It seems that every year at Christmas my mother laments, “What can I give you? You have everything.” She loves to give and feels sad that I have no pressing material needs. In her mind, how can her gift delight, surprise, and overwhelm me with joy if there is little need? I try to reassure her how much her gifts of love and thoughtfulness mean, but she is remembering how it used to be . . .
She remembers scarcity. Living with food rationing. Walking with numbed feet in too-tight shoes because in wartime stores were closed. Being shamed as a refugee by her new employer who resented giving her a small piece of soap to wash her clothes.
In this world of deprivation, she remembers overwhelming delight and gratitude for the smallest gifts. The joy of one bar of Christmas chocolate, a rare treat in the year. The time her sister braved a snowstorm to buy a flower for her birthday. A new friend who surprised her with a handmade sewing kit that first Christmas as a refugee.
Mom is right. When I receive a present, I don’t feel the intense emotions she experienced back then. I’m not overwhelmed by joy in the same way I would be if I were destitute. Mom even commented once that she felt sorry for us. We Americans in all our abundance miss out on what it means to be overjoyed with gratitude.
When it comes to gifts and God, though, I would not want to hear him say, “What can I give you? You seem to have everything.” This would mean I would have succumbed to deluded self satisfaction, instead of humble awareness of great spiritual destitution apart from Him.
Lately I’ve found renewed appreciation for the “gift of access” Jesus has given. A line I heard in a sermon has stayed with me: Anything that keeps you from access to the Father is a lie, a deception.
I’ve examined myself about the ways I hold back. Ways I hesitate to come to my Father with what is really going on with me . . . I might think, “I already know what needs to be done;” or “I’ve got to work on this bad habit first so the Lord sees I want to please him;” or “I have this feeling that He just doesn’t approve of me.” Of course the mature part of me knows these things aren’t true, but there’s another part that keeps making these false suggestions.
What are some of the lies you buy into? What do you tell yourself that keeps you at arms length from the Father? Think about this for a moment.
The answer to our hesitations is that the gospel is good news! Christmas is good news! This is when God met us in our spiritual destitution with the most gracious gift imaginable—a Savior! We have reason to be overwhelmed, delighted, overjoyed! The Christ child came to procure access to the Father for us. The door is not open a crack, it has swung open wide!
Do you feel “not good enough”? You don’t need to. Christ is your righteousness. Embrace that; you don’t have to “feel” anything.
Do you believe you’re a disappointment to God? He says, “there is no condemnation here!” (Romans 8:1).
Are you convinced of God’s generous love, but not so sure that He likes you? He created you; why wouldn’t He like what He made?
Once the falsehoods have been identified, we need a serious game plan or they will keep undermining our joy. It can be useful to write out the lies and their correcting truths on a card. Then tape the card to your bathroom mirror or place it somewhere that makes daily review easy.
As Jerry Bridges says, “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.” This is great advice. And so this Christmas, I repent of the lies I’ve allowed to rob me of joy. I am in awe all over again that the door is always open to the Father’s room. I plan to run there much more often, jumping with abandoned joy into His outstretched arms.
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today . . . (Luke 2:9-11a NLT).