While walking the aisles of a home improvement store, I was miffed by the sight of a wreath emblazoned with two words: Happy Holidays. This frustrates me because it’s an impotent message that castrates Christmas of it’s substantial significance.
Christmas is not in need of some slick marketing campaign; it’s message might be centuries old, but it’s hardly antiquated.
The secularization of Christmas reminds me of the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!
The message of Christmas is filled with love and full of hope. God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of His son and as Phillips Brooks said in O Little Town of Bethlehem: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
The hope of Christmas is not some neatly wrapped gift that is placed under a tree. It is the gift of Jesus—the baby of Bethlehem.
As the day of Christ’s birth draws closer, I encourage you to give some thought to these words of Peter: Prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed (I Peter 1:13).
There are three short verses in the fifth chapter of Thessalonians that leave me full of wonder: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Every time I read these verses, I wonder how it is possible to fully embrace their principles:
- I rejoice, but I must confess I do not “always” rejoice.
- I pray, but I do “cease.”
- I give “thanks,” but I have to be honest: There’s quite a few times I do not give thanks for “everything.”
When I read these verses yesterday, I gave a little more attention to “in everything give thanks.” It occurred to me that I have never given thanks to:
- Ben Franklin for the eyeglasses that sit atop my nose and help me to see.
- Thomas Edison for the light bulbs that brighten my house and my office.
- Henry Ford for his ingenuity in manufacturing the automobile.
- Sir Alexander Fleming and his life-saving discovery of penicillin.
Let me challenge you to join me in do something different today. Every time you have a negative thought, replace immediately by giving thanks for something in your life. Any inconvenience you experience today is to be used as a reminder to give thanks for something that makes your life easier.
By the end of the day, we might be giving thanks for more things, if not everything.
I had to chuckle when I opened my email and read an offer for a free gift card. That’s right, free. When I spend $100, the merchant will give me a free gift card in the amount of $15.
I’d like to make the same offer to you: For every $100 you place in my hand, I’ll give you $15 in return—no stipulation, no fine print, and no questions asked! It’s free!
Evidently there is some disparity between that merchant’s idea of free and my understanding of the word. One the many meanings of free is “no charge.”
This two word definition also sheds some light on the nature of salvation. It is a “no charge” salvation because Jesus has paid the price of sin. According to Scripture:
- You were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body (I Corinthians 6:20).
- The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
- God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins (I John 4:9-10).
The gift of salvation is exactly that—a free gift from God at the expense of Christ.
. . . by the way my free offer still stands: $15 for every $100 you give me.
Success is determined through a process of standards and measurements. In the world of sports, speed and strength are two important measurements. At the NFL combine, athletes go through a rigorous examination of their physical skills and abilities based on the criteria below:
- 40 SPEED: 40-yard dash time.
- 3-CONE: 3-cone drill time.
- SHUTTLE: 20-yard shuttle time.
- VERTICAL: Vertical jump – measured by the differential between a player’s reach and the marked flag.
- BROAD: Broad jump distance.
- BENCH: Bench press – measured by the number of times a player bench presses 225pds.
A sports analogy was on Paul’s mind when he wrote of athletes who disciplined their bodies in preparation for the Isthmian Games. Paul said, “Everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away (I Corinthians 9:25).”
Like the athletes of today, the aspiring athletes of Corinth lived a disciplined life in preparation for the sporting events. They realized that the exemplary life of an athlete is the result of an examined life.
Standards and measurements should be as important to the Christian as they are to the athlete. Paul said:
Examine yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it (2 Corinthians 13:35).”
The unexamined life is a nefarious life, and it can make for precarious habits. Benjamin Franklin eschewed sloppy living, so he measured his life by asking himself two questions each day:
- The Morning Question: What Good shall I do this Day?
- The Evening Question: What Good have I done today?
Franklin believed these two questions are the key to an examined life that is as efficient as it is beneficent. I encourage you to use these questions to measure your life through the remainder of this year.