Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I Timothy 6:17
Are you ready for the holidays? Are you ready to jump in and savor all the goodness God has prepared? Will these next few weeks find you rejoicing in the Lord always or are you the Grinch who doesn’t want anyone to sing or make merry?
I recently watched “Babette’s Feast,” Isak Dinesen’s book turned into a beautiful, thought-provoking film about a strict, religious community on the coast of Jutland. As happens often with folks preoccupied with their own piety, the townspeople find themselves in a quandary when a transplanted Frenchwoman sacrificially provides a gourmet meal for them. These church people who have lived for years in self-denial and austere asceticism can come to only one conclusion: We will eat, but we won’t taste. Despite the sin they have each carried for decades, the Jutlanders are determined to maintain their external holiness.
It appears that Jesus’ contemporaries struggled with much the same issues: keep the Law but avoid looking at internal workings. In his beatitudes, Jesus reminds his listeners repeatedly, “You have heard it said…but I say…” He wanted to move his followers from the letter of the Law to the intent of the Law and its effect on the heart.
Years ago, I remember a family who had house guests who’d traveled some distance for a visit. Rather than practicing the ministry of hospitality and showing Christ’s love, they left their guests to attend their church. They missed an opportunity to live out their faith in their rigid adherence to the “laws” they’d accepted. And their guests left just as lost as they were when they arrived.
The upcoming holidays (read “holy days”) provide us multiple opportunities to share our joy and Good News with those pre-Christians among us. But we have to get out of our “holier-than-thou” modes, be in the world, but not of the world. Remember, Jesus was anointed with joy above his brothers (Psa. 45:7) and was so attractive that people were drawn to him and his message. It was the religionists who never understood.
Let’s celebrate the holidays, remembering the Reason for the Season, and draw others to the love and joy of Jesus in us. Rejoice always, remembering God has given us all things to enjoy.
Father, remove from us the pride and judgmental attitudes that cause us to see others through critical lenses rather than your eyes of love. Fill us with your joy and open us to the oil of gladness that infectiously draws and blesses the world around us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.