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A Thrill of Hope

I catch a lot of flak for my (potentially too early) unrelenting love of the Christmas season. I get it. Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning today.  Gifts, sales, making things bigger and better than last year, one-upping the neighbor or friend with lights or gifts to kids or charitable giving. It’s become a competition.  A competition for parents, for kids at school and their Christmas gift haul, a competition for companies promoting and selling. We’ll do whatever we can to make sure we are loved more for the things we do for others.  We’re looking for acceptance and admiration. This is not Christmas.

 

I’ll admit something that I don’t often share in public due to the fierce judgement I receive from those closest to me…and the internet. The Christmas season for me starts November 1st. I know. If that infuriates you, you can send me an email at mike@thetrashbin.com. That’s where I file all emails of that nature. Let me justify my position before you send that email.

 

These are the things I love about Christmas: Warm coats, hot drinks, eggnog, my wife needing my body’s warmth, my kids wide eyed the morning of a good snow storm, picking out a Christmas tree, retelling my kids the story of Christmas to curb their desire for presents, the smell of pine, eggnog, Christmas cookies, hiding my expanding holiday waste line with a comfy sweatshirt, Christmas carols, classic Christmas movies, eggnog, worshiping Jesus on Christmas Eve with my church family, and many other things.

 

These are the things I dislike about Christmas: Cheap plastic decorations, the fact that everything is an ad for something, chestnuts not roasting on an open fire, running out of eggnog, and the use of Santa for behavior modification in our kids.

 

I had a conversation with my dad one day where I told him that our intention with raising up our girls is to inform them early that Santa, in the sense that we know him today, is a fictional character. He was upset. As many of you may be. I feel like I’ve heard the phrase “Cardinal Sin” used more in reference to not believing in Santa than I have in not believing in Jesus…funny how that plays out, this being Jesus’ birthday and all, but who am I to bring logic into this discussion. My daughters are aware that Santa is not real. I want to take this moment to apologize if my kids have ruined Santa for any of your kids. They like to be right…even at the expense of the hopes and dreams of their friends…we’re working on it. The reason I’m not a fan of the idea of Santa during Christmas can be summed up in a single word, grace. We tend to use Santa as a way to make our kids behave better or they will not be rewarded. This is not entirely wrong…unless you abuse it. Where I have issue is that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the birth of a savior who, 30 or so years later, would die so we would stop (or should stop) keeping track of who is “naughty or nice”.

 

The modern concept of Santa is that he alone interprets the law, or house rules, or what is acceptable behavior in public. He will determine who receives a reward and who doesn’t. This is not Christmas.  Christmas should be known for grace and love and joy. Paul tells us in Ephesians that by grace you have been saved, this is the gift, not by works, not by your nice acts outweighing your naughty acts. It makes me chuckle thinking about how some of the original disciples would respond to what we’ve turned Christmas into. Peter cut off a guy’s ear to help protect Jesus, I wonder what he would do to protect His name 2,000 years later?

 

My battle is not with Santa. Santa is a character that, though he steals some of what I want Christmas to be, is a product of the human heart. We created Santa. I know…he is based off of a real person. But what I’m saying is the human heart wants there to be a standard that we can all gauge our lives on.  We want to be able to say our good outweighs our bad and we will be rewarded for it. The thing is, that’s not how God works.

 

This is the gospel, that Jesus came, lived, died, kicked death in the backside and came back.  He did so in such a way that the punishment we were supposed to receive for all the things we’ve done wrong, He was punished in our stead. Because of this we are forgiven by the God of the universe for any wrong we’ve ever committed. We are forgiven in such a way that God looks at us and only sees the righteous acts of Jesus instead of our acts of selfishness and pride and power and desire and hate. We are wholly forgiven.

 

This is the message of Christmas. This is what I get so excited about that I start listening to Christmas music in October.  This whole season reminds me that whether I’m on people’s naughty or nice lists, I’m always on my Father in heaven’s “most loved” list. Between that and the sweat heavenly nectar of eggnog, Christmas is the best time of the year.

 

As we are now in the midst of the advent season do me a favor. When things seem out of control, maybe your job isn’t what you want it to be, maybe you recently lost one or haven’t had one in a while, maybe you’re up to your wits end with your family both immediate and extended, maybe you just don’t have the funds to get the kids anything this season, maybe you just…stopped feeling. Whatever this season does to you as a human being, please remember this, the greatest gift has already been given. Jesus gave himself for you. Wrapped with a crimson chord, your eternity is sealed if you believe Him.  I’m sure I worried about a lot of things last Christmas, the funny thing is I don’t remember any of those things this year. Seasons come and go, worries are forgotten or dealt with, one things remains. Jesus. A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

 

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