With less than 24 hours left in the year 2015, many find themselves in a situation similar to the one they were in only days ago. Just as there was scrambling at the eleventh hour prior to Christmas to make last minute purchases, there is now scrambling to make last minute New Year’s Eve plans and New Year’s Resolutions. But if you’re like me, and already have your plans and resolutions set, you may find yourself in the place where I am. That place not being physical, but figurative, in reviewing the year that has just passed. While I found 2015 to be a great year, leaving me much to be thankful for, I’m not currently looking that far back in my rearview mirror. As I look around my city, I see tons of Christmas lights and decorations that point toward the holiday that just passed. That, in addition to co-workers I’ve recently run into asking me, “How was your Christmas?” prompted me to think a bit deeper than the generic responses we typically give to that question. I asked myself in a still moment, “How was my Christmas, and what was special about it?” It didn’t take me long to recall several great points about this recent Christmas. I’ll give you three of them that led me to believe that I had a “Triple G” rated Christmas. That is, a Christmas highlighted by Giving, Grafting, and a Guarantee.
I have seven members in my immediate family. I typically spend virtually all of my Christmas money on my wife and five children. However, this year, God’s providence allowed me to do some extra spending and to violate agreements that I have had with some loved ones by buying Christmas gifts for a good number of family members outside my home. I can honestly say that I loved every minute of buying gifts for people that I knew would be completely unsuspecting of me getting them something! As I purchased each gift I became increasingly eager to give the gifts to the corresponding people. I must say, it made me look forward to Christmas Day in a way that I haven’t in a while. As a child, I was excited about getting. But this year, I was SO excited about giving! I knew I’d be receiving some things here and there, but I wasn’t worried about that at all. All I wanted to do was give my loved ones their gifts! The thought of being able to hand them their gifts that day pushed me out of bed early. I remember my wife asking me to calm down a bit as I woke her up before the kids did, fully ready to get the day rolling! As I remembered how I felt, I thought to myself, “Something is really right about that feeling because God is an eager gift-giver!” So eager in fact, that the Lord Jesus told His Disciples, “You may ask anything in My Name, & I will do it.” (John 14:14) The Apostle James understood this so much that he tells us in James 4:4 that we “have not because we don’t ask God.”
Of course the Lord does not mean that we can literally have anything we ask for in His Name. But the hyperbole in His speech illustrates His utter-delight and readiness to grant us those things that we ask for that are in His Will! This zeal for giving changed the way Christmas felt for me this year. And I decided that I’m going to incorporate it whenever possible in every Christmas after this one that the Lord allows me to see.
After years of bouncing from house to house with our children on holidays, my wife and I decided on a plan to alternate. Each year, we do Thanksgiving with either my family or hers, and then on Christmas, we alternate. This year, we spent Christmas with my wife’s family. For many, spending holidays with in-laws in nothing to smile about. But as I reflect on this recent Christmas, I can’t help but to be overwhelmed by the blessing God has given me in my in-laws. After nearly eleven years of marriage, I can truly say that my wife’s family is my family! These people who I didn’t grow up with, haven’t known all my life, and at one point was totally apprehensive about, are now my family! I love spending time with them on holidays! If my wife wasn’t around, I still would’ve felt right at home! As I realized this, I said to myself, “I’m no longer a foreigner to them. I’m family! I’m grafted in!” It made me think of how the atoning work of Jesus has grafted in Gentile believers into the Household of Faith with Believing Jews (Romans 11:11-21). Those who were not apart of God’s Covenant people, Israel, have now been given access to the forgiveness of sins, right relationship with God, and all the privileges of being God’s children through faith in Jesus! I find it amazing how God has illustrated this spiritual truth in my marriage to my wife. My becoming one with my wife has not only lawfully made me a member of her family, but RELATIONSHIP has granted me an active, involved, desired, willful, fulfilling role in a new family. A work of God alone!
As early as Christmas Night, when all is quiet, and all the wrapping paper is in the trash, a feeling of disappointment settles upon the hearts of many. This disappoint for some is from the fact that Christmas can’t be everyday. And it will now be another 12 months until we get back to this time of year. For others, they see all of the build-up of Christmas as a let-down. The brevity of the day, absent family members, or a missing gift here or there are enough to sour the idea of Christmas being worthy of all the hype surrounding it. I could remember feeling disappointment creep in as Christmas came to a close a week ago. But I didn’t shake this feeling off. I embraced it. I embraced the disappointment because it brought me so much joy! Why? I remembered that this fallen world that we live in is full of disappointments and let-downs. But God has skillfully used these disappoints to create a longing in the hearts of His children. This longing is for our true home. A dwelling not made by human hands. A place where we will live with our God! A place where there will be no crying, death, mourning, or pain. For the former order of things will have passed away, and our Lord will make all things new! (Rev 21:3-4). Many things in this world don’t live up to the hype. But earth can’t manufacture hype that will do justice to the glory that God has in store for His children at the consummation of all things. The Bible tells us that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to what God has in store for those who love Him (I Cor 2:9, Rom 8:18)! We live now in a place where expectations are frequently not met. God has told His children that disappointment will be impossible in His presence, because we can’t conceive expectation high enough to compare with what will be revealed on that Great Day. And we won’t have to worry about brevity! This glory will be eternal! And our dwelling with God will be everlasting (II Cor 4:17, I Thes 4:17)! The joy of the Christmas season is but a small sample-size of the joy we will have in the presence of God. And that season of joy will not pass. It will last forever!
I thought about how sure I am of all this. As I am banking my eternity on all that I have just written. I realized that which makes me sure is the Guarantee that Jesus promised to send into the world, His precious Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 16:7). Jesus promised that He would come back to take His bride to be with Him where He is (John 14:3). And He has given us the Holy Spirit as a foretaste of what is to come, and as the Guarantee that He will come back for us (II Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). As surely as snow and bright decorations signal to many that Christmas is coming, the work of the Holy Spirit signals to Believers that Jesus is coming. As He sanctifies and prepares us for the Bridegroom (I Pet 1:2), He helps us to fall out of love with the World, and to fall in love with God. He makes the world more and more foreign to us as our Heavenly citizenship blossoms in our hearts (Col 1:13, II Pet 1:19). He makes us to love righteousness, and to long to be with the Righteous One. And one day, every true Believer will be. This is a joy and expectation that can carry me not only until next Christmas, but for all of life. For the One who promised is Faithful (Heb 10:23).
Looking back over these three aspects of my recent holiday experience helped me to realize just how great a Christmas I truly had. And as much as I anticipate an even better Christmas in 2016, I don’t look forward to it nearly as much as I look forward to the consummation of all things, when Jesus, the reason for the season, makes His 2nd coming. He is coming quickly (Rev 22:7, 12)!