Friday, December 11, 2009

Manufacturing Joy for Christmas

by Todd Friel

Christmas Carols insist you experience a holly jolly, merry, fa la la la la- kind of Christmas. TV specials pressure you to have a Currier and Ives holiday. Co-workers want to know, “How was your Christmas?” Tell me you have never felt compelled to exaggerate a little.

It is right that Christmas is the season of joy, but I wonder how many of us have to force it. There is a lot of pressure to have a superdy-dupery Christmas.

So how do we avoid having an Elvis-like blue Christmas? I think it starts with recognizing that we are in one of two groups.

Group One:

You are NOT in a ho ho ho season of life.

>You have recently lost a loved one.
>You have recently lost your job.
>You have been unemployed for a long time.
>You don’t know how you are going to pay the bills.
>You don’t know where your prodigal child is.
>You are in the military separated from your family.
>Your kids are driving you nuts.
>You and your spouse are in a bad season.
>You are a new convert and you are consumed with repentance.

May I suggest you release yourself from having a yippee skippee Christmas and simply feel bad? Ecclesiastes 3:4 gives you permission, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn.” If this is your time, get off your back. Weep. Cry. Be sad. It’s OK.

Don’t sin in your sadness, but you don’t have to have a Hallmark Christmas.

Group Two:

Ecclesiastes 3 does not tell us, “There is a time to be spiritually lazy.”
While I fear we put too much pressure on manufacturing joy for Christmas, we would do well to use this time of year to appreciate three things:

1. The greatest miracle of all time: the incarnation.

Jesus suffering did not begin on the cross or even the garden. It began when He became fully human at the incarnation. Imagine: the infinite contained in the finite. Spirit becoming flesh. God becoming man. This was the greatest miracle of all time and it was the beginning of the suffering that Jesus endured for us.

When the Jews mocked Jesus for being from Nazareth, there was a reason: it was a dump. Not only did your Savior live in a village that was a backwater town, but this town had no electricity, refrigeration, running water, plumbing, laundry, air-conditioning, TV, internet, telephones, stereos, i-pods, airplanes, microwaves, cars or Tempur-Pedic mattresses.

For you. He endured this for you. Ponder His incarnation and suffering this season.

2. We have the fullness of revelation revealed.
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries. They were seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which angels long to look. I Peter 1:10-12
Imagine not knowing (let alone seeing) the new covenant revealed and fulfilled in Jesus. Imagine waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah. As you sing, “O Come O Come, Immanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, imagine the longing the Old Testament saints had to see their Savior.

You do not have to wait. You do not have to imagine. You have the fullness of revelation in Jesus and testified to in the New Testament. Ponder that.

3. It’s about the Cross.

Permit me to quote the lyrics to the Go Fish song, “It’s about the Cross.”

It's not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It's not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day

It's about the cross
It's about my sin
It's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again

CJ Maheny once preached that we should preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. Christmas is no time to take a holiday from that practice.

Jamie Statema wrote, “The beginning of the story is wonderful and great. But it’s the ending that can save you and that’s why we celebrate.”

Avoid the Christmas blues this year. Preach the Gospel to yourself every day. When you sing the hymns, remember that it’s about the cross.

When you read the Christmas story to your kids this year, remember, it’s about the cross.

When you shop for gifts, remember, it’s about the gift of the cross.

You don’t have to have a crackling fireplace with perfect decorations and fascinating guests. That is how the world defines a merry Christmas. Let your holiday be more than that. Let your Christmas be about the cross