With the buds blooming on the trees in early May, Christmas seems light years away. Yet for some reason, my mind this week recalled all those long family update letters that people like to insert into their Christmas cards. The accolades for each child are oftentimes more impressive than a Rhodes Scholar, Academy Award winner and an Olympic medalist combined. And if that weren’t enough, you get to read about amazing vacations, luxurious purchases and professional advancements.
For the most part they are always the same – nothing negative, nothing mundane, but a “I bet my family topped your family” when it came to achievements as we round out the calendar year. Yet did you notice that there is oftentimes no difference between the letters that come from a non-Christian family when compared to the ones that come from a Christian family. The only exception might be the obligatory evangelist zeal when the writer signs off with the “Jesus is the reason for the season” reminder.
Maybe I’m spoiling the fun (hey, I refrained from bringing the regular social media blitz into this!), but the last time I checked kicking a fifty-yard field goal is not a supernatural work of God. High academic marks are not a fruit of the Spirit. Playing Beethoven on the piano is not a command I’ve seen anywhere in the Bible. And a two-week vacation in Disney or ski trip to the Rockies is rarely done with the intention to reap lost souls for the kingdom.
Please don’t get me wrong! It’s not that I’m jealous because your family clearly surpassed my family, which they did, or do I feel that your feats are unimpressive, because they are impressive! In many ways the letters are fine, so keep them coming!
I’m just sarcastically taking advantage of this situation to ask ourselves if we as Christians really value and then praise the Lord for the things that matter most according to His standards. Do we find our greatest joys in the work of God demonstrated by the Spirit, things that most exalt our Savior? Do we define success as it relates to the Scripture and not the whims and demands of popular culture?
So with that in mind, may we as Christian families equipped with new sight and redeemed from the slavish rat-race of the world have a whole new set of desires:
- Hearts that gravitate to serve the outcasts and disadvantaged.
- Unity in the home that keeps arguments, selfishness and backbiting to a minimal.
- Scripture that is taught regularly, discussed openly and applied daily.
- Prayers that show compassion for the lost, the unborn and the suffering.
- Desires for missions and local outreach.
- Measurable demonstrations of hard work, commitment and perseverance.
- Character that models Christ and is commended by observers both outside and within the church.
- Delight in attending church, serving in the church and loving the people of the church.
- Respect for figures in authority.
- Finances that are in order and are regularly and sacrificially given to the Lord’s work.
- Evidence that the flesh is mortified, the world is crucified and the devil is resisted.
- When together, time that is not only enjoyed, but also cherished.
- Men that model the humility of Christ and lead with love, example and service.
- Women that create a home environment where love, compassion and hospitality reigns.
- Children that are regularly equipped with the essential truths to succeed for Christ.
- Family members that put the needs of other family members above their own.
- Growing, fruit-bearing, useful disciples of Christ.
So regardless of the Christmas letters you write (or chose not to write), may these traits be most desired in your family throughout the year and humbly prized above all the trite and temporary stuff that the world runs after and finds so attractive. “But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17).
“Alas, if our children lose the crown of life,it will be but a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art” (C.H. Spurgeon).