Packages will be opened, paper strewn all over the front room, ribbons left in a pile. Kids will discard the undies brightly wrapped in favor of building with those brightly colored Lego blocks. Moms will rush to try out the new counter-top mixer or cookware sets all festive in their holiday attire. Dads will head to the garages and yards to put on display their newest of tools and gadgets galore. Grandparents will soak in the memories of family glee and holiday festivities. It is a magical day indeed. Yet, I would remiss in not sharing how it is I celebrate this holiday with the greatest of joy and the fullest of hearts. You see, it is because I have Christ living in me that I celebrate with all fullness and joy! I chose a passage we could explore today because it was a perfect illustration of what Christ has done in me - and what he would delight to do in all those who would choose to put their faith and trust in him as their Savior this Christmas Day!
Once I was bitter and brokenhearted. I was stupid and ignorant, and I treated you as a wild animal would. But I never really left you, and you hold my right hand. Your advice has been my guide, and later you will welcome me in glory. In heaven I have only you, and on this earth you are all I want. My body and mind may fail, but you are my strength and my choice forever. Powerful Lord God, all who stay far from you will be lost, and you will destroy those who are unfaithful. It is good for me to be near you. I choose you as my protector, and I will tell about your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 73:21-28 CEV)
My general state of heart and condition of mind was adequately summed up in the words of this passage - bitter, brokenhearted, stupid, and ignorant. You may want to say that this is not true of your present condition of mind or heart, but please hear me out before you decide to dismiss this general synopsis of our hearts and minds apart from Christ.
- Bitter: Having a harsh, disagreeable taste; hard to bear; causing pain; hard to admit or accept. Now that I define the "state" of bitterness which can be revealed in either our heart or head actions, you might just see how this term takes on a meaning which could describe all of us at one point or another. Have we ever been disagreeable, leaving kind of a "bitter" taste behind because of our actions or words? Have we ever been a little "hard to bear" because of our particular behavior at one time or another? Have we ever been kind of hard to accept in our circle of influence just because we said or did something which really set others on edge? If we can answer yes to any or all of these, then our heart or mind conditions are not all that dissimilar my friend!
- Brokenhearted: Burdened with great sorrow, grief, or disappointment. If we might not fit on the first picture, we probably can on this one. It is not uncommon to mankind to fall into periods of great sorrow - either because of a direct loss to one's own state or condition, or because we are influenced by the loss through the lives of someone else close to us. Grief and disappointment are just part of trying and sometimes not succeeding. All failure has the possibility of ending in some type of grief, if not sheer disappointment.
- Stupid: Dull, foolish, senseless; annoying and irritating. I guess we might not equate this word with dullness of spirit, but we would be quick to say it referred to the condition of mind we might call "slow" or "dim-witted". Although I wasn't a "slow" child, I was kind of "slow" on the uptake when it came to recognizing how my behavior was impacting others around me. In choosing my own way over the values I was taught, I brought much irritation to those around me. In deciding my needs were greater than the needs of anyone else in my life and that life hadn't treated me fairly, I became a kind of "annoyance" to those around me who I wanted so badly to be accepted and liked by. Our dullness of mind and heart can often lead us to do things which produce an outcome contrary to the desired effect!
- Ignorant: Lacking in knowledge or training; unaware. All of us have the ability to learn stuff, but few of us actually put what we learn into action. We amass knowledge and use only a small portion of what we have stacked up in the recesses of our minds. What is not used is of no benefit - we have knowledge, but we are unaware of how to use it. In this case, all of us would be ignorant in one way or another, right?
So, I have pretty much described the state of heart and mind of most of us apart from Christ dwelling within. Apart from Christ, we are indeed producing outcomes which leave a bitter taste in both our own lives and those we touch. Apart from Christ, we are left burdened with stuff we were never intended to bear up under. Apart from Christ, we have no real sense of how "slow" we are, but our actions reveal our foolishness. Apart from Christ, we live life unaware of what we are "missing". It isn't until we can truthfully admit the words of our psalmist as our own that we come to the place where the bitter, broken, slow, and lacking parts of our lives begin to change. In essence, it is when we acknowledge the words of our psalmist which say, "It is good for me to be near you. I choose you as my protector, and I will tell about your wonderful deeds..." that we come into a place of laying down our state of heart and mind which keeps us so tangled in emotional unrest and a lack of true joy in celebration of this season of Christmas.
My gift to you this Christmas season is this one thing: Christ and Christ alone! Nothing can quite fulfill our "wish list" in quite the same manner. No one can take away our pain or sense of "void" quite like he can. One last gift this holiday season! Won't you open up yourself to Christ today? He desires nothing more than a surrendered life. He will not disappoint! Of this I am certain! Just sayin!