I hear people complaining quite often that the Christmas season has become too commercialized. It is a season of artificiality. And I see what they’re saying. The growth of commercialism is all around us.
But I can honestly tell you that it’s not in my heart. I’m truly enjoying the CHRIST of Christmas —the Christ of everyday, in amazing ways. It seems every time I open my Bible and devotional books, I see Christ a bit clearer. And oh, how I love that… oh, how I love Him!
I’m not bragging, I’m proclaiming Jesus as Savior and Lord. It has not always been that way. I have gone through many dry seasons spiritually —whether it’s at Christmas time or other times of the year. It’s such a flat, joyless time when it happens.
Flat Joyless Time?
Please, let me ask you, are you going through a flat, joyless time right now? I’m talking about a time where you aren’t excited about much spiritually.
As I said before, I’ve been there. It’s not a fun place or a good place to be. But it doesn’t have to stay. I’ve learned that. Just lean in, pray, and ask God to reveal Himself to you in a real way. And then keep your eyes open. It’s amazing how God honors the prayer of drawing you closer to Him, when you ask. Just make sure that you don’t look for Him in preconceived ways. God will not be boxed in. Sometimes He comes in a whisper, rather than in a fire.
As a matter of fact, while I was praying about what to write in this blog, God worked through the ministry of Focus on the Family. This demonstrated this point all the more. I was listening to a past broadcast and wouldn’t you know it. It focused on “Embracing the Reality of Christmas.” They featured a dramatic narrative read by Al Andrews (based on his book A Walk One Winter Night: A Christmas Story). The whole goal is to help us to see what is real when we think of what happened in the manger. The goal is to REALLY know Jesus for who He is, what He came on earth to do for us, and what He can do for us, when we push away the artificiality of what we project upon Jesus.
In this dramatic narrative story, a man was taking a walk one cold winter night, and he looked at a manger scene that was setting in someone’s yard. In his mind’s eye, all of a sudden every “character” that was there —Mary, Joseph, and eventually, even the babe, Jesus, spoke to him one-by-one in a way that changed his whole perspective. When Jesus spoke, this is what the story portrays that He said to this man, that might move your heart, as it did mine. The man said:
“I wondered if He (Jesus), too, would speak, but He didn’t need to. Somehow His words were in me and I spoke for Him. ‘This is not Me. This is not real. Please listen to Me. The reason I came, the reason I was sent was to be real, to feel everything you felt, to know everything you need, because I needed it, too. To hurt like you hurt, to cry like you’ve cried, laugh like you’ve laughed, skin my knee like you’ve skinned your knee and have My heart broken like your heart has been broken.
“I came so that one day or one winter night, when you come face to face with your defeat, your moment of absolute need, you can come to Me and say, ‘You know this, too. Be with me and lead me through it,’ and I will. This is not me. I am real. Please let Me be real.’
Seeing and Hearing
“Then there was silence, a long stillness that hushed the wind and pushed away the noises of the night. In the quiet, I was being given room, room to feel and consider what I’d just seen and heard. And out of the silence the truth appeared like stars revealed by the parting clouds. Maybe the figures before me weren’t real. Perhaps I had made them that way. That is so they would be predictable and safe, easy to ignore and boxed up after Christmas. They would be out of sight and out of mind. Maybe if Jesus wasn’t real. He would be tame and small. Maybe I had rendered Him untouchable because I was afraid of His touch.
“‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I know this isn’t You. I can see it now. You’re not who I’ve seen You to be, untouchable and perfect. You’re not something I made, but rather than Someone Who made me. You are real. You are true, and You are here. I am so sorry,’ I said again, as my eyes brimmed with tears. The sorrow nudged me to kneel next to a shepherd on the wet grass in front of something so real. This was all so very real I couldn’t even begin to comprehend it. And as I knelt, I became a part of the story and the story became a part of me. And I felt His gentle pardon. Suddenly, everything expanded—the scene, this night, my heart and I felt real…’”
The man repented and finally saw what was real and what was not.
This Season, Focus on Christ
There’s more to this dramatic reading that I hope you can listen to. Please go to the web site ofFocusonthefamily.com and find the broadcast for December 12, 2014 to listen to it. Perhaps you can get the book that we link to above to read more. It’s worth listening to and reading. It’s very moving and convicting. We will… Steve and I and the family members that will be with us on Christmas. We want to focus on Christ —the REAL reason for the season.
But more than this dramatic reading, and/or looking at Christmas trees, and/or looking at the gifts we give each other… I hope that we will look at Jesus as our Savior and our Lord, and to His Word, as Truth. We will plainly see that we have much to be thankful for, when we do.
I want to close this blog by pointing you to something important I read the other day. It’s actually the main point I want to make on this subject of artificiality vs. Truth. And that is, to make sure that what you portray yourself to be on the outside, is who you really are on the inside too. It is my hope that within you is Jesus Christ shining forth, because you have invited Him in, to dwell and to change you from the inside out.
Lets face it, we can look all polished and nice on the outside —appearing to be a loving Christian. But the question is… is that who you are on the inside? Is it real? Are you living in an authentic, genuine way, stripping away all artificiality?
If the answer is yes, then it will show forth in your actions and your words as you interact with your spouse. You can’t be a genuine follower of Christ and continually act like the enemy of our faith to your spouse and family. Sure, we all sin at times. But when you do, are you repentant? And is your sinning rare —something that you are sorrowful for, something you confess and give to God so you can work on it together? Additionally, does your spouse and your family know of your sorrow and commitment to work on this with God?
As we’re told in God’s Word, “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Are you being “real” with God, alive in Christ Jesus so that He can shine forth? If so, it WILL show forth on the outside somehow.
Please be honest in your answer. You can’t fool God on this one. And you can only fool others for so long, and eventually “your sin will find you out.”
Here’s the scripture I feel compelled to point you to —to genuinely consider whether you are “alive” inside or “dead.” It is my deepest hope that you are not “white-washed tombs” as Jesus once accused some religious leaders of being, “which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” In Revelation 3:1-3, it reads:
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.“
Yes, this was addressed to the Church in Sardis, but it’s something we need to pay attention to, as well. God knows our works. He knows if we are being real both in outward appearances and within. We can’t fool Him. He will only take so much of our artificiality, and then He will expose that, which is real and destroy that, which is fake and sinful.
If you are in a place where you are more dead than alive, do what we’re told in Revelation 3, “wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die“… “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.”