Entering into one of the peak seasons of the year in which we have so many opportunities to rejoice (unapologetically) and yet fall into the bombardment of temptation to be jealous, I challenge you (and myself) to take captive every thought and emotion for full examination. We are only human, made in the image of God and God Himself is both full of joy and yet a jealous God.
Let’s make no mistake, we ARE NOT God and we are not called to be jealous. We are repeatedly called to be joyful. We’ll get to all of that later, but please, please, don’t just scroll through, take time to read this tiny excerpt from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Trust me, every word is impactful, it will go quickly, it’s a story you’re familiar with.
(open of excerpt* with Fred, Scrooge’s nephew)
“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. “Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don’t mean that, I am sure?”
“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”
“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.
“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in `em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, `every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”
“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.
“Nephew!” returned Scrooge sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”
“Keep it!” repeated his nephew, “But you don’t keep it.”
“Let me leave it alone, then. Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!” Scrooge demanded, but his nephew would not be put off.
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned Fred. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
(end of excerpt*)
* this excerpt taken from http://www.timelessteacherstuff.com/readerstheater/ChristmasCarol.pdf which I edited the format.
Well, we have no example of jealousy there. Scrooge was jealous of no one but full of contempt and bitterness (no doubt from abandonment issues, self-sufficiency etc.). And no one seemed jealous of Scrooge, in spite of his fortune. But oh the joyful heart of Fred, the unrepentant abounding joy that burned so brightly within him it refused to be snuffed out. Admittedly he knew his situation and, in the absence of denial that he financially was poor, saw every good and holy thing Christmas time brought.
Now about us:
Christmas is just one of every holiday that can spur joy or jealousy. We are inundated with commercials, store displays, fliers in the mail all suggesting what we should be giving or getting for that particular holiday. Gone is the time when even an anniversary would be celebrated with paper, cotton, fruit, wood…. Oh NO – we aren’t truly loved and appreciated unless we jump straight to gold and diamonds. No need to wait for a 50 year anniversary for that and while you’re at it Christmas, Valentines, Birthdays – well what better way to pledge unfaltering love than jewels and treasures (toys, electronics, cars…)? Now to all that I say “Bah Humbug!”
Should you give gifts? Yes!
And what is a way of building joy? Giving!
But how we give and what we give should be tempered with the guidance of God and the means into which He has given to you in that season of your life.
Recently I found myself depressed. I love to give and yet we are strapped financially. Stuck in a ridiculous story of unfortunate events we are learning to be lean (or rather remembering how from our early years). This bothered me to a point of being up at night tossing and turning. Besides Christmas coming upon us I have a dear friend and care giver of my disabled daughter who was turning 40. Now what in the world could I do to bless her? I finally prayed (shameful it took me being unable to be self-sufficient to bring me to my knees) and when finally silent before God I heard Him ask me
“What do you have in your hands?” He meant look at what I have, what gifts, what resources…
“I don’t know, I don’t have time to quilt something or craft something” I ponder and realize that I can write. So, up I got and I prayed and wrote and scrapped one idea for another and at the end of the day I had a beautiful and meaningful book that honored, challenged and blessed my dear friend.
I’d like to keep my blogs short – they aren’t books after all. I want to make sure I give a few lists of scripture. You know jealousy does us no good, it breeds into us hatred, strife and murder. It’s as old as Cain and Abel and as recent as the last local news report. Being joyful is a bit more convoluted, it has plenty of scriptural references but we must first determine this: will I choose to believe what the world tells me about joy or will I decide to search out and follow after the joy of the Lord. Until you know what joy really is, how it comes to you and how to keep it you elude yourself with a search without answer or end.
Here are some places to get you started should you desire true, unshakable joy:
Using the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible:
Psalm 5:11, 30:11, 89:15, 94:12, 98:6, 112:1, 119:1-2, 127:5, 128:1-2, 144:15, 146:5
Proverbs 3:13, 8:32 and 34, 16:20, 29:18
Isaiah 54:1, 66:5
1 Thessalonians 5:16
Gen. 26:14, 30:1, 37:11
1 Samuel 18:9
1 Corinthians 3:3, 13:4
James 3:14, 4:2
Jealousy comes from comparing ourselves with others, interestingly it isn’t just the obvious of wealth, health, family or status. It was (and is) among Gods own people as they are jealous of each others spiritual gifts. Yikes!
I end with my prayer for you. “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11