It is here. The holiday season is upon us. And so are the competing story lines which threaten to derail us. Is this the most wonderful time of the year when we gather with friends and family many times over the next 5+ weeks to give thanks, spread cheer, offer love, and celebrate? Is this the most delicious or unhealthy season when plate after plate passes before us? Is this the most expensive time of the year as we travel and unleash the credit card? Is this the worst time of year when our lives are compared to those with whom we grew up with and we are defined by our accomplishments or possessions (or lack thereof)? Is this the hardest time of the year when we are painfully reminded of the loved ones lost or unfulfilled relationships in the empty chairs around the table?
The questions can go on for days. We can get lost in the mental calisthenics of having our answers correspond to our dreams and emotions. I want to propose another perspective which has aided me greatly. It is one I came to several years back.
I was struggling with the consumerism of Christmas creeping towards October and Black Friday dominating Thanksgiving. I was offering a study on how advertising promises the 'good life' if only you buy the product or lifestyle. Many of my fellow Christians were offering thanks which were more in line with the Pharisee than the tax collector (thank you we aren't suffering from a natural disaster, or poverty, or part-time employment). I was stressing out over the lack of time to go to all of the possible social and ministry engagements. In short, I was robbing myself of the joy such a season promised.
And then, God broke through. And as God does, through the very same things which I had been clutching. It was in observing my neighbors and hearing others' stories about the season that I was shown how narrow my criticisms had been. There was no single moment, but a succession of nudges and conversations which touched me deeply. There is such an abundance of wealth in our country which we have the privilege to move and share. We have a good life promised to us in the gospel which is far better than any purchase can offer. There is an abundance of community in Christ which exceeds my ability to be fully present.
My eyes were brought from that which I was trying to hold onto upwards to the one who offers all. I lost the ability to grasp my criticism while being flooded with heavenly joy. I was humbled to see how every breath I receive is a gift I can offer back to my Maker. Every meal is one which is better when shared. Every day is provided to me with greater love and concern and beauty than is offered to the birds of the field. For some reason God chose to love me and make me special.
As I think of this entry into the holiday season, I do my best to hold this truth before me - I live from the abundance offered to me in Christ. I fail often as my old habits creep up and I grasp at the stories offered to me in fear of scarcity. Yet our gracious God is always ready to allow his blessings to continue to flow through us. It is my hope to offer this abundance to all I come across in the coming days and weeks. It is great to be a part of a community here at St Andrew which is so ready to give God the glory for the blessings we receive. There is so much to give thanks for this season.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.