December 24, 1991
For many, this is the happiest time of year. Family gathers and warm memories are shared. Happy celebrations around the piano singing, around the table laughing. Gifts opened and squeals of delight echo through the house and Christmas is a time of abundance.
For some, this is the saddest time of year. Perhaps memories are not heart-warming; a Christmas past brought heartache. Perhaps celebrations are not happy; a family member is addicted to spirits of a chemical variety. Perhaps gift-giving brings no joy; hard times or foolish spending robbed the children of their toys. And those who yearn for an abundant Christmas spend it in physical, mental and emotional poverty.
The occasion is the birth of Christ (remember?) and the party is in His honor. Will the fact that the party has been ruined a few times destroy forever that abundance longed for and yet seemingly so out of reach? Or does the Christ child, now a resurrected and exalted King, still have a gift unopened for you?
For those who mourn and cannot applaud His birth, Jesus reaches out across time, across a million scarred and ruined holidays and cries, “This thief came to steal and kill and destroy... but I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.”
Abundant life. Anyone who searches the Word of God looking for more presents, a bigger tree, a nicer car, a larger wardrobe, a fancier house, will not find that kind of abundance. Jesus says anything that rots, mildews, or rusts is not worthy of our Christmas list. He has far more valuable treasures in His “santa sack”.
The first parcel is labeled “PARDON.” He offers it with this word: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him... for He will abundantly pardon.” The gift tag is made out “To __________”, so whoever wants this parcel can fill in their name and help themselves.
The second gift is labeled “RENEWAL.” This abundance is for those whose lives have been scarred by their own foolishness, at Christmas time and otherwise. When they fill out the tag on the first gift, this is what they receive: “...not by your good works, but according to His mercy He saves you, through washing you with new life and renewing you by the Holy Spirit... whom He poured out on you abundantly through Jesus Christ your Savior.” This Gift-giver trades His New Life for your old memories.
The next parcel is labeled “SATISFACTION” for He knows we need more than tinsel and glitter. “They (those who receive the first two parcels) are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of His house, and He gives them drink from the river of His pleasures.”
Whether the tree be buried under a great mound of worldly treasures or barren as a greedy man’s heart, the Lord’s gift of satisfaction doesn’t depend on cash flow. Furthermore, it also is free!
Is there any more? Yes, for those memories and miseries that threaten joy all year round, He offers still more surprise-packages. But these have no label and no one knows what is in them until they help themselves. Here is their promise: “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us....”
Whatever we ask for, whatever we can imagine that would make Christmas and all of life wonderful... He is able to do more, exceedingly abundantly more. And as we turn away from our rotting, rusting treasure and allow Him to give us His gifts, we find the last and most lasting parcel there for us.
It is called “HOPE,”the promise of “an entrance supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
With that, He vows someday the celebration will be totally without tears. For now, we can bring the sorrows of our celebrations to Jesus and let Him turn every one into abundance.