WITHHOLDING CHRISTMAS

Dec
2017
09

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“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15)

“Now you’d better be good, because Santa’s coming in a few weeks. If you don’t act the way you should, instead of those presents you want – he’ll bring you a lump of coal.” As children become excited about the anticipated visit from the man with the white beard in the red suit, parents will sometimes say or do almost anything to mellow their restless behavior. The lump of coal legend is one that has been around for generations. However the threat of withholding Christmas, in whatever form, is an act of manipulation which often works and sometimes surpasses the innocence of childhood. I recently heard the story of a young man who lives in a different state than most of his relatives. For years unresolved tension has existed with his parents, even though they have tried to make amends.  Again this Christmas, the son will travel to his hometown to visit with siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins but will withhold Christmas from his parents by intentionally making no effort to spend time with them.

Several years ago, a consultant to a company for which I was employed decided that he would no longer be able to serve our organization in the upcoming year.  It had been our usual custom to purchase Christmas gifts for individuals who had provided services to the establishment. The individual who purchased these gifts for the company pursued my opinion as to whether we should give a gift to the person who would be discontinuing his services. My reply was that this individual should be treated the same as all the others, because I had always viewed the gifts as a token of appreciation for what had already been done. To be honest, I suppose I also did not want to burn any bridges not knowing what the future might bring. Therefore, gifts were purchased and delivered to everyone.  A few days later, I took a phone call from the consultant humbled that he had received a gift after presenting his resignation.  I extended my gratefulness for the services he had rendered. For you see, the point of Christmas is about giving . . . not withholding.

These stories beg the question – have you ever withheld Christmas from another person? My guess is that you have more times than you would dare to imagine. I know this is true in my life as well. For you see, there are many ways to withhold Christmas.  It doesn’t have to take the form of not giving a gift or deciding to exclude someone from your visitation schedule. Every time we have an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus and fail to do so, we are doing just that. When the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, these words were spoken: “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). Notice that the angel said that the good news was for everyone.  That, my friends, means not just you and me.  It’s also the guy you regularly see eating alone in the diner you frequent. ‘All’ refers to the neighbor who often disturbs your day with the noisy dog and the loud motorcycle. It means the person you intentionally omitted from your Christmas party invitation list for whatever reason. No doubt you can think of more.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). It was a point He tried to make to the religious leaders of His time, but it escaped their understanding. It sometimes escapes ours as well, for we have come to define abundance in the form of material possessions rather than spiritual gifts. It is important that we are passionate about the unique gifts God has given us and be ready to share His Good News. Sometimes we feel we don’t have the right words, but readiness includes a state of willingness. So, simply be a good example in the community and an authentic witness to the faith that is within you.  “And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ” (Philemon 1:6). This Christmas we can fill the needs of the lonely, bring joy to those who are sad, and give hope to the depressed. Christ has commissioned us to share the Good News of His birth. We are all called not just to the world of those we love but also to the wider world of the hurting who need to be uplifted at this time of year. Jesus stated it this way – “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). In taking up His call, we will never withhold Christmas again.

REFLECTION: Why do you think Christmas remains one of the most likely times of the year for non-believers to consider matters of faith?  What are some practical ways you might allow God to use you to bring hope to others this Christmas? What obstacles might you have to overcome in order to do so?

A NEW LOOKUP  DEVOTION IS UPLOADED EACH WEEK. THE NEXT WEEKLY POSTING WILL BE ON SAT., DECEMBER 16, 2017.  COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

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