Living in a northern climate during January can have some drawbacks. It’s been very cold this week. And there’s snow. And ice. But here’s why you can really like January: because Christmas is over!
I don’t mean all the hustle and bustle and the foods that aren’t healthy and the obligatory gifts (“I have NO idea what to get him!”). Maybe you miss those, maybe you don’t. When I say Christmas is behind us I’m talking about the corresponding truth that something better is in front of us.
If you’ve ever read or seen C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from his Chronicles of Narnia, you may remember the scene in which Mr. Tumnus is lamenting to Lucy that in Narnia it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” In other words, it’s cold and dark and there is no hope of the new life of spring returning. They know that nothing will get better until Christmas arrives. (Check out the rest of the story if you’ve not done so recently.)
“But Pastor Mark, I was told that Jesus wasn’t born in the end of December.”
That’s most likely true. So why celebrate Christmas then? To understand that, a little history is in order. When the gospel spread into northern Europe, the church encountered many pagan traditions, one of which was to celebrate the winter solstice (i.e. the shortest/darkest day of the year). That day (near the end of December) marked the turning point in the calendar, because it signaled the beginning of the end of cold and dark. From that point on, the days got longer, and spring was coming.
The church realized that this was an opportunity to celebrate the beginning of the end of the cold and dark winter of evil and sin. The arrival of the baby in Bethlehem was the beginning of the end of the reign of darkness. That’s why Jesus kept talking about the kingdom of God that was near. That’s why he refers to himself as the Light of the World.
All that to say, January is a stark reminder that God has broken into our world and the darkness is fleeing. The light of the world has arrived. And we’ve been recruited to join in as the “light of the world,” according to Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16. January is a reminder that the beginning of the end has begun.
So despite the cold weather, let the longer days and brighter light be a reminder this month that we’re living in a “post-Christmas” world. No longer do we have to lament that it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” And if you want a longer treatment of this topic, be sure to check out the podcast from last Sunday, when Pastor Jeannette talked about how to “Live Like a Futurist.”
So this January keep your hat and gloves and shovel handy. And remember that you’re living between Christmas and Spring. You might even learn to like January!
I’ll admit it: My family creates gift lists for Christmas. They’re a guideline, not a mandate. And they serve a useful purpose. But there’s a problem, maybe two problems with them.
The first problem is that they reduce the surprise factor. I mean, if the gifts you unwrap are the ones you requested, it’s not super-surprising. Enjoyable, but not shocking.
But the second (real) problem is that the gifts on the list aren’t the ones we really want. Yes, we might desire those items, but the gifts that would truly satisfy and surprise us are seldom on the list. Gifts like:
- Deep and enduring joy
- Freedom from destructive habits
- Profound sense of purpose
- Life-giving relationships
- Healing from the wounds that cut to the soul
- The ability to accept ourselves for who God made us to be
You actually can put these on a Christmas list. But then give the list to the right person. Give it to God. Why not spend a little time “wishing” for these things (a.k.a. prayer) from your Heavenly Father? He is, after all, the giver of all good gifts.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
You could use a prayer like this: “Heavenly Father, here are some things I could really, really use right now in my life…”
And as we discovered last Sunday in listening to Mary’s song (Magnificat),
He has filled the hungry with good things. (Luke 1:53)
I know it’s a busy season. But all the more reason to seek the gifts that we truly long for. We need those “good things” now more than ever.
P.S. Keep leaning into the Advent Devotional. It’s a powerful, simple, daily way to make this a December that’s better than ever.
P.P.S. If you want a jump-start in 2018 for acquiring the kinds of gifts on the list above, let me encourage you to register for our next Rooted Experience which starts on January 16th. Details are here.