Yes, I am one of “those people.” Some folks think I teeter on crazy, decorating before Thanksgiving. We won’t even mention the October Christmas Movie Binge. I just gain so much joy from this time of year! (AND weight…but we won’t talk about that either…’tis the Season!)
The holidays matter so deeply to me. Celebration consumes me, not because I merely believe in Christmas, but because I desperately long to live Christmas. What’s the difference, you ask? Let me show you.
During WWII, when it seemed the world had gone dark, a malnourished missionary diligently saved enough money to return home to America for Christmas. His ten years away, serving the people of North China, made this family reunion especially significant. His loved ones surely counted the days to feel his embrace.
As the missionary docked in India awaiting passage, he encountered a boatload of war-torn refugees. Every country had refused them entrance. They rested inside the boat before attempting the next port.
The homesick missionary empathized with their longings for home and extended a “Merry Christmas!” Weary from travel and rejection, they defensively retorted, “We’re not Christians. Leave us alone. We don’t believe in Christmas.” The gracious man responded, “I know, but what do you want for Christmas?”
The exiles eventually muttered that they wished for some rare German pastries. The missionary left the migrants and scoured the city until he located the unusual treats. He then did the unthinkable. This impoverished missionary cashed in his ticket for home to purchase the rare delicacies. At that moment, his dreams of a family Christmas perished.
The missionary returned to the skeptical refugees with baskets full of pastries. He lovingly extended Christmas tidings, then began the painstaking trip back to North China, where he resumed his ministry to the Asian people. The refugees devoured the gift, never knowing the selfless, extravagant sacrifice offered on their behalf.
As the sun rose that Christmas morning, friends in North China lamented the frail missionary’s radical decision and questioned his judgment. “Why would you sacrifice everything for people who treated you so bitterly? They may never believe in Jesus.” His voice cracked, “No, but I do.”
Friend, THIS is the essence of Christmas. We are the stranded refugees. We question and even harshly react to the generosity of the One who sacrificed everything to pull us from our forsaken predicament. Oh, the absurdity! This God, who cradles 200 billion galaxies in His hand, chose to wrap Himself in skin and be swaddled in a nasty feeding trough. Despite our scorn, the Son of God emptied Himself to live in our mess. He did the unthinkable for us, who weren’t thinking of Him at all.
Jesus did not give everything because we are good. He did it because He is good.
God did not sacrifice His best because we believe in Him. He did it because He believes in us. He believes in YOU.
You are never too beaten up or broken down for the Father to come where you are. God offers His absolute best to remind your thickest walls and deepest wounds that you are worth it!
So you see, I don’t want to merely believe in Christmas, or only revel in its beauty. I want to live it, weaving God’s give-it-all love into the intricacies of my days. I want every weary, hardened heart to know, “He thinks you’re worth it!” For comments or prayer, contact Dr. Lanier at PastorDebbie@HopeCommunityChurch.tv.