Christmas is truly a wonderful season. Generally speaking, people seem a bit nicer, there is more sensitivity to the needs of others, and there seems to be an open window for sharing the true message of hope. Too bad it seems to be a “seasonal” thing and not year round. I suppose many will come out of self absorption for a few weeks, long enough to exchange gifts, bake cookies, and see family. Yet, despite the fact that for some it is seasonal and things will revert back sometime in early January, we must remain hopeful and encouraged. Let me elaborate for just a few moments.
Christmas is a season of seeking what is better, not what is bitter. And is there ever a difference in that 1 letter change from an “i” to an “e,” from a bitter to a better. To say it is about the coming of Jesus Christ is a given – it is indeed about His advent and how it forever changed everything. Things would never be the same, from that point forward. But part of His coming was certainly to take away bitterness and bring forth betterness. No doubt.
Life itself will bring challenge, suffering, pain, and tribulation. There is no “if” about it – the only uncertainly concerns the “when.” We should expect it and anticipate it. However, these life trials and battles will either make us bitter, or better. They are all opportunities to grow in faith or grow in fear. Therefore, it is not what happens but how we deal with what happens that matters. It molds character or it breeds contempt.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Church in Ephesus, pens this: “Let all bitterness, wrath and anger, and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice (or desire to see another suffer). Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Eph. 4:31-32). The words “let” and “be” indicate and imply a decision of our will. It is not wrong to feel hurt or angry, but clearly, we need to confront it as quickly as possible, so that it can be put away. And yes, He will put it away for us, if we will only let Him.
There are characteristics that shine forth in the heart of a “bitter” person. Practically everyone has faced this at some point directly. So what are some of those characteristics? While not all inclusive, here is an overview: (1) A bitter person cares little for the person(s) that he/she is bitter against; (2) A bitter person is very touchy and generally, self-absorbed; (3) A bitter person is ungrateful; (4) A bitter person becomes harsh and critical, of most everything; (5) A bitter person hangs on to grudges, finding it almost impossible to forgive; (6) A bitter person displays stubbornness and a sulky, quiet attitude; (7) A bitter person helps no one, or finds a reason to complain when asked to help; and (8) A bitter person experiences extreme high and low mood and disposition swings.
Where is the evidence? – you may be asking. Look around. As Christ followers we are to be real and transparent; we are people of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and as such, we know bitterness is an opponent of our Lord and His Gospel.
Here is where bitterness is dealt with and solved: In the Cross of Jesus Christ. And we cannot lose sight of the fact that His coming marks the beginning of this journey; a journey that would take Him from the manger to the Cross. There is hope this Christmas, and we should be encouraged: His hope and promise is alive each and every day.
Jesus took the sin that causes all hurt. Jesus took the judgment for sin upon Himself. Jesus offered us forgiveness and commanded us to forgive one another. Jesus showed compassion and love to those around Him, even during His greatest times of suffering and rejection.
This Christmas, better yet, today, at this very moment: Why don’t we resolutely allow the Holy Spirit to make us better? Are there things, characteristics, and traits that the Lord wants us to put away so that His better can be realized, and that our bitter can be disposed of? Christmas is about His coming. His entry. His incarnation. His gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life,being made available through Him. He gave us the better, so let’s give Him our best. All for His glory!