- Eldon Peterson
Christmas about the gift of salvation
With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday came a great push to buy gifts for Christmas. I have noticed how the ads hope to create in me a desire for things that I had never previously considered! The great deals feed the lust of the eyes causing us to believe that our wants are needs. How else do you explain the move by merchants and shoppers to push the shopping time earlier into the Thanksgiving holiday? The lust for more has become our master.
I was recently remembering with someone how phones have changed since I was a youth. When I was growing up there were two choices in phones: wall or desktop. Our phone was black and rented from the phone company. In the ’70s touchtone phones in a myriad of colors began to replace the old rotary phones. I still have my 50-year-old black, rotary, non-modular desktop phone; it still works unlike the countless phones that have replaced it. Comparably, today we think we are doing well if our cell phone lasts us two years before it breaks or becomes obsolete.
Our felt needs are frequently driven by changes in technology. For example, my generation was wowed by Pong, the first video game we played on the TV. Pong was replaced by game systems that played Pac-Man and Tetris. Recently I saw that you could now buy an Atari Flashback 4 Classic Game Console with 75 games including Asteroids and Space Invaders. However, as a gift under the tree, I doubt that it will be as popular as a PlayStation or X-Box. Our lust for more breeds discontentment that creates within us covetous desires for something else.
Paul tells us that the secret to finding contentment is to look to Christ. At Christmas, unless we look to Christ we are likely to be disappointed. Because there is little outside of food, clothing, and shelter that we really need, everything else is a want. Contentment starts with our trusting in God to supply our needs, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Do we truly believe this? Can we not see that “having Christmas” is far greater than gifts under the tree? Christmas is about knowing the one who brings us a treasure that will not become obsolete, will never break and cannot be lost or stolen. Real contentment is found in Him who will do more than scratch a temporary itch. The Psalmist expresses his longing saying, “The one thing I ask of the LORD — the thing I seek most — is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple” (Psalms 27:4).
When I share the desire of the Psalmist, I will never be disappointed. What he longs for is the greatest gift of all, to live in the house of the Lord. It is only here that his joy will be complete — everything else is but a shadow. The Psalms again remind us, “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (Psalms 84:10).
At Christmas we can either allow ourselves to be swept away by the hype of the holiday season or we can choose to take our stand and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. The time to make the choice is now. If we wait until Christmas Day, it will be difficult to remember that Christmas is about the gift of salvation that is wrapped for us in the manger.
Christians use Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas, to prepare for Christmas. They may read scripture, light candles or use a calendar to count down the days. (You can find free online resource like “Arrival” from Billy Graham Ministries (http://billygraham.org/landingpages/advent/pdfs/adventbrochure.pdf) or “Great News of Great Joy” by John Piper (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/good-news-of-great-joy) to help you in your preparations.) These remind us what Christmas is about, that at Christmas we celebrate how our Savior was born to “save his people from their sins.” As we remember this, we are able to put the other things into perspective.