Wednesday, December 3, 2014

God is not Santa Claus

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and hear, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1: 1-5, NIV)

I've written about my 17-year-old's failed knee surgery. He will soon have a second surgery and possibly a third in three months. The heartache I experience as I watch my son struggle with his anger at God and the world has led to my own doubts and anger. As I was venting my woes to my sister, she replied, "Meta, God is not Santa Claus." I've heard this phrase used regarding the market driven Christmas tradition that focuses on presents and material goods rather than the true source of joy we find in our Savior; but I had not applied it to my own complaints.

Our world is full of suffering, broken relationships, crime, abuse, injuries and disappointment. You might ask as do I, "Why my child? Why me?" Jesus told us we would have suffering in this world (John 16:33). We don't understand its purpose but must trust that God knows: "now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthian 12:13). I may never in my lifetime know the reason or purpose for my son's injury, but God sees the whole picture, and I choose to trust in His wisdom.

It is now Advent, the time before Christmas in which we prepare for the coming of the Messiah. The
word, Advent, means "coming" or "arrival." This is a season in which we reflect in hopeful expectation as we wait for the arrival of Jesus. As in Charles' Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, and my adoption story, Great Expectations: An Adoption Story and Devotional, life often falls short of our expectations. Unfulfilled expectations may lead us to keep yearning for something with which to fill the sorrow left by reality. We may expect God to be like Santa Claus and ask Him to give us what we think we need. But our hearts will not rest until they rest in Christ (St. Augustine). As we prepare for the coming of the Lord, let's live in hopeful expectancy for the Messiah who will carry our burdens and give us rest. Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11: 28-30).

Prayer: Hymn, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

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