Christmas, 2016 is in the rear-view mirror. I hope yours was filled with love, happiness, friendship, fun, laughter, family and … Jesus.
Yep. The saying goes: “He is the reason for the season.”
So true, that. Not Santa, not — with apologies to Dr. Seuss — presents, not reindeer, packages and bows.
He, Jesus, is the reason for the season. And, as the song says, He will bring us goodness and light. And He certainly did.
Everything He did was perfect. Not a hint of anything at all of the base or the selfish. He showed many moments of vulnerability, but it was in opening Himself to the torments that His fellow men would inflict on Him. He openly showed that vulnerability, really, in one small utterance: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”
He knew that His fate was to suffer long, agonizing, torture, then death. Yet, His faith was so strong that He threw Himself completely willingly into His Father’s hands and said “Thy will be done.”
The subjunctive shows Jesus’ faith in the much larger good of the accomplishment of His Father’s will, at the expense of the next several hours of His own life and comfort.
And for what? For whom, really?
For you and me. To give the example.
Billions have done the same thing inspired by His perfect example. How else to explain hundreds of thousands, millions, of young men throwing themselves upon the deadly beaches of Normandy in 1944? Belief in — faith in — something of greater importance than their own immediate safety and comfort.
Did Jesus have perfect faith? Yes. Did he feel the temptation to waver? Yes. As his tormented body prepared to give its last breath:
And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Yet, at that same time, He also said:
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
Wow! Imagine yourself contemplating those who had just nailed you to the cross. Do you think you would be big-hearted enough to ask God to forgive them?
Jesus could not not be big-hearted. So He forgave them. Those who were so undeserving of His forgiveness, He simply … forgave.
He will bring us goodness and light.
It’s a laden thought. it also says, “In place of evil and darkness, He will bring us goodness and light.”
And: “If you are willing to accept it, He will bring you goodness and light.”
And: “If you have faith in Him, He will bring you goodness and light.”
Just as in any gift, the intended recipient has to act. He has to receive the gift.
You and I both know what this means. We’ve all received the hideous Christmas sweater, the awful Christmas tie, the useless knicknack … the thing-that-we’d-never-choose-to-own-if-it-weren’t-a-gift.
Through clenched teeth, we’ve all said our insincere Thank you’s and our unmeant “I love it!”‘s. Then, in the clean-up, we’ve donated the sweater, or buried the useless knicknack out of sight. We were given the gift … but we didn’t actually receive it. Because we didn’t see any value in it.
Yet, that same Christmas, if your five-year old son were to approach you with a wrapped-up rock and say in his little-boy voice, “I found this stone, and it was pretty, and I thought of you,” you and I both know we’d take that pebble, lovingly put it in a place of honor in our living room.
We’d be sure to mention it, and to tell and re-tell the story of why it’s there at all. Every Christmas thereafter.
Each time as we told the story, that selfsame stone would become more precious to us. As our five-year old son grew up, left the house, made a family of his own, that silly little stone would become even more precious. It would become a gift of incalculable value as you, finally, left it to your great-grandchildren with the message that in the thought is the gift, and that to receive the gift graciously is the gift you return to the giver.
Well, several reasons: (1) a five-year old boy is indescribably cute. (2) The motivation behind the gift of a child is always seen as pure and completely selfless. (3) Plainly the gift is one of pure, innocent love. (4) The youthful giver really wants you to like the gift. (5) A lot of thought went into it. Here was a pretty rock. It’s pretty and I equate prettiness with good and pleasant and … you.
Most of the value of any gift is in the thought and the circumstances, and in who gives the gift and how. The Gift is, after all, all that thought infused in the gift.
Jesus’ thought in His gift was: “If you are willing to take it, I offer you salvation, eternal life, eternal joy.” And, unsaid: “I offer you this at the expense of the rest of My earthly life, and despite the fact that the remainder of My hours on earth will be spent in incomprehensible agony.”
Some of us looked at that gift as some might look at the hideous Christmas sweater, or the useless knicknack. We’ve said the equivalent of, “Yeah, whatever.”
Others of us have placed that gift in a place of honor in our living rooms — both literal and figurative — and told the story of the giving of the gift, year in and year out.
As time has passed, that gift, like the humble pebble, and like all meaningful gifts, has only become more precious, not only because of how it was given, but Who gave it, and in what circumstances.
He will bring us goodness and light.
But, only if we’re willing to accept it.
A somewhat belated Merry Christmas! to you and yours! May you have many, many more, and may each be happier, healthier, more filled with love, laughter, happiness, friendship, joy and deeply meaningful gifts, than the previous. And the same for the upcoming new year!