’Tis the season—the season for shopping and packaging, for rushing from Christmas parties to gift exchanges to family dinners. We’re toasting and caroling, admiring the beauty all around us, and soaking up every enjoyable moment we can. We’re reveling in the warmth of cozy fires and family, celebrating the end of a great year and ushering in the next, which is bound to be even better.
Meanwhile, I’m also gearing up to travel to the other side of the world in a few weeks with the nonprofit I serve. Our team will be heading into countries stricken by centuries of imperialism and war, where the roads are unpaved and the restrooms are holes in the ground, and a main concern for many is where they will be getting their next meal.
I can’t help but be struck by this seemingly irreconcilable dichotomy. The world is so strange sometimes.
Can I exist in both of these spheres? Is it okay to be joyful and to celebrate with my loved ones when millions of people in this same world are starving to death? The same world where war and cholera are decimating families in Yemen. Where an entire generation of Syrians has become refugees—where thousands have been killed or left orphaned, victims of circumstance. A world where 20 million people are victims of human trafficking.
The injustices of the world break my heart, even as I’m sipping Cabernet in my safe house in my safe neighborhood, wrapping gifts that I can afford because of my privilege.
And here’s where my thoughts spiral. Should I feel gross about my privilege? Am I selfish? Am I being Christian enough? Do I need to sell all my stuff and go live in an impoverished country and make my kids’ clothes out of recycled materials and spend every moment serving the poor?
In case you were on the fence, this is where you can go ahead and concede that I’m clearly an insane person.
But here’s where I arrive when I put the brakes on the crazy train: following God and walking in faith doesn’t mean having to swap every speck of enjoyment for self-sacrifice. Sometimes this swap is necessary, of course—giving of ourselves and allowing God to use us to further His kingdom will absolutely result in inconvenience and sacrifice, often.
But we aren’t meant to live our lives in a constant state of self-deprivation. We serve a God of beauty and joy and wonder. A God who established a Sabbath for rest, whose first miracle in human flesh was turning water into wine at a party. His original intent for the earth was for us to live in it in harmony and to enjoy the provisions from His hands.
We can exist in both worlds. We can care deeply about the pain and suffering of others, and also care deeply about the smiles on our kids’ faces when they unwrap their gifts on Christmas morning. There isn’t an award for the person who deprives themselves the most in an attempt to be the holiest.
Friend, I hope your heart is grieved about the plight of those less fortunate, and that you go out into the world and do your part to help make a difference for them. And I hope you also snuggle up with your people and sip that Cab and fully delight in this season, because every good and perfect gift is from above.
As I get older, I feel increasingly more strange each Christmas as people start asking me what they can buy me. I look around at everything I have (at all the clutter that I’m actively trying to get *rid* of), and can’t help but feel guilty asking people to buy me more. I’ve lived a very privileged life. I’ve never known what it is to “want” for something, so yeah, I feel guilty at Christmas; surrounded by my possessions and my privilege, all while knowing there are so many others suffering at that same moment. But you’re right, I don’t think we’re meant to feel guilt about it, or sell our possessions and live a life of poverty. You can live a privileged life, surrounded by security and even some of life’s luxuries, and still be a good person, doing good deeds. As long as you acknowledge what you have, appreciate where you are in life, and recognize how truly blessed you are, not taking any of it for granted. Once you lose sight of those things, well then I think you’ve got problems.
Absolutely. I think it’s definitely a balancing act. I think problems arise when we fail to see what we have as enough, and when we lose sight of the reality that there is a hurting world out there. If we’re not careful, we can insulate ourselves in our tidy little lives and forget that most of the planet doesn’t live like we do.
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