Good things. Martha Stewart made them famous, those good things that make life special, more enjoyable.
Around the holidays we find ourselves wanting to fill our homes and our lives with lots and lots of good things- good recipes, good decorations, good gifts. But it does not take long, for me at least, before those good things have taken over.
In the busyness of making holiday plans and finding that perfect gift on your way to the third Christmas party of the season, all while drinking your second Starbucks peppermint mocha(extra shot) of the day, we slowly begin to miss it. We begin to miss the best thing.
And you know how it so often ends… plans frustrated, casseroles burnt, toys out of stock, stomach viruses rampant (“Please, Lord, no,” we all silently pray.)
In the middle of all the clamor and craziness of this season, we see this quiet declaration in scripture: “The nearness of God is my good.”
Oh, that we would remember, in the midst of all these fading, temporal, good things, that there is a lasting, enduring best thing. And it is that God has come near.
The exceedingly better “good thing” of the fact that Jesus, perfectly holy, who was living in perfect holiness and surrounded by praise, humbled Himself and came near to us. And in doing so He brought us, who were far off, near to God. By being obedient in our place and giving His life for ours, He has brought us so close to Him that scripture says we are seated with Him in the heavenlies.
Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? As Christians, our endless good thing is that we have been brought near to our God as His children through His son Jesus. And it is better than the best holiday menu, the most creative decorations, the most festive Christmas party, and the latest and greatest gadget of a gift.
Perhaps this truth has been driven deeper into my heart this year as I anticipate the Christmas season… the goodness of his nearness. Because, you see, in this first Christmas without my mom, I am sure there will be more tears than joy, more sadness than laughter, and frankly I need something more than what this world’s good things have to offer.
But in the moments of greatest sadness and feelings of loneliness, the Lord has given this great promise. He is close to those who are brokenhearted. And I am finding the sweetness of this ironic reality: when I feel like He is the farthest away, He has promised that He is closest.
So this Christmas I am most thankful for the things that point me to Jesus, to the reality of his nearness. In the moments all I seem to see is grief, they are ever pointing me to Him who is close and near.
As you go about your search for good things this Christmas, I hope this excerpt from Noel Piper’s book, Treasuring God in our Traditions will be an encouragement for you, wherever you find yourself this holiday season. This is her response to a mother, whose child almost died and who was struggling with the “hoopla” of Christmas:
It’s not at all surprising that Christmas is hard for you this year. The reason for Christmas is the same as it ever was, and nothing is more essential to our lives than the Incarnation. What’s different for you, I expect, is that the traditions we wrap around December 25 to make it different from other days, those traditions and activities are as nothing to you this year. In fact, the thought of them probably weigh like a lump of lead in your belly. So what? Trees are nothing. Feasts are nothing. Lights are nothing. Music is nothing.
Only Christ matters. He is the only reason that you can be on any sort of journey with God, that you can have anything at all to do with God. Only Jesus matters. Hold onto that….
One time I told someone in hard times, “Just hang in there.” But she corrected me, “I’m not just hanging in there. I’m trying to hang on to Jesus.”
So please just keep hanging on to Jesus.
Sometimes, when things are going well, we might too easily forget that we have only one sure, immovable, dependable strength- Jesus, who was a baby once and is always and forever God. That is what holds us and keeps us whether or not we can carry out traditions. May our decorations, gifts, and festivities-or lack of them- never block our view of him but always point us to him.
I am praying for each of us, that all of our good things this Christmas season point to the one ultimate good thing: that He is near to us.