You need to be wise this Christmas.
Because Christmas, perhaps more than any other time of year, is the season that pushes people in one of two directions—toward God or away from him.
So, which direction will this Christmas take you?
The answer depends on what you expect this December. As the marketing blitz blows up your social media feeds and the PF(DI)CCs* start flooding your mailbox each afternoon, your expectations will be put to the test.
(*That’s Perfect Family [Dog Included] Christmas Cards, in case you are unfamiliar with the acronym I just invented . . .)
In what way will your expectations be tested?
You will be tempted severely to believe that temporary things are eternal. That uncertain things will certainly happen to you. That doubtful blessings are divinely promised.
By “temporary things” I mean almost everything you want this year—A flu-free body. A budget that can afford an Xbox One. A safe trip to Grandma’s house. A family that doesn’t have to Photoshop in a few smiles for the Christmas card. A boss that doesn’t demand you work on Christmas Eve. An Amazon gift that arrives in the nick of time. A wish list that your husband pays attention to. A sister who stays sober. A kid who puts down his phone and talks to you. An anxious mind that takes a Christmas break.
I hope you get to enjoy many, if not all, of the things in that list. But I pray—sincerely, I’m stopping to pray it over you right now—that you don’t expect any of it. That all of it is your icing and not your cake. That your holiday joy and hope and peace aren’t wrapped up in such gifts.
Do you? Is it? Are they? (I know you’re busy, but please pause to consider those questions.)
Because if you put your happiness in temporary things, your happiness might turn out to be temporary.
And when you start to sniffle or the blizzard blocks your travel plans or the people in your life act like . . . well, people . . . you might get frustrated at God. You might act as if he, in some lost book of the Bible, promised that you deserved better, that you were supposed to be the one human who got what they wanted for Christmas.
You could do that. But I pray you won’t. Instead, I pray you listen to Peter.
Jesus’ friend Peter once wrote, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Peter 1:24). Notice the “alls” in his wise words. All the people you know and all the glorious gifts you love, sooner or later, fail and fall. Expecting them to last forever is like expecting your holiday eggnog to taste good in July.
Or you could adjust your expectations. You could expect temporary things to be temporary. All of them up in the air. Not one of them promised by God, despite his promise-making-and-keeping character.
Why do that? So that you can become one of those rare people who is truly grateful at Christmas. So that your holiday gifts, in a way, surprise you and delight you, because you knew that none of them was guaranteed to arrive.
- Safe travels are not guaranteed, yet you arrived without a scratch.
- Disposable income is not guaranteed, yet your family could afford a pile of presents.
- Good health is not guaranteed, yet here all of your siblings sit, healthy enough to crack jokes and play games.
- Clean water and hot food are not guaranteed, yet you turn on the tap and smell the aroma wafting out of the oven.
- Friends and family are not guaranteed, yet you are searching for extra chairs for the table.
When God opens your eyes to this reality—that this gift was not guaranteed but still given—it stirs your soul to be grateful, to sing his praises, and to marvel at his giving spirit.
But what about when he doesn’t? Are you left to sit and wait for the next time something temporary actually arrives?
Not a chance. Instead you can run to the one thing that isn’t temporary . . . GOD.
I left the caps lock on to remind you that the eternal GOD is not some yawn-worthy, been-there-believed-that kind of being. No, he is GOD. So good that he is infinitely better than the best Christmas you can imagine. Better than having a personal chef to handle the holiday feast. Better than an Amazon glitch that lets you one-click at no cost. Better than the perfect family, dog included, posing for the postcard picture.
And the best part about him? He’s not a flower. He’s not like the temporary people and short-term glory that Peter mentioned above. He’s eternal, everlasting, always there, and never failing.
That’s what Christmas is actually about, isn’t it? “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus was born to be with us. In fact, Jesus died so that we could be with him.
Not for one magical night or one vacation week. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).
So, here’s my advice to you this Christmas, advice so vital to me that I wrote an entire book about it (3 Words That Will Change Your Life):
Expect temporary things to be temporary. Expect GOD to be eternal.
That is the wisest way to have the merriest Christmas of all.