Christmas will soon be upon us. Breathe a deep sigh of relief. We all need to. Christmas brings its own stress. Did I get just the right gift for everyone? Will my Christmas dinner be perfect? Will there be family members upset if we don’t spend enough time with them?
We see fantasy Christmases on TV and in movies. When our Christmas doesn’t live up to those images, we are disappointed, sometimes deeply disappointed. The insane emphasis on the perfect gift, the perfect dinner, the perfect party, the perfect everything, steals both joy and meaning from the whole holiday. If you are poor as well, the pain that not being able to provide your family with presents even middle class families have can be gut-wrenching.
When I was doing kettles for The Salvation Army with my wife, Karen, we saw anxiety bordering on panic in people’s eyes. The lists in their heads were consuming them. Did I get all the groceries I need? Did I remember to get a gift for everybody? Who can I NOT buy for without insulting them? If I get a turkey and some special treats for Christmas, can I stretch my money until the end of January?
As my wife and I stood by the kettles and sang songs about a God who loves us enough to be born as a vulnerable little baby, we asked ourselves these questions. Are we shining the light of Christ’s love to everyone we meet? What message are we sending out through the expressions on our faces?
The apostle, Paul, wanted to encourage and challenge the Christians at Corinth. He knew that Christ’s desire was that
HIS FOLLOWERS WOULD BE LIVING LETTERS OF LIFE.
In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul writes:
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, read and known by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts”(NIV).
Paul was teaching fellow Christians that they were the only gospel many would ever read. In their speech and character those who did not believe in God would see Christ living within their hearts. Notice that in 2 Corinthians 3:2 Paul writes that this letter of life in Christ would be read and known by everybody. In the next verse, Paul says that the Christians he was teaching needed to show that they are Christ’s own. How were they to do that? Later in the verse, we are given the answer. The Spirit of the living God was to be written upon their hearts.
What letter are people reading in us? Are we as Christians shining Christ’s light? If Christians are the only gospel many will ever read, do our lives shine light or darkness?
Many of you are familiar with the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge. He is the miserly businessman, who is the central character of A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens. Dickens describes Scrooge as “…a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
Scrooge was embittered by life. His father’s failure to love him caused him to have little concern for the welfare of others. His sister, Fran, died giving birth to his nephew. Scrooge blamed his nephew for Fran’s death. His fiancee ,Belle, wanted to know if he would have asked her to marry him now if they were not already engaged. Scrooge could not respond that he would have because the golden idol of money had replaced her in his heart.
Scrooge is visited by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future They challenge him to love people rather than things. They teach him the reason Jesus was born. He sees the difference that reason makes in a person’s life.
As we prepare for Christmas let us all ask ourselves this question. Is there any of Scrooge in us? Perhaps, there is bitterness within your heart towards someone you know quite well. This anger and rage seething within you kills your spirit like cancer kills your body. It also robs you of the joy Christ wants to give you. Life may have been cruel to you. You put up emotional walls around yourself so you will not be hurt. You are the sad victim of abuse, which has been eating away at you, stealing your joy, slowly sinking you into a raging sea of despair and inner unrelenting torment.
You become miserly in showing Christ’s love to others. It just hurts too much to put your emotional barriers down and let in anyone including God. It’s too dangerous. It’s too risky. You’ll just be hurt again. You can’t endure another wound.
If we are to truly to be shining lights of hope to the hopeless, we need to trust that God can heal our woundedness. The Lord has been calling me to do that as I seek to transition from wounded to victorious healer. For many years I was abused by my manic depressant schizophrenic father. Those haunting words of my father that Christ is healing play over and over again in my mind. “You’re no good. You’re a piece of garbage. You’re stupid. You’re a mama’s boy.Your brother is smarter than you’ll ever be. You are a clumsy fool. I wish you had never been born.”These are the hurtful, cutting and destructive words so many abused people hear and sadly come to believe.
God loves all of the abused and all of you. He has a plan for you. Will you take His hand today and trust Him? Will you in an act of child-like trust say, “Lord, I don’t want to live in this pit of despair any longer. Take me out of the valley of my hell. Oh, God, take me out of this dark place in my soul to embrace Your light, Your purpose, Your direction for my life.”
We need to reach out to Him in faith. We need to trust Him as Paul and Scrooge did. We need to allow God to shine His light through us, so that we can endure and be victorious in the daily struggles of life.
God wants to change the darkness within you into light. He wants to give you hope. He wants to give you a peace unlike you have ever known before. Will you dare to let God in? Will His love live within your heart? Will you be a living letter of life? It is my prayer that God will show you the answers in your heart as you ask yourself these questions.
If God has spoken to your heart through these thoughts, please let me know, so I can pray with you, listen to your pain, be there for you in your hour of need.
The Lord has been teaching me that even as I recover from one of the worst respiratory bugs of my life, that my life Has a purpose. Yours does too. Yours does too. Do you believe that? I pray, oh how I pray that no matter what cruel, vile and disgusting things the Enemy has been saying to you, that you will not believe the Prince of Liars. The Psalmist David declares, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”(Psalm 139:14, NIV).
God doesn’t make any junk. Even if others say hurtful and awful things about you, you have God’s word on it that in His eyes You are special. Don’t believe the lies others have spoken into you. God loves you just as you are with all of your scars, all of your imperfections.
The Enemy is throwing his darts and arrows at Karen and me. Satan is seeking to destroy us. We pray that we will be more than a conqueror in Christ.
We seek by His grace to take as our testimony of faith, Romans 8:38-39.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV).
God’s peace be with you as you seek by His grace to be a living letter of life.
P.S. If you would like me to give this devotional message at your church, let us pray together as we seek the wise counsel of God and other godly people. I can change the devotional from a Christmas theme to one that focuses on the daily experience of our call as members of the body of Christ, to be a living letter of life to everyone we meet.
Please send us all of your prayer requests, so we can lift them to God’s holy throne of grace.