As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. James 4, verse 16.
Merry Christmas on onward towards New Years. Dinner was pretty good yesterday, and it was great to spend the day hanging out with my family. Soon, the tree will come down and the decorations will be put away. Before that happens, however, what arrogant schemes and evil boasting am I doing?
You see, Christmas should be a gut-check. Once a year, as we’re making merry and enjoying how we commemorate the birth of the King of Kings, we should give ourselves a gut-check. The day after (what I hope was) a merry day, here is James, smacking us in the gob with our evil arrogance.
Did you get a diamond ring under the tree? Good for you, but keep it in perspective. Was your Christmas meal a feast? Again, good for you, but how about a little reflection (and a few sit-ups). Tell me (better yet, tell Jesus): what are you holding on to that makes you boast, or feel cocky, or even make your chest swell?
Yesterday, we watched the end of “Ben Hur,” after which I went into my office to write these words. Between the two, I got my gut check. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s the story of a man and his family, and how their lives are touched by the polar opposites of Rome and the Son of God. Near the end, the main character sees Christ crucified: hardly a Christmas scene (which, btw, is how the movie begins). I realized what the day was all about while sitting there next to my very-pregnant daughter. The miracle birth at Christmas is only made complete by the miracle death coming at Easter. Without that death, Christmas is meaningless. Congratulations, Dave: you grasped an obvious cliché.
And yet it’s more. It’s more because James gob-smacked me with reality and told me how much my fat Christmas self needs that brutal murder on Good Friday. And how much everything else pales.
Prime rib in the roaster: tasteless. New tools, a new puzzle, new clothes: close, but no cigar. Beautiful tree, decades-old traditions, priceless decorations: whatever. Precious memories with the people I love most in the world: worthless, in compare. Ten seconds of heart-to-heart with the Man from Galilee whose birth we did all this to celebrate: merry Christmas, one and all. All those wonderful blessings are special, to be sure, but they’re only made special by knowing it’s Jesus who does so, and whom we share, and Who was and is and is to come. Holding on to anything else is simply evil.
Only by letting go of the things that I hold dear, even the deeply buried resentments and arrogance, can I truly understand how beautiful is the death of the Savior made possible by the miracle of His birth. That’s the best Christmas gift of all.
Thank You, Lord, for your birth…and for how we will soon remember Your saving death.