Everyone is busy. December is here. We are making our lists and checking them twice. We want to make sure they are well received. We’re hanging lights, wrapping presents and singing “Jingle Bells.” We are thinking of family. We are especially thinking of making Christmas special for the children. In fact many of us are thinking it’s all about the magic of Christmas for the child who gets the Radio Flyer, X-Box, IPhone, rifle, American Girl, etc., etc……etc. The commercialized season is upon us and the stores are competing to make sure the TV and internet are flooded with their advertisements to bring in the almighty dollar.
The churches will see a rise in attendance in the month of December. The offering plates will fill. Everyone will remember the reason for the season. The nativity scenes will be displayed. The church choirs will fill the air with inspiring and soul-filling songs of praise. The sermons will be filled with both grace and conviction. The food boxes will be filled and distributed. The angel trees will contain the names of the less fortunate children. Coats and blankets will be bought and taken to homeless shelters. Salvation Army buckets will fill in front of all the stores.
There is so much good about the month of December. Then the 26th of December arrives. It’s all over. We’ve given. We have gained 8 pounds from eating too much over the Holidays. We are thinking of the debt we gained. We are planning on buying the treadmills, stationary bikes, and the Bow-Flex. Some have made a New Year’s resolution to diet or save more money. Football season is winding down and bets are made on who will make it to the Super Bowl. In other words life is back to normal.
This is true for the majority. Then there are those who have come to understand the greatest gift: It first came wrapped in grief and fear. Suddenly transformed by illness or injury they become dependent. Mothers learned their child had cancer or were born with a severe birth defect. Men and women came home from war with life-changing mental, emotional or physical injuries. A man who has lived his entire life with success and prosperity learns he has a slow debilitating terminal illness. Someone has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and has to start completely over learning to walk, talk, and struggle through the limitations of their condition. The person they were is gone. They are discovering a new way of being.
These don’t sound like the greatest gifts. They sound like tragedies. That is our perception. But those that have experienced it have been forced to their knees. It is only tragic if they do not embrace the gift as the awakening to new life more abundant than they had before. They are those who have learned true dependence on God everyday of their life. They are those who are forced to live in the present in order to fulfill His ultimate purpose for them. They are witnesses to His glory. They see, feel, and experience life in a state of other worldliness. Life has a new dimension. They have learned about heaven on Earth. Their Creator has revealed Himself. They know on the bad days He will carry them every step of the way. They do not fear the future. They do not live in the past. They have Peace in the sense most do not.
I believe there are those who have not had to experience a life-altering change in order to receive the Way, Truth and the Life. I believe, however, they are in the minority. I believe most of us are required to give up our old selves and our old ways of living in order to truly understand and accept the gift God has given us and become who we were meant to be.
The following is a short testimony by a man named John Paine who had known great success in his life but after learning he had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), learned to live as he was intended to live:
I am wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May you all be blessed. May you all learn to live each day in intimacy with God.