Perhaps you’ve heard me relate the following seatbelt story before, but it holds within it a completely new meaning. Read to the end:
One of our mentors told us about a time when he was on a roadtrip. His friend said:
“Hey John, aren’t you going to put on your seatbelt?”
John replied, “Well, why, are we going to get into a crash?”
His friend said, “No, but you know, seatbelts save lives…”
John said, “Seatbelts don’t save lives.”
His friend retorted, “Yeah they do! Once when I was driving down the road with my family, something told me to make sure everyone was wearing their seatbelts. So I made sure they all put on their seatbelts, and right after we turned the corner, there was another vehicle coming straight at us in our lane. It was a head-on collision, and we all survived because of those seatbelts!”
“No, the seatbelts didn’t save your life.” John continued, “Whatever told you to put them on saved your life.”
In other words…
It’s not what they DID, it’s WHY they did it that really matters.
And this principle applies to Christmas, too:
If you’re like me, you’ve been busy for weeks preparing to make Christmas a special occasion for you and your family. As much as I loathe commercialism, I still try to do what I can to put smiles on the faces of my kids this time of year. Especially when they are young, they don’t always appreciate, for example, a spiritual bedtime story, as much as they do receiving the tangible thing they’ve been hoping for.
I experience the internal wrestle every year:
Should I indulge them with what they really want, or should I pick something more practical? I usually end up doing a little of both. And over the years I’ve learned that God doesn’t just give us what we need, once in a while He seems to even delight in giving us what we want.
Maybe it’s helping us find the perfect dress for a special occasion. Maybe it is an unexpected sense of peace in the middle of a personal storm. We COULD do without these things, but He gives them to us anyway.
I think if we stop and really pay attention, He’s actually giving us things we want every day:
But it’s not what we give or don’t give. It’s not what we receive or don’t receive. What really matters is the REASON we celebrate Christmas at all.
Yes, the seatbelts were an important factor in John’s story. And giving gifts at Christmas is an important part of our holiday tradition.
But at the root of both is the REASON.
The REASON they put their seatbelts on was because a loving Father in Heaven wanted to protect them, and so He sent a prompting.
The REASON we give gifts at Christmas is because a loving Father in Heaven wanted to protect us from eternal suffering, and so He sent his Son. The birth of the Christ child is all that really matters in our celebrations. We give gifts to commemorate the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice, which made it possible for us to overcome every adversity we will ever face, including sin and death itself.
HE is the Reason.
We can think, “YAY Seatbelts!” Or we can think, “Oh my God, you know me. You are aware of ME. You thought about me and my family and sent a prompting! Thank you for reminding us to put on our seatbelts.”
And we can think, “YAY Presents!” Or we can think, “Oh my God, you know me. You are aware of ME. You thought about me and my family and sent your Son! Thank you for reminding me why He was born, and that He descended below all things, so He would know how to comfort me. Thank you that He lived a perfect life, to meet the demands of justice, and to make a way for me to return into Your presence, cleansed and whole one day.”
So with all the reverence I can convey, I do wish you a VERY. MERRY. CHRISTMAS. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in this year, there is indeed much to be merry about. Take a moment this season to let all this sink in a little deeper, and let yourself show an increased measure of gratitude for the gift of His Son, the true reason for the season.