“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
You ever have one of those days when life feels like an old-school, stereotypical country song? You know how the song goes:
- Your dog dies
- You lose your house
- Your wife walks out on you
- You lose your job
- Your truck gets repossessed
- Mama ends up in jail
(Watch the video…it really is “the perfect country-western song”)
Of course the reason those songs get written is because it makes us feel a little better about our own lives after listening to how bad others have it. But still, every once in awhile it sounds like Bocephus is playing the slide guitar in the background. I feel like I had that kind of week in a lot of ways.
- In the big rainstorm our home school room had a waterfall (again) and the wind blew our trampoline into the house, tweaking it a bunch.
- We have to find Trixie a new home. She is a sweetie but she’s a puppy, and Laura just doesn’t have the time or patience right now to train a puppy. So in the interest of marital harmony she has to go. (Anyone want a really sweet terrier mix? Jesus will love you forever!)
- Someone vandalized our church Tuesday night. I think that a kid I scolded for a foul mouth returned after I left; whoever it was threw rocks through two glass doors and discharged a fire extinguisher all over.
- My truck died Wednesday morning. It started oddly and then a block from home just quit.
- I am in the middle of a fairly major family fight. I’m going to leave it at that, but it’s not minor and is hard to have happen at Christmas.
You know what, though? I’ve had a couple of friends ask me how I stay positive in the midst of trials and circumstances like we have been going through. I’m not sweating the “stuff” too much. Even though some is big (pastorally I have had some significant stuff, though of course I can’t share specifics), I am so grateful that God has shown Himself bigger time and again.
I know that this is a tough time for a lot of people; the holidays consistently see an increase in suicides as well as episodes of significant depression in people’s lives. It’s supposed to be a season of joy, but instead for many of us becomes a season of sorrow. Life’s many problems can seem to gang up on us and rob us of our joy, especially at Christmas. Family struggles intensify, financial troubles come to the forefront, and with the media pushing happiness and family when many have little of either it can be very depressing.
How do we combat that and keep Christ at the forefront of Christmas? The first and foremost answer, as cliché as it sounds, is that the stuff matters very little in comparison to the season. We need to be like Simeon and reflect his attitude from Luke 2:29-32:
29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
I’m sure Simeon’s life was filled with struggle, but in the grand scheme of things his eyes were fixed on the Messiah that he knew the Lord would not let him die without seeing. Luke 2:25 shows where Simeon’s focus is: “this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel.” He wasn’t focused on the problems or the struggles or the challenges that he faced. Instead he was focused on what God was doing and his privilege to be counted important to Him.
That’s my determination this week. I will focus on what God is doing rather than on anything that isn’t exactly what I want it to be. Rather than worry about Christmas shopping (perhaps my least favorite activity of all time) I will focus on my Savior. Rather than spend a bunch of energy worrying about the challenges I have at work I am going to rededicate myself to peace this season, looking back on the birth of Christ to look forward to His return.
That’s where joy and peace and hope is at Christmas. It’s not in family; we all know how much family can disappoint us. It’s not in stuff; honestly how many of us can remember what we got for Christmas 5 years ago? It’s ONLY in Christ, and ONLY as we use this season to set aside our struggles and problems and really consider the wondrous gift of God’s Son.