take our eyes of that precious manger, because it seems more comforting to wring our hands and lament than to cast our cares on Him and live in the freedom Christmas heralds into the world;
- to forget about loving our neighbor generously, because we aren't sure we have the reserves to care for anyone else.
Christianity is a fighting religion. And I'm gonna fight! Why? Because I know Jesus. Because there is victory over the grave. Because I'm in enemy territory and I want to stand firm. For What? Not a feeling, but for Truth.
- So my kids can taste and see that God is GOOOOOD.
- So that in my little spheres of influence I might have the opportunity to see the Kingdom come in new ways.
- So that I can see my Savior demonstrate His strength in my weakness.
- So that God can be glorified, as He is worthy to be.
None of us are entitled to anything, not even a holly, jolly Christmas. But Christians know the Prince of Peace. And we can let Him rule in our hearts. As Lewis points out, we can participate in God's work of putting the world right again.
So when I lose my patience, I ask my kids and my Gracious God to forgive me. When I feel my pulse quickening with anxiety about gifts, or plans, or not measuring up, I stop and look to my Good Shepherd to takes my hand and says I love you, always, little lamb; let's take each day one step at a time. I will lead you. When I want to grumble, grovel, or gripe, I will turn on the Pandora Christmas Hymns station and let the lyrics permeate my mind and soul. When we pass a bell ringer and her red bucket, I dig in my wallet, the kids throw in coins, and we talk about God's love . Through all of those things I am reminded how the Lord has put my soul right with Him thought Christ, and it renews my desire to be a part of His ministry of reconciliation in the world.
Christmas, true Christmas, is restored in my heart.
Every time we choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, despite every fiber of our being wanting us to go in the opposite direction, we are fighting the good fight! Every time we repent and believe the good news, heaven rejoices and hope is restored! Every time we put our neighbor's interests before our own, the Kingdom comes and Christmas is rightly observed!
Christmas is God-come-down, true, life-changing love. That "sweet baby Jesus in the manger" came to rescue a world lost in sin and destined for death and destruction. When our hearts are filled with the faith to believe that Truth, well, everything is different. Christmas holds fresh new wonder, and will year after year!
We have a choice.
Will you fight with me?
Let's start here. Sing along and rejoice!
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"