We have just finished up the Christmas season. I love Christmas. Above all other times of the year, it is the time for joy and for peace. We choose joy and peace during the holidays. After all, God’s angels declared peace and joy to us all from the very start.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11
It is a special time of the year where we step out of our ordinary life into something just a little more beautiful, though sometimes it can be a difficult time as well.
Even in our own struggles, with the loss of loved ones or the absence of a spouse, father, mother or prodigal child, and the reminder of their absence at the Christmas table, we are given the opportunity once more to set our hearts and our minds on something greater and unchangeable.
The knowledge of Christ our Redeemer, laid in a manger just a tiny baby, destined to be our King and Savior. It is a vision that helps us to focus our thoughts on the larger truth and the greater joy of our salvation and our hope in Christ Jesus. The story of Christ come down to us, come to us even when we could not reach up to Him, gives us great hope and strength to carry on this life in Christ for another season, even in the midst of our struggles.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13
And we take hold of that hope in Christ once again, that even those not present with us at the table have been given access to that grace of God that has appeared and offers salvation to ALL people.
Christmas time is also a time of gifts, which is also one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Every few years or so it seems my wife will get me a stocking stuffer of some nice smelling designer shower gel and it is always a special treat. I will put away my normal everyday “boring” shower gel and start using this new “fancy” body wash and she inevitably will comment on how great and “woohoo” it smells. It is a simple little change but it does make a noticeable difference. It is special, not ordinary or mundane as life sometimes tends to become over time. The funny thing about getting something new and special like that is that it hardly ever lasts for a long period of time and the newness tends to wear off pretty quickly.
Before long, maybe a couple of months or so, that new “fancy” body wash is going to run out and I will be back to my same old same old shower gel and I won’t have that “woohoo” smell stepping out of the shower anymore. I will still be clean, and I will still smell just fine I am sure, but the special will have worn away into the mundane of life. That seems to be the way of life, the way of our experience of the Christmas season as well. Pretty soon the special of Christmas runs into the everyday struggle of loss, uncertainty and grief. And the joy that we held onto through the Christmas season fades, and sometimes our hope fades along with it as we live our “one foot in front of the other” daily existence.
I think that is why the Bible encourages us in so many different passages to hold on and endure through times of struggle and to look to Christ as our strength because we have no strength of our own. Even King David struggled with holding onto the joy of knowing and living for God as he expressed in Psalm 51.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:11-12
He calls on the Lord to restore to him the joy of His (the Lord’s) salvation. David understood it was not by his own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit that he had joy and he held fast to it.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
We all have times of joys and sorrows, mountain peaks and valleys, and we know that the struggle is real, but Child of God, lift up your eyes to the mountains because our help comes from the Lord, and He is the Maker of heaven and earth. I don’t think we could ask for any better strength and help than that.
Finally, let’s remember what the writer of Hebrews tells us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews12:1-2
It is easy to be weighed down by the cares of this world and our own sin or the sins of others, but through Christ Jesus we can overcome and keep hold of joy. (See John 16:33)
Be Strong in the Lord and Courageous,
Greg – a returned prodigal in NM