Painted plaster rocking horse ornament, Haven, KS

Where Christmas lasts forever

I heard a song on the radio yesterday that bothered me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it got me thinking about what our perspective and our attitudes should be about Christmas as followers of Christ. Before I really start into this, though, I want to preface this post by saying I’m sure the song stemmed from the best of intentions. And I’m sure it probably is even a blessing to a lot of people. I honestly hope it is.

The song is called “One Last Christmas” by Matthew West (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye39mgcHC3E). I love Matthew West songs. I love his ministry, and I read up on the events that inspired this song. And it truly is touching. Basically, a family with a 13-month-old child was told that he wouldn’t live to see his next Christmas, and they set about helping him make it that long. In the song, the family and really the whole community celebrates early so that the boy can enjoy Christmas before he dies.

From what I understand, the music video is being used as a means to help raise funds to run St. Jude’s Research Hospital for an entire day in memory of the little boy who was sick. It’s sweet and honorable and admirable, and I can’t say enough good about the song’s intentions. But I feel like the heart of the song misses the point.

Why push and focus all our energy on having one last Christmas when what’s waiting on the other side of eternity is so much better?

Painted plaster rocking horse ornament, Haven, KS

Painted plaster rocking horse ornament, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Revelation 21:1-6.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

I don’t have children. So I can’t tell you what it’s like to hold a child in my arms and know that he or she won’t live another year. I don’t know what that’s like. And on the opposite side of the coin, I’m certainly not advocating a defeatist mentality. If someone is sick and there’s something that can be done to treat it, for heaven’s sake, treat it! I’m a firm believer in using the knowledge and technology God has given us to treat illness.

But I fear that in all of our comfort and our conveniences, Christians have lost sight of what truly matters.

I love Christmas. It’s my favorite time of the year. I love being with my family. I love giving gifts to people. And something is different for me this Christmas that I’ve never had before, something new to experience. A baby girl. Little Baby Hoo gets to have her first Christmas this year, and I’m absolutely giddy to be able to be a part of it. And even though she’s not “mine” per se, I still get to be in her life, and with just that barest amount of empathy I can begin to grasp the utter hopelessness of a parent with a terminally ill child. I think it would tear my heart out.

But, Christians, hear me out. When did this world become so important? When did this life become so wonderful that we yearn for one more experience down here as opposed to looking forward to the life to come? I remember worrying as a child that Jesus would come back before I learned to drive. I remember being concerned that I wouldn’t get to experience all the things people get to experience as they’re growing up. And then one day I heard a message my awesome pastor gave about what Heaven is about.

It’s not just sitting around twanging on harps and singing hymns all day long. It’s bigger and better than the best existence any of us can imagine. This life is easy to hold on to because it’s all we know, and it can be hard to long for something that we’ve never seen. Sometimes that’s where I get caught because I get so deep in this life and what’s happening here that I forget I should be living for heaven. But as Christ-followers, we need to understand that we aren’t meant for this world. We’re just visiting, just passing through, and what God has prepared for us after we leave this life is so much better than what we have here.

So instead of yearning for one last Christmas, why can’t we look forward to all the Christmases in eternity that will be so much better? Unless you don’t think we’ll celebrate Christmas in heaven? I think we will. It will look different, but the reason will be the same. Christmas is still marked in heaven as the day Christ came to Earth to save us, and I see no reason why we won’t celebrate it in eternity. I want to. I always want to remember what He’s done for me.

I don’t want people to misunderstand. I have the greatest love and admiration for families who are struggling with health issues, especially this time of year. But I’m afraid that we are all just glossing over the most important aspect of Christmas, and that is to look forward to what’s coming rather than cling to the temporary lives we’re living now.

Would you be disappointed if Christ came back today? Would you be disappointed if God called you home tomorrow? What are you holding on to in this life that you would choose over eternity?

Check your focus, because your focus will determine a lot about how you live your life. If you’re living for this life, you will rely on temporary solutions and things that don’t last to get you through the challenges you’re facing today. If you’re living for eternity, it’s a lot easier to realize that the troubles we have today are merely stepping stones for our real life after this one, where Christmas lasts forever.

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The world is not enough

You only have one heart, figuratively and literally. Have you ever seen those cheesy romantic movies where some guy or some girl tells their significant other that they couldn’t fall in love with anyone else because they already gave their heart away? There you go.

When you give your heart to someone, it’s not really easy to take it back. So you have to be careful who you give your heart to. And, no, I’m not going to talk about romance and love or whatever this morning. Giving your heart to someone has a lot more to do than being romantically involved.

In Western culture, the seat of the emotions is in the heart. We talk about our heart being broken. We talk about putting our whole heart into something. We talk about wishing with all our heart. What we mean when we say that is that we put our whole self into something.

In other countries, the seat of the emotion is in other vital parts of anatomy. It’s not the heart, but the concept is the same.

There’s only one you. So be careful who you give yourself away to.

I thought about this when I read todays verse, 1 John 2:15-16.

 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

You can’t give your heart away to God and to the world at the same time. It doesn’t work because the two are diametrically opposed. What the world wants from you will hurt you and leave you broken and empty and unsatisfied. But what God wants for you is truly in your best interest — though our own pride and vanity convinces us that He’s just out to spoil our fun.

You can only do one or the other. And if you choose to give your heart to the world, you will learn sooner or later that it can’t provide you with the things you need. Maybe it will give you everything you want at first, but eventually you’ll understand that it demands from you more than you can give. And what it takes from you is unequal to what you invest.

I guess I’m being metaphorical this morning. My coffee isn’t working yet.

When I say the world, I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about the base conditions of life that our world exists in. Drinking to get drunk. Having sex with anyone and everyone. Pornography. Anxiety. Gluttony. Laziness. Selfishness. Pride. If you give yourself over to behavior like that, it will seem fun at first but eventually it will come back and destroy you. Because, as James Bond’s family motto says, “Orbis non sufficit“: The world is not enough.

The world takes all your energy and your passion and your good intentions and drains you dry. And maybe at the beginning you will experience the physical pleasure you were seeking, but eventually that’s going to fade and you’ll be left with nothing but a craving for something you can no longer feel. The world makes you a bottomless pit, you want everything but nothing makes you happy.

Does anyone want a life like that?

I don’t.

I chose a long time go to give my heart to God because all He asks from us is faith — and even on the days when faith feels impossible He doesn’t leave us. And while giving your heart to God may not feel good or may cause you to make decisions sometimes that hurt, the end result is satisfying. Because you’ve invested yourself in something that is truly making a difference.

So if you’ve given your heart to the world, can you give it to God? Of course. But it can’t be a half-hearted attempt.  You only have one heart. And tearing it in two pieces never works, either figuratively or literally. And even if you’re in pieces when you give yourself to God, He still wants you. He works better with broken pieces anyway.

Am I talking about trusting in Christ? Sure. But this is a problem that Christians have. They choose to believe that Jesus saved them, but they leave their heart with the world. It shouldn’t be that way.

So check your motivation. I am. I only have one heart and I want to make sure I give it to the right person because taking it back hurts more than just me.