John 8:12, Matthew 16:24
One of my favorite things this Christmas is my tree. That’s funny because it’s artificial and I resisted getting one for so long. When we lived in Massachusetts I loved walking up the street to a farm to cut down a tree. I loved having a real tree in my house. But our fake tree is symmetrical and I loaded it with lights. Sitting in the living room with only the tree lights on has been my indulgence this year.
In fact, Christmas so easily becomes self-indulgent. I eat too many goodies and spend more than I should on my kids and grandkids. When I enjoy the Christmas tree lights, listen to special music, and decorate my house with beautiful things, I’m doing it for me. It’s good to fill my heart and mind with beauty, but the focus should always be on Jesus. And when it is, I won’t be thinking of myself.
Jesus told us more than once that He is the light of the world. In this John verse, He reinforced the idea that His light shows us the path. If we walk in the light He sheds, we’ll follow the path that leads to life. Although that path brings us joy, it also requires self-sacrifice.
Jesus said I have to take up my cross if I want to follow Him. That’s not a joyous, Christmas thought. The cross was an evil instrument of torture. The cross was a place where criminals were punished. The cross was where Jesus died for my sins. Because He died for me, I don’t have to hang on a cross. I’m not a criminal anymore. I don’t need to fear the torture of eternal death. I’m not going to die for my own sins.
So what did He mean that I need to take up my cross? I think the answer is found in Philippians 4 where Paul tells us to have the same attitude that Jesus did. He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped. He humbled Himself in obedience to God.
To take up my cross means to humble myself. To give up myself. To give myself up as a sacrifice. To turn from my selfish ways.
Christmas is the season to celebrate God’s love for me. It’s the season to celebrate Jesus’ amazing sacrifice for me.
Christmas is also a reminder that God calls me to self-sacrifice. It’s a time to give myself up for others.