And then I realized how many times over the past few days I've heard people speak of feeling guilty.
"I feel guilty that I didn't put up a tree this year," or "I feel guilty that our tree is artificial," or "I feel guilty that we cut down a live tree for Christmas."
"I feel guilty that I haven't made any Christmas cookies," or "I feel guilty that I've eaten too many Christmas cookies."
"I feel guilty that I can't give my kids what they want for Christmas," or "I feel guilty that I've bought my kids too much for Christmas."
Is there no end to it?
Of course, we feel guilty because we are guilty, and we know it. Every single one us is flawed. We all come up short. Not one of us is perfect.
But the very reason we celebrate Christmas is that the Lord of all Creation loved us enough to save us. He didn't leave us in our flaws and shortcomings. The Christ of Christmas is the One who came to earth and lived as a human in order to show us what a life without shortcomings would look like. And then He gave up his life in order for us to released from the guilt of our own sins and to live in freedom.
I think the words of the old hymn put it best:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free--
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.*
Full of shortcomings though we are, our guilt has been taken away--cleansed by the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Because of Jesus, we can live a life that's no longer ruled by sin.
Christ was born to give us life that is truly life.
My prayer this season is that your Christmas tree be more than a symbol of beauty and merriment. May it be a tree of life for you.
*"Before the Throne of God Above" by C.L. Bancroft