THE ABIDING LIFE
Hallmark Movies and Trusting God
By Gwen Sellers
You know the grinchy characters from Christmas movies? Some are so driven to make a profit that they fail to exhibit the "spirit of Christmas," others are wallowing in old wounds and trapped by bitterness, others are merely too frazzled by the activities of the season to actually enjoy any of it. In the Hallmark movies, Christmas always wins out. These characters learn to see people rather than dollar signs, to embrace magic, to forgive old wounds, to open their hearts to love again, or to simply slow down and take life in. This year, I feel a little like the one who needs to slow down and take life in.
I did everything the experts recommend—bought all my major gifts early, thought ahead about get-togethers with friends or regular small group meetings and have gifts wrapped and ready to go, decorated simply, and have given myself permission to say no to extra commitments. I even avoided listening to the non-stop Christmas music station that started on November 1st and have now rationed out my watching of Christmas movies so as not to feel over-saturated. It seems the people around me have done the same. This year there's really not a lot of the pressure so characteristic of Christmas movies. And yet I still find myself a little grinchy.
After having all my shopping finished, I realized I needed to get stocking stuffers. And, yes, I made the mistake of shopping on the weekend. It's only the beginning of December, but I can attest that the aisles are cramped and the people are out there in droves. Then there was a wedding shower. Did you know that free gift wrap doesn't always mean they wrap it for you? At least they do provide the materials and the space. And then, after a three week conversation, work finally made a decision to do a gift exchange. But, actually, I already have something ready for that. So what's my deal?
Maybe it's that I'm also trying to wrap the year up. My apartment lease renewal is being negotiated. I went for my annual dentist cleaning and found out I have a cavity. My car needs an oil change. But all of that is scheduled and being handled quite well.
So if Christmas or year-end aren't good excuses, what's going on?
I am naturally an achiever and have an A-type personality, which makes me productive, yet also causes me unnecessary stress. But I don't think it's just a personality problem. I think it's an issue between my heart and God. You see, God claims to be trustworthy but I seem to have a hard time living in that truth. Matthew 6:25-34 is a famous passage in which Jesus assures us that God sees us and will meet all our needs. Because of this, Jesus says, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). Sadly, this passage is pretty easy for me to gloss over. I'm not worried that I'll be out on the streets or lose my job or come down with some horrible illness. I'm worried that somehow if I get the wrong gift or too small of a gift, I'll look unloving or selfish. That I'll say no to someone and they'll be offended. That I'll miss out on something important and feel stupid or alone. That my car engine will blow up because I stretch the oil change dates. That my schedule will get out of hand and I'll feel tired and stressed. I'm worried that the list will never end and I'll never get a chance to actually enjoy my vacation days. I'm worried that even if everything is checked off the list, my mind will be so wound up I won't be able to enter into true rest. I'm worried that there's more to life than my list, but I'm afraid it might turn out to be a disappointment. So I run back to the safety of my list. But what if Jesus really meant what He said about abundant life? What if I don't give up my list mentality and I lose myself in the midst of trying to accomplish things, of trying to be who I think I'm supposed to be rather than being who God made me to be? What if I never pause long enough to hear God speak?
Hallmark magic isn't going to fix this problem. Those movies have some good messages—relationships are more important than money; engaging with the moment is more important than putting on the holiday show; love is the real gift. Even believing in "Christmas magic" is not all bad. It has always intrigued me the way Santa Claus is often depicted as God. Some show him as the genie-God who just gives us what we want. But the heart-touching movies show him as someone who gets what is important in life; and if the character trusts Santa enough to put faith in him and what he says, the character will understand and enjoy life more, too. It's not exactly theologically sound, but it points to what the human heart longs for. We long for Someone who knows what life is really all about and who can show us the way. We long for Someone who sees us, who knows what our hearts need, and who is able to provide for that. We long for Someone bigger than us, who is in control and who loves us and teaches us to live life the way it was meant to be lived. We long for God.
So, no, Santa isn't real and neither is magic. But God is real, and He works miracles. The cure for me won't be found in a Hallmark movie; it will be found in God. He is absolutely trustworthy. The gift of His Son proves it. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). At Christmas, when I celebrate the gift of Jesus—come to earth to experience the full realities of earthly, human life before willingly sacrificing Himself on the cross that I might experience the full realities of His abundant life—how can I not believe all His promises? How can I think that my list, my control, my schedule, my idea of what life should be, would be better than what He has in store? How can I not celebrate the gift of a baby born in humility to bring me into a Kingdom not of this world? How can I not sacrifice my list for the gift of His life?
Rather than be stressed about unexpected shopping or year-end hassles, I'm going to try to soak in the moment. I'm going to try to engage in Advent. To get in touch with the yearnings of my heart and learn how God has and will fill them. To joyfully and hopefully anticipate His coming. To celebrate Him this Christmas and wait in expectation for Him as one year ends and a new year unfolds. I'm going to try, once again, to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Tags: Celebrating-Holidays | Christian-Life | Personal-Life
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Published on 12-13-13