Christmas is Supposed to Inspire…

We interrupt this advertisement of indignantly joyous strength, self-reliance, and independence, supposedly available to humanity, for an awkward reality check.

Yeah, this is going to probably become an annual thing because as much as I wish life made me a stronger better human being, the harder I try the more I see the truth, that I suck at the self-reliance, self-determination, grab-life-by-the-balls-and-make-it-give-me-what-I-want lifestyle.  Or, maybe there are those exceptional few who seem to be fortunate and get what they want, and the rest of us have dreams in our souls and shit in our hands.  And while one reader worries about my compulsivity, all I can say is, thank God for soap.

I could detour here and comment about how gender-insensitive the above was toward life, because who’s to say life is a guy, but if it was and if you were that guy, how would you feel about it?

It doesn’t mean I’ll give up praying for miraculous intervention, but rather it means that in my recent experience I haven’t seen my prayer requests answered with a resounding “yes.”  A soft one, sure, I have to say:  there’s a roof over our heads, it’s just that the lease payment hasn’t been made yet and they’ve already called to gently remind us.  Yeah, thanks, bankers.  And we have utilities, like trash pickup, but they’re calling and gently threatening to leave us to rot in our own trash pile.  Yeah, thanks for letting us know. You’ll get your money after we get paid Friday.  And we have food on the table, for which I am extremely grateful, it’s just that a large percentage of that is coming from a local ministry’s pantry.  Thanks very much.

It’s like getting underwear for Christmas.  It’s what I need, and it’s enough, barely, and I am grateful because there are a lot of people who have a lot less, and need a lot more, and probably live in a lot more anxiety.  I almost have what I need, but I’d really rather have a sense of security, the ability to pay for what I need for myself, the ability to pay our realistic living expenses with what I earn, and the ability to buy my own underwear, so maybe for Christmas I’d like to open a box with a new laptop computer someone got me because I didn’t need underwear (because I need a new laptop this year, but I don’t have much faith in that event.  It could happen and I hold out a little hope still because I haven’t opened all the boxes that aren’t under the Christmas tree yet).  I was going to say “pants,” but I don’t want God to tease me by having someone actually give me pants.  He has a sense of humor and if I said it and He provided pants the joke would be on me.

What if I really needed underwear and begrudged when it came?  How would that make the gift-giver feel?  I can hear me now.  “Oh.  Underwear.  Thanks, it’s just what I wanted.”  I think that’s a 5 to 7 year-old’s thought about getting clothes.  They take it for granted that they will have clothes to wear, so a gift of clothes isn’t maybe their idea of a good gift.

My idea of a good gift is a million dollars a year for the next hundred years, transferrable to my kids after I’m dead.  I have so many first world things, that I have a matching number of first world problems.  My laptop battery isn’t holding a charge, so I’m tethered to the wall.  Not that I don’t prefer it, but that the lurking lack of mobility and waiting for the next thing to fail are hanging over my head adding to my insecurity.  I’m saying, the gift (and it IS a gift) of connectivity is not something I can take for granted.  My car is rusty, prone to leaks in the rain, the check engine light is on and I’m in need of new tires to feel safe if I have to drive in rain or snow. But I have a car and it runs.  As mentioned before, the bank called to remind us not to forget them this Christmas, and so did the trash truck driver and his support staff.  But it’s Christmas, so I’d like to go get something nice for my wife and kids to open on Christmas morning (NOT underwear!)  And it’d be nice to be able to give gifts to family and friends.  But after bills are paid, a little later than I’d like, there’s not a whole lot left to spread around.

I’m thankful for underwear, literally and proverbially.  It’s warming, protecting, and supporting, which is what I need in life.  I’m thankful for people in my life who have provided that warmth, protection and support.  And I’m not going to offend these kind souls.

I do have a gift to share, so I’m going to share it.  I have the gift of Christmas itself.  Say what you want about the origins and history of Christmas as a dated holiday, about the commercialization of the date, about when Jesus’ actual birth date might have been, but Christmas as a religious holiday is a celebration of God’s gift to us.

I’ve been reading in Romans, and the earlier chapters are all about how and why we need a savior.  Our heritage won’t save us, our culture can’t save us, our race won’t save us, our family tree won’t save us.  Obeying the law won’t save us.  Being “a good person” won’t save us.  Paul was talking about eternal salvation, not temporal.  At the very end of Romans, Paul talks about his travel plans- he wants to visit with the Christ-followers in Rome, on his way to Spain.  But then Paul was arrested on trumped up charges and ends up going to Rome under arrest, and later, being executed.  Some travel plan.  It proved my point that the salvation Paul was talking about is not necessarily going to lead, in this life, to a life of ease and comfort.  He was in prison, falsely accused, and headed for beheading.  And I’m worried about a car breakdown?

In the middle of Romans, Paul reaches a point where he’s established that we can’t save ourselves.  And then he lets it out, after teasing us a bit with hints.  It’s only 16 chapters.  I recommend reading it all.  He finally says it- Those who are in Christ are not under condemnation.  By “condemnation,” he means, under a sentence of punishment to come in eternity.  And then in later chapters he talks about how Christ-followers can live in ways that prove their faith, and show the world without all the preaching, that it’s real.  I think many professing Christ-followers would do well to read it through, because there are even two chapters about how we Christ followers should get along with each other!

I LOVE that he acknowledges that even after we become Christ-followers, we still are human and need to remember we have to work to get along with each other.  There are still problems and conflicts.  But it’s not completely hopeless.

The gift I’m sharing is a gift lots of people  have heard about already, and you can say what you want about proverbial underwear.  You can say you’ve got your own already, and you can believe you’ll be fine in eternity.  I have to ask you to give some thought to the origins of that belief.  Were you taught it by a parent, a teacher?  Did you think it up for yourself?  Are you trusting that someone else was right?  Are you trusting that you are right?  Are you sure about all that?  Have you ever READ the book of Romans?  If you aren’t sure, the box of Romans, in lovely gift wrap, has those eternal underwear inside waiting for you.

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