For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life, and who is adequate for these things? 2nd Corinthians 2:15-16 NASB
It is official. Thanksgiving is over and we are in the midst of the Christmas season once again. I am going to run the risk of sounding like a bit of a downer, and say that things in our world are looking a lot less than merry this year.
Our elected officials are, for the most part, inept bunglers. The economy is stuck. Christians are under siege around the globe. Europe, Africa and the Middle East are reeling from relentless terrorist attacks. The likelihood of further terror attacks is an ever-present concern for most of the world. Many typically optimistic policy experts believe our planet is likely on the brink of another world war. Donald Trump is still the official frontrunner in the Republican presidential race. And, on a personal note, my stupid house still hasn’t sold.
However, the surplus of gloomy realities does not negate the reality of God’s existence. Depressing truths cannot minimize His power or change the fact that He is still on His throne and has a plan for this world.
And as tempting as it might be, this is not the time for God’s people to shrink back in fear, become mired in pessimism or withdraw to their holy huddles. More than at any other time in recent history people need to see God’s plan for this world being worked out through the actions and attitudes of His people.
The turmoil our world is experiencing makes it critical for God’s people to look for opportunities to be salt and light and to be a blessing to everyone— saved or unsaved. Keeping our celebrations centered on Christ is one aspect of operating as salt and light this time of year. But truthfully, most in the culture don’t really care about the details of our Christmas celebrations. They do care about our attitudes and actions. There are three mindsets we can adopt that will enable us to bless our lost and hurting world this Christmas season.
Joy is not at all like happiness. Happiness is typically fleeting and always dependent on circumstances. Conversely, joy is the byproduct of right relationship with God. Joy is also a choice; one can have nothing and still be joyful. Joy happens when we cultivate a relationship with God and choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative. We demonstrate joy to others when we resolve to see the good in people and situations and and by refusing to get bent out of shape over stupid stuff like the seasonal decorations on coffee cups or whether someone who may or may not be a Christian says “Merry Christmas” as opposed to “Happy Holidays”.
Generosity is typically defined by how much money one gives to charity, and without a doubt that kind of giving is good and necessary. But generosity is about more than the size of the checks we write. Generosity is also an attitude of the heart that is reflected in the way we treat others. The fact that retail workers and wait staff have an almost universal loathing of Christmas says something profoundly unpleasant about the way our culture celebrates the birth of Christ. Striving to be open-handed and big-hearted with our time, money, empathy and praise is one of the best ways to reflect Christ to a world that has become accustomed to meanness and greed.
It’s always struck me as odd that we celebrate one of the holiest moments in human history by spending more than we have, eating like fiends, drinking like college students on spring break and generally living like there is no God from Thanksgiving to New Years. Extreme behavior of any kind is unpleasant to observe and will inevitably lead to ugly consequences and broken relationships (Ecclesiastes 7:18). Conversely, self-imposed limits have a protective effect on relationships, bank accounts, health and reputations.
God’s people can do more than curse the darkness this Christmas season. We can step out of our holy huddles and adopt a mindset of joy, generosity and self-restraint and be the peace our world urgently needs this Christmas season.