The air feels different during the holidays. Maybe it's the decorations sprinkling the store fronts. Maybe it's the red cups filled with holiday-themed beverages. For some, maybe it's the prospect of time off from work. Or maybe it's the feasting and gift giving with family and friends. Whatever the reason, the air is thick with hopeful expectation–the holidays are magical.
It almost feels like there is a collective mood shift. Even our young kids pick up on the positive change. It's easy to become mesmerized by all of the twinkling lights! But have we glorified the holidays? Have they become a time we idolize? While it's not a sin to enjoy the holidays, does our enjoyment distract us from the things that matter for eternity? Does our enjoyment turn our gaze inward or upward and outward? Here are some questions to consider:
What if there are no gifts?
What if there are multiple empty chairs around the table?
What if the nature of your job requires you to be at work?
What if it's a time when financial strain feels extra burdensome?
What if conflict arises or expectations are unmet?
How would your holiday spirit and enjoyment be affected? To an extent, twinkle lights, delicious food, time off work to rest and engage in sweet fellowship with friends and family are all going to affect our holiday spirit. These are good things that bring pleasure, right? We can't ignore the truth that God designed us to long for happiness. He wired us to desire contentment and satisfaction. However, by His great design, we can only find true joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Him alone! Our desires to be joyful, content, and deeply satisfied are not bad in and of themselves. But the core of the issue, as C.S. Lewis explained, is that we are far too easily pleased. It is not that our desires are too strong; but rather, our desires are too weak. So, what implications does that have on our holiday spirits?
This holiday season, may we not be so easily pleased. May we anchor our joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ alone. May the pleasure we receive from the holiday magic around us remind us to pursue a superior pleasure–intimacy with Christ. As we enjoy the good gifts He provides, may our longing for the giver be kindled and not forgotten. As we behold Christ, we position ourselves in the proper posture to rightly enjoy the good gifts He bestows. This is the key to faithfully navigating the holiday season: delighting in Christ.
It is finding Him enough when there are no gifts.
It is finding Him enough when there are empty chairs.
It is finding Him enough when work calls.
It is finding Him enough when there is financial stress.
It is finding Him enough when there is unresolved conflict.
It is finding Him enough when expectations are unmet.
In seasons of plenty and seasons of drought, it's finding delight in Christ. It's finding true joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Him. This doesn't mean that we don't lament when we encounter the brokenness of this world. We can grieve when relationships are strained, when wombs are empty, when death has taken a loved one, and when money is tight despite our best efforts. However, it's allowing our grief to lead us to the person and work of Christ. It's confronting the brokenness of this world with the hope of the gospel.
It's also confronting the blessings of this world with the gospel. It's seeing the gifts for what they are: invitations to worship. There is only one perfect gift that meets our greatest need: Jesus. He closes the chasm between our unrighteousness and His righteousness. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (CSB). This free gift was costly to the giver, and we never want to forget His goodness in this provision. We can respond to His goodness by using our gifts to serve and bless others. We can put His goodness on display by stewarding our gifts for His glory and the good of others. We can delight in these gifts, but in our delight, we turn our hearts to the giver in worship.
So, no matter your circumstances this holiday season, may delighting in Christ be your ultimate aim. This is how you can faithfully navigate the holidays whether it is a season of plenty or a season of drought. Your joy, contentment, and satisfaction can be found in Him. And because of this, may you turn your heart and eyes upward and outward. May God's people be noticeably happy in the Lord this holiday season because they find Him to be a superior pleasure, more than anything this world has to offer. And may the love and comfort of Christ compel them to look outward and pursue others.
If the holidays are hard for you for whatever reason, tune into Episode 42 "When the Holidays are Hard with Kristyn Perez" of the Daily Grace Podcast.