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Monday, December 2, 2013

Life With Other Lords

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor. Isaiah 26:13

I make the same internal declaration every year at Christmas, “This year I will focus on the Christ Child above all else.” I make this decision in the early days of fall when I am still determined that this year I will be saner. I plan to start earlier and stay calmer. I will do less, spend less and be less frantic.

In the enchanting story I write within my head, I float through Christmas preparations with an air of ease and serenity. I bake cookies and take them to shut-ins, in the name of Jesus, of course. I write an inspiring Christmas letter that glorifies God in such a way my far-flung family and friends are moved to a new awareness of his presence in their own lives. I turn shopping for ideal presents for my dear ones into an evangelistic opportunity as I share the ‘reason for the season’ with a host of harried sales clerks.

Unfortunately this story is more fictional than factual. It simply isn’t true. The chores of Christmas (are you shocked I call them chores?) write their own narrative of my life. They tell the tale of a woman who over-reaches, who spends too much, gives too much and ultimately crashes under the pressure she created for herself. I find myself asking “Why?”

Why do I give gifts in multiples to people who have more than they need when God was content to give just one gift—His Son? Why do I invest so much time and money in wrapping gifts in glitter and gold, appropriately themed to coordinate with this year’s decorations, when the God of the universe gave his gift wrapped in swaddling clothes? Why do I insist on lights, and more lights, hung on trees and draped on bushes when the Light of the World made his entrance by the light of the moon and stars?

In my life, there is something about Christmas that usurps the place that God alone should fill. At this time of the year, a spirit of extravagance overshadows the gentle Spirit of God. I find myself chained to the master of other people’s expectations, both real and imagined. I bow to the lord of consumerism. I rub noses with the prince of perfectionism as I cozy up to digitally mastered, magazine perfect ideas or what a real Christmas should be.

I admit other lords have ruled over me. I’d like to say it only happens at Christmas, but that would not be true. I have to acknowledge I have been in bondage to many masters at various times and in different ways. I let them, sure that in their rule, I would find satisfaction. Sometimes I even sought them out, thinking they would bring me joy. I have lived by their standards and been a standard bearer for their cause. 

Yet when all is said and done, every other lord and master came up short. Each failed to deliver the peace, joy or contentment they promised. Each took its toll, exacted its own pound of flesh, and left me bruised and breathless.

Only God calls me to work shoulder to shoulder with him. He alone lets me enjoy the satisfaction of productive labor while he bears the load. He alone watches over me with tenderness and compassion. He alone calls forth the best in me. God is the one I proclaim as my Lord.

God, keep me vigilant to recognize the other lords who vie to be master over me.