It looked and smelled like Christmas: wreaths on doors, tree decorated, cinnamon pine cones, iced rolls from the oven. I was glad to be at home with family, kids merrily occupied with gifts, music playing, sun shining. It felt warm and cozy. Yet, there was a sad undercurrent in a season centered on joy.
I’d recently read an article about a book called The Devil in Pew Number Seven. I thought of the people involved in the real-life account of tragedy, and how each one’s thought took him down a road he’d probably never thought possible. That a single thought of hatred, slight, injustice would have life-altering consequences.
Sadness because it’s everywhere–bitterness, anger, resentment–and often masked, but consequences of it evident in families divorcing, friendships ending, jobs terminated–lives changed and altered because a thought takes root and grows wild.
Sadness lingered in me when I saw how negative thinking (whether my own or someone else’s) has broken things in my life. A nighttime walk to get the trash can … dark, windy, cold. I thought about darkness and evil in contrast to heaven and never-ending light.
And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. Revelation 21:23-25 (NLT)
Today’s chapters thick with sacrifice, repentance, salvation and light. From Old Testament to New Testament–Christ’s story deep in the pages.
As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:2-23 (NLT; emphasis mine).
Once the boxes are broken down and wrappings recycled, once the breakfast is over and dishes cleared, once life gets back to its steady pace, a season of joy can fall flat. Without Christ, what is Christmas? I end the year reflecting on John 20 and forgiveness. Some say that forgiving others sets us free … perhaps it does in some ways. But I don’t think God forgave me because He needed freedom. Christ died so I could be free.
Father God, I am so grateful for a slate wiped clean, for righteousness because of Christ’s sacrifice for me, for mercy and grace I don’t deserve and could never repay. Forgiven not because you needed it, but because I did. Forgiveness, because who could stand before your judgment? Lord, I press on for joy–that Christmas is here daily because Christ came to take the sin of the world–joy that lasts. Help me, please, to be aware of my negative thoughts against others, to take them captive and make my thinking obedient to you–so that your mercy can flow through me. I want to forgive because I know what freedom feels like.
(Happy new year all! See you back here January 1 for a new reading plan. Thankful for a fourth year with you.)