(I asked my mom if I could encourage you all with a devotional she shared a number of years ago. Everyone LOVED her sessions at the conference and I wanted to pass on some more of the goodness from our very own Lois Dorey!)
(My sister Elaine & I)
December 25, 1995 was my sister Elaine’s first Christmas in heaven. And I know it was the first time she was satisfied with the Christmas Season. Unlike most of us, Elaine didn’t really like Christmas. Not even after she had trusted Christ as her Saviour in her 50th year! She did not look forward to December. Because Christmas brought pressure – choosing gifts for people, budgeting to buy those gifts, Christmas decorating and Christmas cooking to be worked into days already filled with everyday living and responsibilities, the pressure of other people’s expectations – real or imagined. And perhaps it had something to do with the guilt of not enjoying a time that the world AND the Church alike tell us is the “happiest time of the year”.
Most of us can relate to one degree or another with the pressures that my sister felt at Christmas. To most of us, yes, there are pressures, but they are tempered with great expectations of a warm, enjoyable, satisfying happy Christmas.
We get that “Christmas feeling” and :
*Decorate our mantles and Christmas tree
*Drape our garden shrubs with pretty lights
*Play our christmas CD’s
*We tell everyone “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”
*We look forward to a moving Candle light Service on Christmas Eve
*Enjoying the togetherness of family and friends
… Everything we need for a perfect Christmas.
We are expected – and we want to – “emote” (my new word this year) – feel emotion at Christmas! And we know we’ll have the perfect Christmas when:
*We give just the right gift
*Get just the right gift
*Have that group hug feeling.
*And then crawl into bed Christmas night with our tummies full, and say Christmas was everything and more than we expected. I am totally satisfied!!!
Really? Is that True?
I had a light bulb moment this Fall. I have always followed what the world tells us Christmas should be and how it can satisfy us. Do it right and you will be satisfied. Like the commercial says – send or receive the right Hallmark card and you will make Christmas complete. I have found that is not true. And I suspect most people would agree. Why is that not true! Why do people look forward to and enjoy Christmas festivites each year expecting to be satisfied and yet come away, not quite full.
Perhaps we search for and find that which we search for – namely satisfaction – has eluded us yet again because – Jesus – did – not – come – to – SATISFY – US! Jesus came to satisfy a holy, righteous, omnipotent God.
I was talking to a friend just last week who had recently returned from an Open Doors conference in Thailand. While there she and her husband had an opportunity to spend a few hours with some Christians who were in hiding. If they were discovered they would be executed. If these men believed that Jesus had come to satisfy them– to give them contentment, safety, festive times with family and friends, prosperity or at least a roof over their heads and decent food on the table, they would be most miserable Christians. Because they have none of those things and cannot look forward to having them.
They, like thousands of Christians in many parts of the world, have suffered intense persecution, been imprisoned for years, tortured and now live in hiding , unable to be at home, ever, with wives and children and family. They will not gather around a bright Christmas tree with family and friends. They won’t exchange gifts or sit down to a sumptuous turkey dinner served on fine China. They won’t experience that vague feeling of dissatisfaction with the Season. Because they don’t expect it in the first place! They know that Jesus didn’t come to earth that first Christmas to give men satisfaction. He came to give men hope.
A holy, righteous God could not and would not allow even 1 man, 1 woman or 1 child to enter heaven because of sin – there is sin in everyone! God’s Word tells us “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “The wages of Sin is death…”
Mankind had no hope. The best we could do is:
*Live a few years on this earth
*Try to live a good life and
*Be a good person
*Try to obey the 10 Commandments
*Try our best
and reason that, compared to some others, I’m not that bad!
BUT that’s just not good enough. Because the standard is not each other. The standard is God – Perfection – Of which we all fall short!!!!
Jesus Christ is the only one Who does not fall short. He is perfect. Because He is God come to earth in the flesh.
When Jesus Christ was born that 1st Christmas He was fully God and fully Man. There was not a warm and fuzzy plan for His life. The plan had been laid down before the foundation of the world that 33 years after that baby, Jesus Christ – God Himself -, was born He would die, He would shed His perfect blood, He would sacrifice Himself, to satisfy, not us, but the righteous judgment and holy wrath of Almighty God. And, therefore, give mankind hope– the divine promise of eternal life in heaven for all who put their faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our sin had to be paid for – a debt no man could pay, so God paid it Himself. 1Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree…”
Those Christians in Thailand knew that. They don’t have satisfaction now nor do they expect it. That’s OK. They have something better for now. They have HOPE. The same hope that you have if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour and are born again by the Spirit of God. The same hope that my sister had for the last 7 years of her life here on earth. Colossians 1:5 “for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel”.
As my sister’s health deteriorated after having been diagnosed with cancer she became increasingly dissatisfied and disinterested with those things around her that had held her attention for so many years and she became increasingly expectant of the life that awaited her on the other side. Her HOPE!
Shortly after her 57th birthday, just weeks before her last Christmas here, we were sitting wrapped up in blankets talking about life, death and what she was looking forward to in heaven. I was reminded of a verse from the Psalms that I had shared with her a short time before. Psalm 17:15 -“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.”
On January 16, 1995, my sister, Elaine, awoke – completely satisfied. Since then, Elaine has spent these many Christmases with her Saviour, the One who’s birth we are celebrating today! Years of total satisfaction with an eternity to look forward to!!! Now that’s a reason to celebrate!!!
So this year as I do all those special things that make the Season merry, it may be my first Christmas that I will not be even a little disappointed at not being completely satisfied and fulfilled. I know that’s coming later.
(Christmas at the Dorey Homeplace)
This year, more than ever, I will be rejoicing in the Hope that is mine because the baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago was God the Son coming to this earth to pay the price for my sin on the cross of Calvary. I have HOPE!!
I read a haunting poem many years ago that comes to mind when I think of our Christmas celebrations….
What was Mary dreaming
As the infant Jesus lay
Snuggled close beside her
In the warm and fragrant hay
Did she see her Son as Saviour
Pointing all men towards the Light
That would light the path for many
As the star did that dark night.
Could she hear the loud Hosannahs
As they hailed Him on His way
Was her young heart filled with rapture
at her vision Did she pray
As all Mothers will for blessings
On her tiny baby son
While cattle lowed and Joseph
Watched O’er this new born One.
Awe-struck visitors departed
Till the family was alone
Waiting out the night together
Did she see Him on a throne
King of Kings & Lord of Glory
Or did something warn of loss
Did she glimpse amid the shadows
The faint outline of a cross.
The Manger was Hope’s beginning with a Baby’s cry.
The Cross was Hope’s completion with a Saviour’s cry “It is finished”.
“Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corin. 9:15)
Have you received the Gift?
Do you have HOPE? – the divine promise of eternal life in Heaven when your life here has ended? The Gift is offered to everyone but not everyone will own it!
Only those men, women, boys and girls who put their faith and trust in the saving power of the shed blood of the crucified Saviour – the Christmas Baby – can receive the gift: HOPE – an eternity of satisfaction in the presence of the living God!