I don’t know about you guys but I love Christmas time. I have ever since I was a little kid. Up until I was into my teenage years I would wake up on Christmas morning at a ridiculous time, like 3 or 4 am and could not go back to sleep. I would wait until 430 or 5 before I would go wake up my parents to see what Santa had brought me. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around this special holiday.
However, at this stage in my life there is something that I see becoming a trend around Christmas. We all know Christmas is a time of joy, peace, and family; but, I think if we are honest with ourselves it is a time of maxing out. We max our credit cards, budgets, time commitments, and our desire to be approved. This time of year that is supposed to be celebrating the arrival of the savior who provides eternal value, approval, and security is a time when we functionally focus on every other source of those things.
Jesus said in Acts 1:8 that we would be his witnesses. The Apostle Paul calls us ambassadors for Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:20. Multiple times in scripture we are called to be Holy, meaning to be set apart. This time of year we, as disciples of Jesus, have an amazing opportunity to be witnesses and ambassadors who have clearly been set apart from the norm. However, if you’re like me the opposite happens. We blend into the crowd.
Our consumeristic culture wants this season to be all about maxing out. They want us to max out our credit cards because we have to be approved by those we are getting gifts for. They want us to max out our time and commitments because that means we are spending more for each event so we can feel approved. They want us to spend more than we have. Money. Time. Energy.
Maybe you’re like me this year, December just started and you feel maxed out. I know that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are not acceptable to God, because they both center around how I can continue to stretch myself and my budget this Christmas. So what do we do? How do we respond? We have to look to scripture and the glory of Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
Sometimes, we need to be reminded that we are new creations in Christ. Our old self, who was so focused on the approval of other people to feel valued, died with Jesus. We now are a new creation.
A couple of verses down in verse 19 Paul says:
“That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.”
We are new because in Christ we are reconciled back to God. Our creator! Who we were born separated from. This separation leaves us looking for value and meaning and approval, but in Christ we are reconciled back to our creator. Before Christ our search for approval no doubt leaves us feeling maxed out. But now, if you are a disciple of Jesus, you have been brought back to the creator and reconciled to him. So many times I have to remind myself that my value doesn’t come from what other people think of me, it comes from the one who created me.
When we wrap our heads around that fact we are given a specific message, the message of reconciliation. He goes on in verse 20 to call us ambassadors. So let’s be witnesses and ambassadors for Jesus this Christmas season. Let’s not let ourselves be maxed out. Let’s be set apart and share the love of a Christ which is the only true reason for the season.
This season is full of excitement, don’t you think? I think I could speak for most families when I say that the holiday season is fun. From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Eve. Each holiday brings its own fun and each family brings their own traditions. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. In theory though, right?
Yes, it is a wonderful time of the year. But along with that wonderful comes the not-so-wonderful too. Amen? The not-so-wonderful sometimes looks like stress. Lots of stress. Which minimizes the wonderful. Sometimes the stress can be financial. Sometimes it can be the crowds of people and traffic. Sometimes it can be that special person we miss every day, but especially this time of year. Sometimes it looks like waiting. Sometimes emptiness. Our focus can shift so quickly from wonderful to not-so-wonderful. From what we are blessed with to what we wish we had but don’t. From our focus being on Christ, the true reason we are celebrating, to all the commercial or societal expectations that come with the season.
You see, every year I fall into this trap. My holiday seasons are absolutely not categorized to the not-so-good level because I am so blessed. But, I would say that I can fall into the societal trap so very easily. Really, even before the season starts. And my reasoning isn’t always bad. It’s filled with the desire to create a special atmosphere for those around me. Those I love. My husband, our two precious daughters, our family, our extended family of college students and friends that we do life with. I want to create memories that they will cherish. Memories of beautiful lights and decorations, yummy treats, exciting presents under the tree, magical moments that the season brings. It’s the momma in me and it takes over sometimes.
Some can even fall into the trap of emptiness. Loneliness from missing a special person. I feel that. My husband and our daughters feel that. My mother in law feels that. My parents feel that. And it’s real and can swallow you up in a matter of seconds it seems. The warmth that comes from the season can so quickly turn cold from the emptiness and loneliness.
Some are falling into the not-so-wonderful because they are in a season of waiting. Waiting for the diagnosis or prognosis. Waiting for the next big thing in their life to come to fruition. Waiting and not savoring the here and now. Discontentment creeps in and steals the wonderful.
The discontentment, stress, emptiness, and business tiptoes in and steals our wonderful. It takes over and we fall into the trap of feeling maxed out. Maxed out with time, finances, energy, emotions, ideas. Well, maybe not ideas, I tend to always have those. Right, honey?
But I have some good news. News that I need to be reminded of daily. Even hourly. God cares for us. He cares for all aspects of our lives and longs for us to give Him our burdens. Psalm 55:22 says Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. This does not mean that He will keep uncomfortable or harsh things from happening in your life. It means that He will sustain you. He will sustain me. My steadfastness should be in Him and His promises. Not in earthly pleasures. Even those earthly pleasures that are rooted in love, like making memories for our loved ones. Our steadfastness should not be in earthly circumstances, like the loss of a loved one or in a waiting season. Our steadfastness should be in Him and Him alone. I am reminded as I type this of a song that we sang in church as I was growing up. “I cast all my cares upon you. I lay all of my burdens down at your feet. And any time I don’t know what to do; I will cast all my cares upon you.” You see, the not-so-good comes in many forms. Busyness from trying to make the perfect holiday atmosphere, emptiness and loneliness, waiting and discontentment. It comes from being maxed out.
I hope that this reminder will help our focus stay on Him. Our focus being on Jesus will bring the wonderful of the season. After all, the season is about Him. He came to rescue us. I pray that my focus, my thoughts and actions, are grounded this season in one thing: Jesus. His birth, life, death and resurrection. I pray that my motives are true this season in bringing glory to His name for what He did and is doing in the lives of His children. I pray that in my life, through my words and actions, Jesus is glorified. That my time, finances, energy, and emotions demonstrate His love and bring hope and understanding to those around me. That the memories made are memories of how we loved this season, shared hope, and glorified His name. That I am content in my Savior, the name above all names. Emmanuel. Messiah. Wonderful Counselor. Jesus. It is the most wonderful time of the year because we have the most wonderful heavenly Father.
This is the time of year when a rare specimen begins to make its appearance. You can find them at any mall or shopping center, especially those “outlet malls”. You will be able to spot them quite easily. They tend to walk either super fast or slower than everyone else. Usually they have multiple bags on both arms. There tends to be a small trail of smoke coming up from their wallet because the debit/credit card has been swiped so much. The look on their face is a combination of pure exhaustion, intense anxiety, and general dumbfoundedness. Their eyes tend to not focus on anything.
If you’re lucky you will see one of the mature ones (the silverbacks if you will). They are typically the same but sitting on a bench mumbling to themselves while chugging some highly caffeinated drink. By now you have probably realized we are talking about the typical man at Christmas. He has too much caffeine in is veins and too many numbers racing through his head. Everywhere he looks there are dollar signs.
Ok, all joking aside, I would dare to say that a lot of men have some of these characteristics every year at Christmas. You see men, if we are honest, I believe most of us honestly struggle to enjoy the holidays because we feel maxed out. We struggle to enjoy buying our kids that perfect gift because the thing that flashes when we look is the price. Every time our wife mentions a present we need to buy we have a mini panic attack inside because we begin stressing…..do I have that covered in the budget?….what brand are we talking?…..do we really need to buy that person a gift? Our wives, who are way more skilled at knowing us and what we are thinking than we are willing to admit, see the stress on our face and vow to not spend another dime.
In our desire to be the master of all things administrative (budgets and time) we honestly become the husband and father that always says no. We don’t communicate about why we feel so stressed. We let so many things dictate to us how we should act, except for the one that has the right to.
It’s time we as men be honest about something, at Christmas time we worship money and financial security. We let our bank account dictate our mood, rob of us joy, and cause us to totally lose sight of Jesus. I know I do. Jesus knew this would be something we struggle with, look at what he says in Matthew 6:
“No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Men, let’s battle this. Lets wake up every day and remember that our identity is not found in our bank account. I feel like we all have this magic number in our heads that every day we wake up and if our bank account drops below that number life begins to spiral out of control (in our brains), but we all know it doesn’t matter how much we have in there, it will never provide the value, satisfaction, and purpose that we find in worshiping the one who paid our debt off. Our identity comes from Christ, and the fact that he reconciles us back to Jesus. In Christ we know that everything we have comes from the Lord and belongs to him anyway.
I am going to do my best to stop serving money. It so easily controls me. But my heart is to serve Jesus. What I pray for men this Christmas season is that we would not walk around maxed out reflecting the true depraved nature of man but rather we would find our identity in Jesus and walk around reflecting the glory of Jesus who reconciled us back to the creator.
Let’s enjoy buying those presents for our sweet babies. Be thoughtful about what to get your wife. Be good stewards and don’t go crazy, but let’s enjoy this special time of the year and not let our jobs and our bank accounts be the boss of us. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Lets show the world a new specimen this Christmas season. This one walks around with a giant grin on his face, regardless of the chaos going on around him. This one clearly knows who he is
and nothing seems to shake that. This one still drinks a lot of caffeine (because I mean why not?), but seems to have a joy about him that stands out from the crowd.