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Chasing Christmas and Missing Out

Each Christmas I am reminded of a problem in our species. As a species, we doggedly pursue pleasure in every life domain, and often at very high cost. Almost everything we do is reinforced in some way by a pleasurable reward. Even when we are striving, suffering, and clawing toward a goal, we are doing so because we anticipate some kind of pleasure in the goal. Some will painfully endeavor through long careers, saving and investing every dime at the expense of present pleasure for the hope of unworriedly applying planned economic certainties to future delights. Others spend their time and their money on pleasures right now, never thinking how they will be able to afford pleasures when their bodies become feeble and are no longer able to produce. Still others purchase pleasures that hasten them toward premature feebleness in mind, body, and spirit with only scant consideration for the havoc they wreak both in themselves and those around them.

All of this is a terrible human tragedy. But not because pleasure in and of itself is evil, or even unwise. It’s because of our tendency to attempt to enjoy pleasures outside of God’s design. People enjoy sex outside of marriage. People steal and cheat to obtain money for the pleasures of power and ease. People lie, boast, or exaggerate their accomplishments for the pleasures of status. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sex, money, accomplishment, or status. But to enjoy those things outside of God’s design is an affront to God. It is also a forfeiture of true pleasure. Sex outside of a loving, God-centered marriage is impotence in comparison to pleasurable intimacy in a mutually committed union. Money gained through honest labor brings wisdom, security, strength, an appreciation of ease, and a true status among men. Stolen money brings paranoia, strife, discord, and if caught, a lowering of status.

Holiday decorations with no hint of Christ or the Christian story remind me of this forfeiture of pleasure. It is as if people are trying to enjoy the delights of Christmas without its truest and greatest joy. In Christ, Christmas reminds me that I belong to a royal family. It reminds me that my God and king demonstrated and embodied humility. It reminds me that God’s first sacrifice for me was to come down to my level. It reminds me that I have been born into a glorious story, and have inherited a glorious future. Without Christ, Christmas may be marginally pleasurable, but it is only a shallow celebration of materialism. Like the enjoyment of all other pleasures outside of God’s will, it is less than what it is supposed to be.

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