Our celebration of Christmas has the potential of getting swallowed up by “warm fuzzies” or being ruined by the lack of them. Warm fuzzies? In case you do not know, Merriam Webster definition says that ‘warm fuzzies’ are those feelings of happiness, contentment, or sentimentality that we get when there is good news, when we are loved. Silent Night sung on Christmas Eve in a darkened church sanctuary while we pass the light from candle to candle is a warm fuzzy moment for this pastor. Yep, the warm fuzzies overwhelm me when I talk about Christmas’s of 30 years ago when four excited kids filled our house with noise.
Relax! I am not a Grinch out to rob you of those sentimental feelings. They are wonderful. Enjoy them, savor them, let them make your life richer.
Christianity does include some warm fuzzies for most of us. I cannot tell the story of the Lost Son who found his father’s arms open wide to him when he finally decided to go home without getting teary! It is such a powerful story of restoration. In my personal worship there are moments when the Spirit of God comes close and I feel a kind of love that breaks my heart wide open, too. But, our Christian life cannot survive on warm fuzzies. We need to engage both heart and mind with our faith to keep it alive!
James tells us to keep our faith connected to real life. What we believe, he says, must have a discernable effect on the way we live. “What’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.”
I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.” (James 2:14-18, NLT)
Yesterday I found myself angry over the politics of COVID, deeply annoyed by what I perceive as a terrible over-reach of government authority. We may well differ in our opinions, but what disturbed me, as I reflected on my words, was the way that my response was out of sync with the heart of Jesus. My anger led me to sinful wrath, to conclusions that my faith would never support.
A Christian faith based only on feelings would have been incapable of correcting me, but the Truth that I knew in my mind, forced me to adjust my emotions and hopefully will help me adjust my rhetoric as well. Is your faith in Christ Jesus powerful enough to challenge your thoughts, your words, your actions? Or, is Jesus just a warm fuzzy for you? That is a pointed question worthy of an answer.
Love is the core of Jesus’ teaching, and yet many who claim to be His followers are full of rage these days. It is not an over-statement to say that many of us ‘hate’ the ‘other guy.’ Can we actually lay claim to loving God and hang to bitterness against a neighbor? Can we really have experienced the reality of God’s love and desire harm to come to another? Read God’s Word and come to your own conclusion. “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” (1 John 3:14-15, NLT)
We are not Christians simply because we once said a prayer with Billy Graham at the end of a televised service, or because we affirmed some doctrinal statement, or because we are in possession of a certificate of baptism. We are not a Christian if we shed an occasional tear when we hear our favorite worship chorus in church. When faith is real we will be engaged in living the Gospel of Christ in the real world, with the Spirit’s help, on a daily basis . John says, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.” (1 John 3:18-19, The Message)
So, it’s Christmas. There’s a ton of sentimentality attached to this holiday. Let me encourage you to go beyond that little tear in the corner of your eye, that catch in your throat, to do the tough work of applying the Story to life. If you believe that Jesus is really “Emmanuel, God with us,” then invite Him to live in you. Embrace Him as both Savior and Lord – in your heart and with your mind – then let it show in how you live for the glory of God.
The word from the Word is a favorite passage for me. I pray this blessing for you this Monday morning.
“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NLT)
O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, thou Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
And drive away the shades of night,
And pierce the clouds and bring us light.
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel!
O Come O Come Emmanuel –
Neale, John M. / Coffin, Henry S. / Helmore, Thomas © Public Domain