Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow when talking of Christmas is the realization that we are weaker than we ever imagined. It’s plain. It’s simple. And it’s true. When all of our strength is spent trying to wash away the filth and muck that clings so closely to us and hides within us, when every effort has been employed to change our behaviors and our hearts, when we feel that, after all, we really don’t measure up to the cosmic standard we know is held against us, Christmas begins to make sense. It can only begin to make sense when we’ve arrived at a place of helplessness.
My little world is filled with moments where I’m sure I can really do something significant to change the path I’m on. The larger world mirrors my little one: weight loss programs, support groups, pills, vacations, and therapy are all answers to the problems we know exist within us. The world is full of answers. And after the last diet fails, our support groups become simple pity parties, the pills don’t help as much as we once imagined they would, that vacation ends and our lives smile menacingly at us, and when our therapists, in our minds eye, become mere men instead of saviours, we are left to ourselves. None of these are bad, but none of these can save. What’s behind all of these problems? It’s a knowledge that we are not as we should be.
If we can lift our own heads, there is no need for Jesus. But the Psalmist gives us a better way: “But you, o LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and He answered me from His holy hill,” (Psalm 3:3-4).
When I think of Christmas I think of trees and hot-chocolate, fires and family, rest and joy. But Christmas really can’t begin until we’ve wrestled with the very real and threatening reality that we are not who we want to be. We are not who we need to be. I can relate to David in this psalm. His enemies are rising like a surging flood around him (v. 1). They taunt him and deny the real power of God to save (v. 2). What voices do we hear this season? Is there a darkness that won’t lift? Is there a sin that consumes? Are there doubts that plague? Let’s listen to ourselves this season. Let’s listen to what’s really inside. The truth is this: we are surrounded on every side by enemies. These enemies are surrounding us, but they are also within us. They are Garden voices, serpentine tempters who, if given a chance, would attempt to climb the throne of God and take it for themselves. What enemies do you find within yourself?
God has, then, answered from His holy hill. Christ is God’s answer to our overwhelming weakness and the taunts and threats of our enemies. And in Christ, God is and will be the lifter of our heads. In Bethlehem He began it, at Calvary He accomplished it, and at His resurrection He guaranteed it. When He comes again His hand will gently lift up our faces, completely and finally, to the healing and renewal which will descend like rain upon us.
What weakness do we feel this season? What tiredness captures our souls? What things tempt us, like David, to disbelieve in the saving power of our mighty God? It is time we engage with our God. It is time we cry out and plead for help. We are weak. He is not. We are helpless. He is the Helper. All we have are questions. He is the answer.
Christmas is days away. Let’s not let this time pass without coming to the “why” of this season. We needed an answer from the holy hill of God. We needed a champion and a hero. We needed our God to do something that we could not.
Christmas proves this: when we cannot lift our own heads, our God will lift them for us.