Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
If you’re into reading good and exciting novels, the author John Grisham would be known to you. He’s written some very good books, and I have some at home in my library. Getting time to read them is a challenge!
He wrote his first book in 1989 and is now a best-selling author. In 2001 he wrote one called Skipping Christmas. It’s about Christmas, obviously, and not taking the time you spend with your friends and family during Christmas for granted. The main family in this book is the Kranks, who consist of Nora (mother), Luther (father), and Blair (daughter). Blair is going on a trip to western Peru to teach a small school for the Peace Corps. She will be gone for a year and will unfortunately be missing Christmas with her family for the first time ever. Nora, her mother, is devastated that she will not be with them this Christmas and never stops worrying about Blair and her safety. It’s a delightful story and was made into a movie in 2004.
Have you ever had the same idea: it would be good to skip Christmas this year? For many of us this is not a season of joy. It’s a season that brings more stress and concern. Sometimes it’s a burden we just want to get through and be done with or ignore altogether.
I think it’s important to recognise that Christmas ought to be meaningful, significant and joyful to us. Somehow the joy and wonder of Christmas has gotten lost and clouded. But what do we do? Ignore Christmas altogether? That would be almost impossible to do. Christmas is supposed to be about hope and joy. The two words go together.
We need hope to find joy
To begin finding that joy, we need to begin with hope. Hope is something we can hang onto regardless of whatever else might be going on in our lives. We really will not be able to eliminate the various stresses and concerns of the holiday season. We can’t force the world to change and go the way we want it to go, and we can’t just stop and cut ourselves off from everything and everyone around us. We need to find something that rises above all the other things and outshines them so that we can look at that instead. Hope is grabbing onto that thing, it’s focusing there because it is so much better—so more important, so much more meaningful than anything else.
Where does my hope come from? So where do we find hope at this Christmas season? Or, perhaps, where have we misplaced hope if we are not experiencing joy?
The world offers us all kinds of things to grab onto. The problem is that they always fall short. We reach for them and then they disappear or they keep moving further away and we never reach them.
We think that buying an expensive gift this year for our kids is the answer. But chances are they will get sick of it sooner or later. We get stressed over the meal that has to be prepared with all the relatives coming. And the traffic is worse now. The shopping centres tell us to believe in the magic of Christmas—but we know what they really mean. Buy our product and believe in us! Keep shopping at our store, spend your money.
Perhaps our expectations are too high. Maybe it’s the expectation of how our Christmas parties will turn out or how the decorations will look. Or maybe we are hoping to accomplish certain things at work or at home, and we feel that if only we can meet these expectations of ours, we can rest and be happy. But we can’t always control these situations and there will always be more to accomplish. Depending upon our abilities or the abilities of others to always come through isn’t a reliable focus for hope.
We need a reliable source for our hope
We can’t have our hope, our source of joy depend upon things that will eventually come up short. We need something or someone we know will be reliable in all things.
We need something bigger than ourselves to place our hope in.
The Wise Men, as told to us in the Gospels, discovered that the Saviour the star pointed to was a baby named Jesus, born in Bethlehem to a young Jewish woman named Mary. They placed their hope in him. Jesus is the reason for Christmas and offers himself for us to place all our hopes in.
But do we know if we can really trust him? If we are going to find joy in our lives, we need to know in our hearts that we can place our hope in him above all other things.
Don’t skip this Christmas. Just change the way you view it. Read the Bible and be thrilled by the story of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, and you will have a contented and joyful Christmas.