I don’t know about you, but I am very much fascinated by what makes people tick. I cannot resist peeling away layers that camouflage or conceal that which is underneath. Consequently, I am intrigued by what appears in people when they find themselves in situations that strip away pretense and rhetoric.
It is my personal conviction that the Christmas season proves itself to be one of those “situations” in which folks really find out what they’re made of.
Some folks, who hunger for something meaty (so to speak) in everyday living, slow down a bit and reflect on the love of God and one’s place in His plan for the world. They’ve come to value things that endure or at least know the vanity of pursuit of shallow values and goals. Such ones are inclined to share tangible expressions of the love of God in acts of kindness and generosity for people who are sick, or are in genuine need, or are otherwise lonely and/or forgotten. Setting aside their wants, they make time and share even sacrificially with others as God opens doors of opportunity. They remember that there was once a Christmas present given for all the world in a time of spiritual and moral darkness and they reflect on just how much it has meant for all who have received it in the centuries that have come and gone since then.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).
They share because God has shared with them. The only race that they are running is the marathon of making a difference in the lives of others and somehow connecting the lost and lonely of the world to the inconceivable grace of God.
But for some, Christmas is a “situation” in which things other than love, joy, peace, hope, and thankfulness are exposed.
Consider an event several years ago in which a poor Walmart employee in Queens, New York, like an unarmed man at the gate, was trampled to death by a modern day equivalent of the Huns crashing through the doors of his place of work in Long Island. The 34 year-old man died facing hordes of mindless shoppers who were so savage that they ripped off a metal part of the door frame (leaving it looking like a crumpled accordion) as they trampled anyone caught in their path. So fierce was the mob’s assault that some of the Wal-Mart co-workers who strove to rescue him were injured and taken to the hospital.
Let’s all be horrified, but let’s not act surprised by a violent progression of events. The madness of after-Thanksgiving Day shopping has long been a joke (and often the comedic story line in movies and television shows). But now it turns out to not be so funny.
Whatever dreams that this poor man may have had for the holiday season were cut short. Whatever family members he left behind had a bitter loss for the sake of someone’s shopping list. I hope that I am not the only one who is ashamed that greed has besmirched a holiday named after our Lord. If some have gotten the gist of Christmas, the hope that it represents for all humanity, and the love it reveals of our God, it seems all too evident that countless numbers have not. It doesn’t matter if we merely “talk the talk” of the holiday season (or even sing the carols of Christmas); values are played out in our choices, especially when we don’t have time to think about what others may think of us and we are simply do what we feel like doing.
We are in our nature a greedy people. Why would I think that? Because we consistently make greedy choices in those situations that allow us to act naturally. Circumstances come to the stew pot of our lives and stir up what’s really in us. While pride, selfishness, hatred, and immorality too often come to the surface, chief among them is greed: we want what we want, and we want more than we have.
Again, for some the soup spoon of circumstance brings love, generosity, and patient humility to the top. These men and women (and even some children) give without regard to getting. They give because they’ve permitted God to put something of His love into their hearts. It’s these folks who really get Christmas, not those trying to get the best bargains at the store.
If anything (including shopping) is capable of stripping away from us kindness, patience, ethics, honesty, and love, we have a serious spiritual problem. Think of even the “small ways” that our “true selves” are revealed if we’re racing without regard for others to be first in the checkout line or pull in front of someone else to get the closest parking spot to the door. Are such behaviors and attitudes truly becoming to the children of God and the Savior Whom we represent to the world? I think not.
Besides, those who learn best how to give are also the ones who really get the most from this season of celebration. They’re the ones who really have the most to celebrate: the love of the Son of God Who came to give His life is not just Savior, but Lord of their hearts as well.
Keep Christ in Christmas indeed! But remember that to keep Him in Christmas, you must also keep your heart in His hand!
The Christmas season is a celebration of God’s Son’s first advent into the world. He came as a Servant so that we might have eternal life and, in turn, become servants of God as well. As He has come to serve us by saving us from our sin, let us now each one go and serve others by following His example and putting them before ourselves.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected].)