The Comparison Game.
In Western culture, Christmas has become a season of comparisons.
Sometimes we like to brag about having the perfect Christmas. We buy the best gifts, we have the best light displays, put up the most beautiful decorations, make the most delicious food, our family always gets along and the list goes on.
Some of us swing the pendulum the other way, self-deprecating about having the worst Christmas. We never know what gifts to buy, we can’t get our lights or decorations right, our family ends up in arguments, we always burn the turkey and again, the list goes on.
There’s a huge problem with both scenarios, and many in between. These situations are based in comparisons, where we trust in our circumstances and the people and things involved, to help us enjoy the Holidays.
The focus may be on Christmas, but it’s not on Christ.
How can we fully place our trust in Jesus this Christmas?
In Luke 18, there’s a small parable that I believe can help us cut through the peripheral focus of comparisons, and help us focus on Jesus.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk. 18:9-14)
Before we break this down, it’s important to see the emphasis on trust. Luke tells us that Jesus, “…told this parable to some who trusted in themselves…”
2 Types of Trust
1. The Pharisee’s Trust
The Pharisee addressed God in his prayer. But then he immediately shifts his gaze to other people. He’s talking to God, but focused on highlighting the sins of others. Then his motive is made clear. He gives some details on the great things he’s accomplished.
His prayer gives clear indication of his heart condition. He’s caught in the comparison game, focused on who’s best, who’s worst and who God might be most pleased with. This comparison game shows us where he has placed his trust…in himself.
2. The Tax Collector’s Trust
The Tax Collector also addresses God in a prayer. And yet, there is clearly no comparison game happening. In this moment, in the back of the Temple, no one else exists accept him and his Lord. In full submission, he can’t even raise his head.
His prayer also gives clear indication of his heart condition. He realizes his position before a Holy God. He knows that God and God alone can save him from his sin. As he beats his chest and cries out for mercy, his trust solely place in the Lord is evident.
The Tax Collector left the Temple forgiven, justified and exalted. And that’s something to be celebrated!
2 Types of Christmas
1. A Self-Trusted Christmas
A self-trusted Christmas is one focused on ___________. (Each one of us has to search our own heart and fill in the blank.) Consumer goods? Traditions? Friends and Family? Food or Drink? The Christmas Spirit? (Whatever that is?!?)
If these are the types of things that make Christmas so great, what happens when they all fall through? Is Christmas ruined? If it, is we have a serious trust problem. These are all the lateral people, places and things that distract us from an upward focus.
Our focus often points to where our trust lies. Can Christmas still be great if we’re only left with the manger?
2. A Christ-Trusted Christmas
A Christ-Trusted Christmas is one focused on Jesus, and the reason He came. The Great Mission that He left with the disciples, passed on to us. To go and make disciples of all nations.
Once again, our focus often points to where our trust lies.
If we’re motivated to tell people about Jesus, when our culture is already looking at Him laying in a manger, the peripheral comparison game will never matter.
That means that the turkey can burn, Santa can forget to show up, the tree can die and every needle can hit the ground. Everything can fall apart this Christmas and it won’t matter. Because our trust is in Jesus, and Jesus alone.
Advent Devotional Challenge (Cont.)
The past couple of weeks, I put out a devotional challenge to sustain us during the busy Christmas season. More importantly, to help us concentrate on the Lord’s Second Coming.
24 Chapters In 24 Days
The goal is to work through the entire Gospel of Luke, leading up to Christmas Day; 24 chapter over 24 days. Simply follow your calendar to know which chapter you should read today. And this week’s devotional prayer might look something like this:
“Lord, help me focus this Christmas. Remind me not to compare myself with others. Give me your peace, rest and joy. What do I need to change to focus more on Your mission? What do I need to do to trust in You this Christmas?”
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
Have you ever felt like you’re in a comparison game at Christmas? Trying to buy the best, give the best, cook the best, do the best, be the best?