Formulas are important. They help us figure things out, predict outcomes, and make sense of complexity. And it’s the promise of those things that consistently drive us to make everything formulaic...including our faith. We want to crack the code––learn the secret. And every once in awhile we think we figure out the recipe to God, or at least the recipe to get God to do what we want him to. The truth, however, is that God’s not really a secret or a formula to be uncovered. The mystery is really no mystery at all.
If someone were to sit you down and ask what makes you a good person, what would you say? You’d list things like charity, kindness, and the fact that you’ve never stolen anything or murdered anyone. You’re right, those make you a good person. But if the stakes were raised and you had to name the things that make you a righteous person, what now? Maybe you would list the same things as before, but know this: you can’t make you righteous. You need someone else.
There’s a rumor going around that all things spirit are good and all things material are bad. So everything you can see, taste, touch, hear and smell is of no use in the grand scheme of things. There’s a problem though: the rumor’s just a rumor––matter matters. In fact, everything matters and can be used to make its Maker look good.
It’s easy to spend most of our day looking for something to make us feel whole and complete; like the day was worth it. It might be an episode of our favorite show, a good meal, or even the company of someone we love. Is it possible we do the same thing when it comes to our faith journey? Do you ever find yourself searching for something to make it feel whole and complete? Something to make it worthwhile? If you are, just know you don’t have to.
Have you ever felt like you're living on auto-pilot? We see the same baristas every morning, the same co-workers every week and the same cashiers at the grocery store every weekend. What if God has more in store for those interactions than mundane small talk? What if the Kingdom starts with small acts of intention?
We are unaware of what’s most constant. And for a long time, during the holidays, we’ve mistaken unawareness of something for a lack of something. We’ve maybe allowed the hustle, bustle, and mind-boggling activity of Christmas to make us calloused to the real meaning in all of it. The good news is that no matter how hard we try...we just can’t seem to take Christ out of Christmas.
For Christmas people, December 25 is the center and pinnacle of the year. They look forward to it and, instead of seeing December 26 as the day after Christmas, they see it as the 363rd day before it. All year is about anticipation and the hope that comes during the holiday season. Even if you aren’t one of those kinds of people, by now you’re anticipating the joy of what’s just one week away. Isn’t it interesting how that acts as a metaphor for life in general? We’re always waiting, aren’t we? Waiting for things to be better. Waiting to catch a break. What we’ve missed in Christmas though, is that the wait is finally over.
In the movie Beaches, Bette Midler’s character says, “Enough about me, let's talk about you...what do YOU think of me?” And while we may never say that out loud, it’s certainly the question constantly running through our minds––especially at Christmas time. “How do I look? What do people think? Make the appearance. Build my brand.” The holidays can feel like one long audition for the part of “accepted member of society,” can’t they? And often, it seems like we don’t have the stuff to make the cut. But there is, however, an audience that bases its opinion of you on different criteria. The crazy thing is, that audience only has one member.
In 1973, the O’Jays released the most covert Christmas song ever: For the Love of Money. At least that’s what the long lines, countless Amazon deliveries, and maxed out credit cards seem to indicate this time of year. Which makes one wonder what Christmas is really all about. Is it just money? Is it just about the big parties, huge gifts and company bonuses? If we let it be, yes. But Christmas could be about so much more, and you get to decide what that more... is.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be some of the most difficult. We’ve experienced the joy in one holiday and now wait––hoping to survive––until the next one arrives. Work feels monotonous. Family obligations are just...obligations. And something inside us longs for more meaning to all of it. So how do we make the every-day parts of our lives better? It starts with one simple truth: we can’t.