What a wonderful test for believers. I’m referring to Christmas. Christmas . . . a test? Yes. You are taking the test whether or not you realize it, whether or not you want to take it. It’s automatic and mandatory. Does this Christmas seem bleaker than normal? Does it lack the anticipation, the thrill, the joy, or the fulfillment of other Christmases? If so, why?
A failing grade. Some of us have flunked the Christmas test because restrictions imposed by various governmental entities have cramped our style. We have lost some of our liberty and fear losing even more. Some of us have failed because the presidential candidate we had placed our hopes in appears to have lost the election, perhaps through fraud, and we are flirting with gloom, if not despair. We have permitted what has happened, is happening, or in all likelihood will happen to dampen our spirits.
In other words, if that is the case with any of us, we must recognize that the joy we have previously attributed to our Christian acknowledgement of the birth of our Savior and Lord has been colored by our natural circumstances. Perhaps our joy did include genuine rejoicing over the incarnation of our Redeemer, yet it was colored by the fact that our conditions were pleasant or comfortable. We have come to expect our lives to unfold in a certain way, and now that that expectation has been shaken, if not shattered, we have watched our happiness flee. We have realized, perhaps without admitting it, that our joy was too much anchored in earthly things, in the temporal rather than the eternal. What a wonderful test! What a blessed discovery! How good the Lord is to reveal to us that our faith is not all that we thought it was or all that it should be. Time is short; eternity is long. The Lord would have us prepare for a rich eternity.
A passing grade. Some are passing the Christmas test—not because their natural lives are substantially better than ours. Not because they have been untouched by COVID-19 or the curtailing of their activities as a result. Not because they are blissfully ignorant of the political realities confronting them. But because they have “set . . . [their] mind[s] on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). You see it is damaging to set our minds on the things of the earth whether that entails covetousness, greed, and idolatry respecting the good things of this life, or whether it involves worry, dread, and fear regarding the unpleasant things.
Those who achieve a passing grade on the Christmas test “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1b). Like us, they have human needs and natural desires. But they remember that they “have died” and that their “life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). For them, gifts, family gatherings, bountiful feasting, and the other trappings of the holiday pale in comparison with the reality that “when Christ, who is . . . [their] life, is revealed, then . . . [they] also will be revealed with Him in glory” (v. 4). They are living for the eternal to such a degree that temporal calamities cannot tarnish the shine of heaven that is before them. They consider the blessings of the Lord’s approbation and fellowship to be “greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26b).
So how would you grade yourself? How does the Lord grade you? Are you focused on the ephemeral and filled with doubt, worry, and fear? Or are your eyes on Jesus Christ so that you are experiencing peace, comfort, contentment, and joy? He may be revealed at any moment. And as surely as His first coming brought us redemption, His return for the church will bring us glorification. If today the Lord said, “Put your pencil down and close your test booklet (or upload it to My computer),” would you be pleased? Would He be pleased? Perhaps by the time you read these words Christmas will have passed. But today brings another test . . . and tomorrow . . . and the next day. Are you living for Him and rejoicing in Him?
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