“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you”, your Father will give you everything you need (Matthew 6: 33).
Can I wish Merry Christmas to my recently divorced friend? Can I wish Happy New Year to another friend just diagnosed with cancer, to another who enters 2012 unemployed? Or is the meaning of those holiday greetings appropriate only for my “blessed” friends?
Three days before Christmas, Rachael and I enjoyed a sleigh ride through fields of Christmas lights with our three Cleveland granddaughters. Our Christmas is merry. And with our 45 years of strong marriage, two godly sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and five healthy grandkids, our new year promises to be happy.
BUT! Why does Jesus begin His call to live well with the word “but”? Look back at verse 32. He has just told us that hopes for a good life of blessings “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers”. I like my good life of blessings. But does my desire for those blessings to continue dominate my thoughts? Is that my deepest wish, my highest hope for a merry Christmas and a happy new year? Is there a greater good?
Only one Person fully knew the kind of merry and happy life that comes from putting first things first, the kind of secure rest that depends on trusting our Father to give us everything we need to live a truly “good” life. To the degree Jesus is formed in me as I celebrate Christmas 2011 and enter 2012, my richest thoughts, my highest ambitions, my deepest desires will center on knowing God and making His nature known to others by the way I relate. I will die to self, live for God and in the process, discover who I really am. Is Jesus really formed in me?
In Bethlehem, God declared war on Satan and his ways. Self-centeredness appeared in the cross-hairs of divine love. Sweet baby Jesus (who probably did cry in the manger) became the Divine Warrior who, by incarnating God’s kingdom for 33 years and securing its reign in our lives through His crucifixion and resurrection (Easter is coming), knew what it meant to wish us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Whether you’re in a hospital bed or on a sleigh ride with grandkids, whether you’re negotiating a divorce or kissing your spouse under mistletoe, whether you’re praying for people you love as you celebrate Christmas alone or gathered at a family Christmas dinner, you can relate like Jesus – suffering without complaining, enjoying blessings without feeling entitled to them, revealing God by relating like God. Then, “you will have abundant joy”, His kind of joy, and peace “which exceeds anything we can understand” (John 16: 24 and Philippians 4: 7), a divinely merry Christmas and an unconquerdsly happy new year.
On behalf of Rachael, Andi, and Kep, as I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, am I praying that you will enjoy the good things that dominate the thoughts of folks who don’t know Jesus? Well, yes! Second things are good!
BUT: Knowing Christ is better. Entering the war against self-obsession, beginning with the battle raging in our own souls, is better. Loving like Jesus in our circle of friends is better. Knowing the joy of seeking first God’s kingdom is better. Yielding to the Spirit’s plan to form us more like Christ in 2012 is better.
So, until the best will be ours to fully enjoy forever (He is coming!), I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Warmly In Him,
From the “little team” at NewWay