It's that time of year again. When we bounce between the commercialism of Christmas and the true meaning of the holiday. Although we may know Jesus is the reason for the season, we fight against the desire to spend our money on perfect gifts and the need to create magazine worthy decorations and recipes as well as Hallmark moments.
Somehow, I think our wrestling match between meaningful Advent moments and the bustle of Christmas is a tiny representation of the internal struggle we face all year long when it comes to how we direct our adoration and resources.
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"A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming."
It will come out, indeed. And this time of year seems to place a microscope on all Christ followers, as we somehow teeter between the freeing truth of Emmanuel and the things of earth that beckon us.
Plain and simple, Christmas reminds us that we can bow to the Son of God. Or we can get distracted by the world around us, giving in to seeking comfort, control, success, approval and possessions.
Just as the angels lit up the sky on that Bethlehem night so long ago, God's glory remains above all else in this world. He alone is worthy of our praise and our attention and our devotion. Yet, over and over again, we disorder our loves. And, how we approach this holiday season reveals much about that which we hold in highest esteem.
If you question what you most highly esteem, consider this thought from my friend, Becca Reynolds: "Disappointment is an alarm that we have misplaced our trust." This raises the question. What are the most repeated sources of disappointment? Is it when relationships fall short in fulfilling us? Or when we don't receive the attention or approval we crave? When the gifts under the tree fail to bring satisfaction? Or, how about when your agenda and comfort are interrupted by the needs of others?
When you sincerely pose the question about the sources of disappointment in your life, then you are beginning the brutiful process of identifying idols. It's hard work. But when we place too much weight on a thing, a person, or an achievement to bring fulfillment in our lives, the pressure is a burden too weighty to bear.
"God alone has the capacity to bring lasting joy. When we expect anything but Jesus to fulfill us, that thing will break under the weight of our misplaced worship," (JR Vassar).
To begin to worship the only worthy object of worship is the beginning of freedom in our lives. It's ultimately worth the cost of surrendering the poor substitutes. It's worth the hard work of evaluating where we spend our time, our money, our attention, and our efforts. It's worth dealing with our attention span issues to learn to fix our gaze and place our trust in the only thing worthy of such a precious devotion.
The book of Deuteronomy repeatedly warns the Israelites to purge all evil. When we fail to do so, we are allowing unchecked distractions that will grow into idols and eventually strongholds. We are so quickly prone to replacing the invisible God and unseen works and manifestations of God with an idol that can be touched and seen.
How like the Israelites we are. God's chosen people, fully aware of their position and belonging, but quickly distracted by what glitters and glows and is tangible. How like Judas we are, selling ourselves for earthly treasures like performance, status, fame, comfort, temporal gain, and stealing for ourselves a glory meant for God alone.
We are wise to consider the warnings of the Old Testament prophet, Hosea. For what are you prostituting yourself? For what earthly gain or temporal joy are you selling yourself? For what gain do you betray Jesus, just as surely as Judas did?
These are uncomfortable questions. Yet, these are lessons that have been repeated to me this year. God is calling for my full attention as he is making my idols painfully clear. It is hard to realize that not only do I have many idols, but I have coddled them rather than become distressed by them. I have made other things bigger than God in my life.
God won't share the spotlight because he alone is worthy of worship. He alone can bear the weight of all of our attention and devotion. He alone can satisfy and fulfill us. He alone. Nothing and no one else can.
And so I step into this Advent season with a fresh perspective. I'm learning to approach Christmas this year daring to ask the Lord to reveal all the things that I worship besides him. I'm asking him for the courage to press through the difficult process of smashing and removing the idols that he reveals. I'm asking him to teach me to attach all my fulfillment and satisfaction in life to him alone.
I'm asking him to let his glory be revealed and as real to me as it was to the shepherds on a Bethlehem night. That I will have eyes to not only see the Bright and Morning Star, but to fix the gaze of my heart to him alone.
And as the shepherds and the wise men learned, when the glorious light of God Almighty is revealed, you cannot help but seek it more fully. It causes you to prostrate yourself to bended knees in his presence, offering all that you can to the Savior who came among us to save us from ourselves.
Oh the victory to be gained. Because of Emmanuel. Because God with us came to break every chain that binds us. You see, earth shattering faith grows from our seeds of obedience to worship him alone.
So, this Christmas season, may we give the Savior born to us the greatest gift we can. May we pray for undivided hearts, seek out the idols that distract us, and humbly bow in surrender to worship the only One worthy of such adoration.