Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Rest of the Year

It is asked how we can make the spirit of Christmas last the rest of the year. Christians particularly may ask this. But is it just a piece of wishful thinking? Or is it somehow possible? Now much of what people want to continue is rooted in good feelings. I have nothing against good feelings. But good feelings by themselves are not enough to make a permanent change work. We see it in the other departments of life. A couple falls in love; then they get married and settle down. And they find they need more than just good feelings to make the marriage work. Or a Christian goes to a retreat or a series of special meetings and feels really pumped up to live for God. And then, as they go back to their everyday life, their feelings fade and vanish. The problem is that all feelings, over time, tend to vanish. They can point out the direction that needs to be taken. But it takes something else to get us there. It takes commitment. Or does it?

Commitment in its own place is a good thing, but it is often equated with sheer will power. And anyone who has ever made a New Year's resolution knows how well that works. We grit our teeth and decide we are going to gut it out. Occasionally, particularly on the minor things, it seems to work. But more often then not, we fail and fall flat on our face. Then we try to drum up more will power, and we still fail. And if we work long enough and hard enough, we can, at least for a while, convince ourselves we are succeeding. But in doing so we can set ourselves up to fail spectacularly. And even if we manage to hold it together, we will feel exhausted and worn down on the inside from the stress of maintaining this level of control.

Which brings me back to the meaning of Christmas. The meaning of Christmas is not just some vague message of cheer and good will. The meaning of Christmas is that, when our good feelings fail, when our will power is not enough, God steps in. When we were sinners and disobedient to God (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), God became a man to redeem us (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). As a result of this, God forgives (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25) and begins to work in the lives (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13) of those who put their faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). And it is as we look to Him that we obtain a meaning for Christmas that is lasting, even for the rest of the year.  

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