This has been a very odd holiday season for me. For a variety of reasons, I have really struggled getting into what is called the Christmas spirit this year. However, my tree is lit, the lights are in the windows, and the gifts are under the beautiful tree. I think you may agree that is what most people consider to be the essence of the Christmas spirit.
I am thankful that the trappings of the world that surround this season do not typify my response toward Christmas. In fact, if there were no lit or decorated tree, and no gifts to exchange or receive, I would still fully celebrate this time of year. You see, twenty-nine years ago a very important event took place in my life at Christmastime. I was a very worldly and unhappy person back then. I was in a miserable and abusive marriage, and loaded down with the weight of my own sin. To cope with my guilty conscience, I indulged in too much alcohol and sought comfort in material things. used material things and alcohol in an attempt to soothe my empty heart and to fill up the lonely hours of my life. As a result of some very bad decisions, I was miserable, lonely, and had considered ending my life.
I had been raised in a moral and religious home. I knew who God was, I believed in Him, and I believed in heaven and hell. Because of some of the sinful things I had been involved in I lived in fear of dying and going to hell. I had been taught that Jesus died on the cross because I (and everyone else) was a bad person. I prayed religious prayers, I did my religious duty (when I felt especially guilty), and went to church on Christmas and Easter and even sometimes in between. I had even gotten confirmed in my childhood faith in an attempt to get close to God.
The Lord was working and He had other plans for me. I was also being encouraged to read the Bible by a friend who had recently "gotten saved." I was pretty sure I didn't want anything to do with "getting saved," but I knew I needed something because life was just not worth living.
My friend recommended I begin reading in the gospel of John. Being a rebellious woman, I refused and decided I would do it my own way. Instead of John, I chose to read Matthew. As I read, I found it meant little to me. I was struggling to understand what the Author was saying in the text. The genealogy was difficult, but I knew the Christmas story. I was just about ready to quit when I came to Matthew 7.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:7-11 (NASB)
In whatever mysterious way the Spirit moves upon the heart of a person, those were the words He used to begin the transformation of my heart from one of stone to one of flesh. I recall reading and re-reading them and finding that they were so appropriate for me. I was most certainly evil, and I knew how to give good gifts to my young son. I also admitted to myself that I was seeking something, I just wasn't sure what- until that moment.
In those brief moments of time everything changed. Everything changed! I changed! I heard myself praying to God as I never had before, confessing and asking Him to save me from my sins, to give me the Holy Spirit, and to give me the gift of eternal life. I changed in an instant from one who was lost, to one who had been found by God; from one who was God's enemy to one who was God's child! I did not initiate the change, God did. I did not save myself, God saved me. I did not know what to pray for or how to pray, God enabled me.
Joy! Joy! Joy! Today I rejoice in God my Savior. He continues to grow and change me. He continues to transform me by the renewing of my mind. He continues to stretch me and uproot more and more of who I once was. He is making me new in Christ. One day, I will stand before Him without fear and rejoice!
Twenty-nine years of change, and by God's grace, perhaps another twenty-nine left. I look forward to the journey!