Christmas Bubble Popped
I remember keenly the feeling that I had as a child after opening Christmas presents. And it did not matter how many presents were given to me whether one or ten. The same sinking feeling came back just a few moments after opening and playing or wearing or eating what was given. “That’s it?” “Yup, that’s it.” I see it now so much in my little six-year-old son who is so anticipating opening presents tomorrow. Yet I know what he will feel tomorrow night. It’s never enough.
It is a great lesson for all of us to learn. No matter what you eagerly anticipate, once it comes, it will pass. And once it has passed, you will experience some feelings of sadness. This sadness teaches us a valuable lesson. Happiness is not in any anticipated experience. That experience changes for adults. But it is the same lesson.
Pains of Christmas Past Present and Future
This time of year, many of us experience sadness that does not come just from the childish experience of not getting more stuff. There are much deeper pains - the pains of lost loved ones. Those feelings of loss, can haunt us even greater this time of year because we remember the joy we had together. Perhaps we could call them the pains of “Christmas past.”
For others, there are the pains of what never was. We might call them “Christmas future” pains. We are haunted by feelings of what might have been if I had not made this bad decision in my life. This pain is more intense when the future that might have been was destroyed by no fault of yours, but by the fault of someone else. Perhaps this pain was caused by someone close to you that betrayed you - a co-worker that maligned and stole your position at the office, or perhaps a parent that mistreated you and set you up for emotional ruin.
As you grow out of childhood into adulthood, the pressures and demands of life grow exponentially. And the sadness at Christmas does not come from lack of presents, but from your present circumstances. The mess you are in can be compounded by looking at the fake smiles in commercials, movies or others' social networking feeds - the pain of “Christmas present.” These pressures are painful and can cause sadness as well.
Sadness Reveals What We Value
These all are significant, and I don’t want to make light of them. But as we read Scripture, we find a host of men and women like you and me who were all experiencing these pains in deep ways – past, present, and future pains. But they could do so and still be content. Listen to Paul, writing from prison (from no fault of his own):
“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
This is a great lesson to learn! Paul could sit by himself in a prison cell on Christmas day and be happy. Why? Because he had learned something extremely valuable. He had learned to love and live for Jesus. What was most valuable to Him was Jesus. He lived for Christ and for the fame of His name. Earlier in this same letter, Paul said everything else was trash compared with Christ.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
What Paul lost did not matter, because what he valued most was Christ, and since he continued to have Christ, losing all else did not affect his affections. He was not sad... even in prison. Because even in prison, he had Christ.
I would like to comfort all of you experiencing Christmas sadness. Please reach out to Jesus, your Creator, and grow close to Him. Find in Him your greatest value. Then when family leaves, when prosperity leaves, when friends leave, when health leaves, you will still have Him, the greatest of your delights. And you can still be content even when your Christmas is empty. Because in Christ you will be full.
Perhaps you are sad because you have been trying to be happy without Christ. God has made us to enjoy many things in this life. But He has made us so that we will not be content without finding our joy ultimately in Him.
How do you start growing in your relationship with Him? Let me give you just one piece of advice to start you on that journey. Spend time with Him. Open your Bible and read slowly and carefully, asking Jesus to open your eyes to Who He is as revealed in your Bible. As you do this, your affections will be warmed to Him. He is the Person of the Bible. Start reading now.
When you meet someone new, or want to grow closer to someone you already know, it takes time. Praying (talking to) and reading your Bible is the way to communicate with God. Start now. Read the passages below, prayerfully requesting that God would come near to you as you read. He will!
Psalm 16:1-11 (A Mikhtam of David NAU)
"Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.’ As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips. The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."
Romans 5:1-8 (A letter from Paul NLT)
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us-- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."
These are just a couple of the great treasures found in the Bible. Do you need a Bible? Please let me know and I would love to give you one.