I watched a cute little movie last night which wasn't probably in keeping with everyone's themed "Christmas Feel Good Movies", but it had a pretty good message despite some of the wacky stuff in it. The movie? "3-Day Test", a film by Corbin Bernsen. The plot goes something like many of the other Christmas-themed movies, but it has a little twist. The man of the house (Tom) has lost track of his family - simply because he is too busy being a "bean counter" (accountant) and is always working to pay the bills. His teenage daughter gets arrested because of the kids she is hanging around with, while his other two kids (a son who will only communicate with him via a digital sign and a daughter who makes him talk to her doll instead of directly to her) are all pretty disappointed with their good old dad. So, maybe dad is a little too wacky, but he finally gets the point the family is a mess and he conducts what becomes known as the 3-day test. He disconnects them from outside life by means of blacking out the windows and cutting off all the utilities (water, gas, electricity). They must now "survive" the next three days without the benefit of their electronics, or the ability to run to the corner store for whatever they need. Needless to say, the moments of "family time" get a little quirky when they are forced to "survive" without all the "necessities" of life, but the message is clear - you cannot spend your whole life getting rich - you'll lose what matters most!
Give up trying so hard to get rich. Your money flies away before you know it, just like an eagle suddenly taking off. (Proverbs 23:4-5 CEV)
The moral of this Christmas tale is not much different than some of the others on TV or in theaters these days - we have somehow lost connection with what truly matters. Whether it be the connection we have with our families or loved ones, or the connection we have with Jesus himself, we suffer from this lack of connection more than we might first realize. We are headed into the "rush" of the season, when Black Friday Deals, Christmas tree lots, and the hurried frenzy of last minute shopping will fill the minds and schedules of a great many. There is the constant pull to do a little more, go a little further, etc. In essence, after the first really "cool" gift the kids get, do they act as excited anymore? Probably not! So, why kill yourself chasing after everything?
The passage today is not about Christmas, but the celebration of relationship each and every day of our lives. The challenge is to learn contentment. The "lie" we have believed is that the pursuit of just a little more will somehow bring us into the place of contentment in our lives. In reality, it brings us to what appears to be the threshold of contentment and then someone moves the door! Try as we might, the harder we try to amass what we believe will bring contentment (everything from finance to the perfect relationship), we somehow cannot pull it off. Why? There is nothing which can fill the place designed for Jesus! A time back, I received a small ceramic pin from a friend. It simply reads, "Jesus is the reason for the season". You probably have seen something similar. The question I have for us is simply why is it we need to be reminded of this?
I think it might just be the tendency we have to "disconnect" from what is truthfully valuable in pursuit of what promises value! If you find yourself there today, don't despair - turn to prayer! God's answer may be to put us through a "3-day test" of sorts, though! He might just want to prove we have what it takes to really "reconnect" on the level which really matters. In other words, he might put us through a process of disconnecting in order to find the re-connection. All of life's pursuits pale in comparison to the one pursuit which really matters - Jesus and him alone. When we can truthfully say we have found our way out of the mire of what leads to our disconnection into the open place where we find the solitude of "re-connection", we can then exalt in the bounty of grace we find in that open place!
My challenge this year was to finish up Christmas about one month early. Partly because I will be incapacitated during the holidays this year, and partly because I wanted to settle into really enjoying them with my family. The family asked if I'd be putting up all the lights, tree, manger scene, and all the typical decor of the holidays. I said, "Nope". They must have thought I'd been abducted by aliens or something! Well, I caved a little last night. I put up one strand of colored lights around the fake ficus tree in the living room. Then I layered the brightly wrapped packages at the foot of our "tree". Somehow, in the simplicity of this modest "decoration" for the holiday, I found myself reflecting on how simple the first Christmas must have been. Mary, Joseph and a few animals, all gathered together in a cave of sorts, watching as Mary worked to bring forth the tiny life within. Then, in the quiet of the night, the infant's cries could be heard. Those tiny cries were for us, my friends! From the moment he took his first breath as a child born of a virgin to the day he took his last upon the cross for our sins, it was ALL about the connection he was preparing for you and me! Just sayin!