Job loss, reputation in tatters, our church without a shepherd, lack of spiritual direction, disunity, trust irretrievably broken, resentment, disappointment and extreme vulnerability amongst the people of God, emotional scars galore, friendships pulverized as if by magic, financial mayhem, security under major threat, pandemics, verbal persecution from our dearest relatives and a strong sense of the heat being turned up on everyone and everything Christian.
How can I possibly feel like celebrating Christmas when there has been so much going wrong over these last 12 months? How can I have any joy within me when I feel like my whole life has been taken over by aliens and I have absolutely no control over the passing of time which seems to take place faster and faster everyday that goes by? Have we all just gone completely mad? We wish the days away as if we had million more days to spare and enjoy. Where has November gone? Where is December going? Each day blends into the previous one and there is only one end in sight: getting to the 25th in one piece. The Christian Spirit which should take center stage during this significant time of the year shines for its absence as we all get caught up in the whirlwind of shopping, presents, over-indulging, Christmas cards, Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, more presents and more shopping, all thrown in the same cocktail at 100 miles per hour. Will someone please stop this ride? I think I am going to be sick!
Yes, many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas, but with our farewell to the year that is about to end we also seem to say farewell to the short-lived realisation that the birth of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a huge miracle, the first event which changed the course of history for eternity. Have we forgotten that the miracle continues during and well after each Christmas? I cannot understand the hype, the tension and the sheer hypocrisy of all things Christian round this time of year. Is Jesus not still alive the rest of the time? Perhaps if we all led lives which clearly manifest the presence of Jesus Christ within us right throughout the year, we would not feel the need to kick up such a fuss on the run up to Christmas.
I want to live out the Christmas spirit every day of my life. When the tree and the lights have been put away, I want to continue being a light in my community, I want to turn the power up, increase the intensity so that the world can see that Christ does not die with the end of Christmas, but can grow ever more powerful and more glorious in our lives if we let him in. I want to produce fruit and have a thankful heart for each day the Lord has made. I want to labour for the Kingdom from every sun rise til every sunset. I want to honour the God I worship by being faithful with little, and not insult Him by getting caught up in the worldly frenzy that leads up to Christmas to then leave Him out of my every thought, my every decision, my every undertaking the rest of the year. Each day is a glorious new opportunity to get to the fields, plan for a new harvest, nurture those in need with the love of Jesus and propitiate the growth of the seeds previously planted.
Has 2009 been a shaky year for you too? Perhaps God is trying to wake us up out of our slumber or misunderstood Christianity. Perhaps He is allowing things to take place that will mold us into the right shape to face the much more fiery furnace that is yet to come. For His word assures us that God will discipline those whom He loves, and that judgement begins in the House of God. Without pain, there will be no growth. Without the uncertainty about our own ability and self-sufficiency, the humbling process that is required for us to draw nearer to God cannot, will not take place. I intend to embrace all the bad things that have happened to me and my family this year, because I know there is a purpose to it all. Each trial has removed a layer of pride and idolatry in my life; each trial has ignited a stronger current in me to follow Christ’s lead with more determination, integrity and consistency than ever before. Each blow has made me more aware of my own mortality and the miracle that each day that I have been given on this earth really is, and so as a result, from every adverse circumstance, I have been able to rise from the ashes with multiplied strength and a purer heart for the things of God.
As I sit here writing this post, I can hear the words in one of Selah’s song which say: “Bless the broken road that led me back to you”. Do I wish that this past year was taken away from my memory and that I was granted the opportunity to relive it without all its trials, challenges and disappointments? Absolutely not! It is no surprise that for Christians who draw nearer to God in their pursuits, their worship and purpose, they will also become a more visible target in the spiritual realm for the forces of darkness which try so hard to extinguish the light in this dark old world.
In the midst of evaluating what has been the toughest of years yet, I am suddenly struck by what God has been able to do in me and through me this year. Apart from Him I can do nothing, and so it is that in my most obvious weakness, His strength and power have shone. I don’t know how my family and I could have gone through these past few months if it was not for the fact that Christ is at the center of our lives and we live each day knowing that every blessing comes from God alone and that it is by His grace that we were once lost and we have now been found; it is by His grace alone that we no longer live caught in the frenzy of living without really being alive, alive in the Spirit.
Happy Christmas, blessed Jesus!