Why do people suffer? Happy question, I know. I think there are several reasons for this, but the main amount of human suffering in the world is caused by other humans. Well, what about the people who suffer because of a natural disaster or a random accident? I still think many of those could be prevented if humans, as a whole, could actually love one another. Most people know by now that the limit on human resources isn't necessarily caused by a strict limit on those resources. Instead, greed, corruption, and hostility often limit the amount of resources shared among people groups. This leads to inability of people to avoid things like monsoons, build proper housing, and get access to clean food and water. I could go on with how our sinful nature affects us individually and globally.
In the midst of this, Christians see the need for Christ, especially at this time of year. Christ calls us to live sacrificially for others. By this love, we hope to share Christ. We want to transcend materialism, physicalism, and the downright ugliness of selfishness that surrounds us and indwells us all too often.
So, here are my suggestions for remembering and living joyfully this Christmas season. As always, these are written with myself in mind just as much as anyone else.
1. Give until it hurts. Use your commodities like you live to give them away- money, time, and friendship (see #4 below).
2. Review what it is that actually hurts. This C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity can help you get started:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures exclude them.”
3. Pray in a sacrificial manner. Try setting your alarm for the middle of the night and getting up to pray for friends, family, coworkers who need Christ. Give up a couple meals this month to fast and pray for Christians who are suffering.
4. Treat your friendship like a commodity people need. I know this could be taken in a weird way, but we already treat our friendship as a valuable thing. We withhold it from people if we don't like them or we are tired of them. Conversely, we give it to those we deem worthy of it because they have earned our trust. What if instead of the Law of Diminishing Returns living in the back of our minds, we just became friends with other people sacrificially. I don't mind thinking of economic terms- let's just turn those economics upside down with the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus.
5. Trust Christ. I don't have all the answers, but I really believe I know the One who does. It is time for me to start living like I know Christ. This kind of trust is the essence of joyful living. It also explains why it is not a euphoric or happy feeling, although those feelings may happen at times.
6. Be cheerful. So, what is good cheer then? It is a willingness to help others without complaining. It is an ability to listen without judging. It allows us to spend time, energy, and resources on others without an expectation of return. All these things together form a cheerful disposition. It also means we don't force Christ on others during this time or approach them from a position of power, arrogance, or control.
I really believe we can celebrate Christ this Christmas. As a Christian, He has done immeasurably more for me than I could do for Him. I can truly celebrate, Joy to the world!
And now, the words to my favorite Christmas carol by Isaac Watts: