Black Friday is over (I didn’t participate, but I know some did), Cyber Monday is nearly here, and the advertising executives would like to remind us all that there are, officially, only 26 more shopping days until Christmas. As of this writing, my wife and I already have the gifts for our 4 boys picked out, but we may pick up an odd item or two, as the funds are available, or as we see something they may like. With that in mind, though, we don’t place a big emphasis on the commercial or gift giving end of Christmas. We do open presents, do stockings, and the like, but mainly, we focus on the Advent. Why? Because that is our focus throughout the year. Throughout the year, many people wonder if they have enough, give enough, do enough or get enough. They focus on what they can get to fill their desires, or what they can do to make themselves feel like a useful human being, but this time of year sort of shines a light on the fact that it’s never enough. As we loosen our belts from Thanksgiving and round in to Christmas, if we take an honest evaluation of our lives: many of us are starving in a land of plenty.
In America, and many countries of the world, we have all we could want or need. What we consider poverty, some parts of the world would consider wealth. We have thousand dollar phones, TVs, cars worth more than some see in a life time, we sip coffees that cost the same as a meal, and yet we complain that it’s never enough. We’re connected at all times to news and the events of the world, and all it makes us is anxious. We have relationships, but when we feel discomfort, we trade them in, sometimes faster than some trade in for new cars. And all of it, the despair, anxiety, and depression, stem from the fact that a great many of us lack gratitude. We can’t be satisfied, and so envy, bitterness, rivalry and strife (things that the Apostle Paul called the fruit of the Flesh) reign even in Christian hearts. We place our worth and value in the material, instead of seeking the ever lasting joy found in the God who does not change.
There is a way to feel joy throughout the year, and no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s not found in the shallowness of the values presented in a Hallmark movie (I know some will disown me for this statement!). It’s not found in items, or relationships with others. That joy is found in relentless pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can keep us in joy no matter how much or little we have. He is the reason Martyrs have, and still do go to their deaths praising the Lord and loving their executioners. He’s the reason we understand that the material in this world is passing away, and something far beyond our asking or imagining is just beyond the veil. Through Him we know that this world is not our home, and in Him we have lasting contentment in all occasions. If we seek Him out daily, we will have a joy that surpasses all understanding and a peace that lasts throughout the year, even as this life seeks to take us down with it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Look full on His wonderful face. And the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.
Colossians 2:1-15 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.