The election is over. The inauguration is history. A new chapter began for America. On Jan. 10, 2017, then President Barack Obama delivered a farewell address in Chicago to some of his biggest fans and outspoken critics. As we discussed in our January Bible study, new beginnings are amazing. But before we embark on any journey, it is good to reflect on what we’ve learned from past mistakes. The former “POTUS” summed up what he thought were the greatest successes and hurdles he jumped in the past eight years. In all of his self-glorifications, a single quote best illustrates how his policies have divided and weakened this country: “... laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. [They] won’t change overnight. Social attitudes oftentimes take generations to change.” It sounds good. Just looking at the surface of his presidency, it evokes images of progress and a sense of pride for a job well done. For a good number of Americans, however, it also explains the disappointment we experienced.. We expected one thing from our elected official and got another.
We’re all used to seeing the Valentine’s Day candy on the store shelves before the Christmas 75 percent off sales are over; but, we have to wonder when do most of us begin our Christmas clearance sale? When do you take down your spiritual Christmas tree and holiday trimmings? And why are we so relieved when the holiday season is over; is Christmas that much of a burden? Shouldn’t it be a celebration? After all our God is a God of celebration and wonder. Our hearts have been conditioned by retail to be an obstacle that needs to be overcome, dealt with, taken down and tucked away. Giving to others -- the main reason for the season gets shoved away with the empty boxes and unused wrapping paper. Gifts don’t need to come in a box, however. Christians shouldn’t treat the Holidays like they’re a burden. Such a display from a follower of Christ suggests we’re selfish and that giving to others and putting our fellow man ahead of ourselves puts a strain on us. The Apostle Paul tells us in Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” We should be glad that God doesn't view us as the way we view Christmas. He never treats us as though we are a burden or a drudgery. Instead He treats us as though every day is Christmas. Think of the wonderful gifts he bestows on us every single day; priceless gifts. It’s amazing the care He puts into our lives and the work He endures to make us happy. Not just once a year, not on special occasions, but daily. It is His joy to do so. The Lord makes the day. He creates the potential for every outcome we will have. As Christians we are called to serve the Him and give the day back to Him. What’s the result? We benefit by storing our treasure in heaven rather than on earth, just as the we were told we would in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If your heart is in the right place then, the Christmas tree will never come down in your heart. Giving will become part of your daily routine. You won’t be burdened at work when to give to the United Way -- it’s what you do. Your tree will remind you when you walk into the convenience store and a jug of changes beckons you to give your pocket change to aid an ailing child. The extra clothes in your closet and food that will never get eaten in the pantry will be be put to good use when you give them to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or St. Francis or the charity of your choice. Giving reminds us of what we have left over from His abundant gifts! By all means, take down the material tree that sits in your living room. But leave up the spiritual one in your heart. Besides this way your bubble lights can shine all year long -- if only in your heart.