Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, I start thinking of ways that I can get into the Christmas spirit. I love Christmas. Family, gifts, lights, music, it’s all so wonderful. Last year Christmas came so suddenly. I was so caught up in the stress of senior year that Christmas snuck up on me and, well, didn’t feel much like Christmas. This year, I told myself I wouldn’t let that happen again. So, despite the stress of freshman year, I started getting into the Christmas spirit when I returned to school after Thanksgiving break. I made a Christmas playlist on Spotify and participated in a Secret Santa and ornament decorating event on my dorm floor. I went to a Christmas party and watched Elf for the first time. There were Christmas decorations around campus that served as reminders that Christmas was on its way. I even paid $1.99 for She Reads Truth’s 2016 Advent devotions. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
At first, I thought I’d post on my blog whatever stood out to me in each day’s devotion. Then I decided to just write it down and keep it to myself. I wish I hadn’t because I came across some great stuff. Today, for example, I was reading about the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. Typically I’ll copy and paste a few phrases that strike me into the notes on my iPad and write them in my journal. But today, I found myself writing down half the devotion. Allow me to share some of it with you. An angel comes to Mary and tells her she is going to give birth to the Savior of the world. She says she doesn’t see how that’s possible since she’s a virgin.
“The angel’s response to Mary’s doubt points her to the answer: It’s not up to her. It’s not up to us. ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’ - Luke 1:35 Friends, all may not be calm or bright in our broken world, but all is His. May Christ overshadow our expectations and understanding with His presence. May we hear and receive the same good news delivered to Mary: Hope is born within us through Christ. Hallelujah.”
Good stuff, right? Nothing in there explicitly says “Don’t forget that Jesus is the true reason for Christmas,” yet that’s what I took from it. It’s easy to get caught up in the pretty lights and familiar songs and think that Christmas is about a cozy feeling that you get when you’re with your family opening presents. But that’s not what it’s about. In order to get into the Christmas spirit, you have to focus on the Spirit of Christmas: Jesus. The best gift any of us has ever received was given to us on Christmas Day thousands of years ago, and is a gift that keeps on giving. That is Jesus Christ, who wrapped His divinity in flesh and came to seek and to save the lost. He loved us while we were still sinners and was obedient even to death on a cross.
It’s not a bad thing to want that cozy feeling, but there’s a feeling that’s so much better: knowing that Jesus left Heaven because He didn’t want to be there if you weren’t. Christmas is a mere 5 days away, but I implore you to not forget its true meaning. You don’t have to buy a birthday cake for Jesus or set up a Nativity to show that you’ve received God’s gift to us. I simply ask you to keep Jesus at the front of your mind when you’re opening your gifts on Christmas morning. If you can, go to church and celebrate Jesus’ birth with fellow believers. Mix O Holy Night and Away in a Manger in with your playlist of Jingle Bells and White Christmas. Just don’t let yourself forget to keep the Christ in Christmas.
“Be salt and light, not salty and lit.”
-The assistant youth pastor at my church
Disclaimer: This post may be offensive to some people. Viewer discretion is advised.
There’s this problem that I’ve had for a while that I didn’t recognize as a problem until recently. The problem is that when a person says or does something that reveals that they aren’t a Christian, I think to myself, “Well, they’re going to Hell.” The problem is not that it’s not true. The problem is that it’s not nice. I shouldn’t think like that. I should feel bad for those people and want to help them change the fate of their eternity. Instead, I feel a twisted sense of pride, as if I’m better than them because I’m going to Heaven, and their stupidity and ignorance are being rightfully punished by them going to Hell. It’s basically like, “What they believe is wrong, so they’re going to Hell. Good, it’s what they deserve.” See? Not nice. That’s definitely not how God thinks, and it’s certainly not how He wants me to think. Because the truth is, I deserve to go to Hell, too. I’m not any better than those people who have it wrong just because I got it right. I’m no more righteous or deserving of Heaven than they are. God sees me as righteous not because I am, but because Jesus in me is. It’s true that I’m going to Heaven because I believe in God and have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It’s not true that that gives me the right to consider myself better than anyone else, because I’m not. My sin killed Jesus just as much as theirs did. Their sin didn’t make him any more dead than mine did. God sees all sin the same. And he loves all sinners the same.
“Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken-hearted. The ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me your eyes so I can see.” ~Give Me Your Eyes, Brandon Heath