Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'll Have a Cynical Christmas

Maybe it's the economy. Or maybe the road construction blocking every route across the Amite River to the city shopping districts. Or maybe...

Last week, I made two forays into the melee. The little Christmas shopping I do is long ago finished, but that doesn't mean I'm going to hibernate until others return to a sane shopping pattern.

As I made my routine purchases, as I chatted with the cashiers, as I waited in longer lines than normal...I was amazed to find it missing--

The spirit of Christmas.

So far this year, outside the walls of my home and church, I've yet to find that cultural Christmas spirit of joy, peace, and love that manages to mysteriously infect the masses during this season of the year.

Sure, there are always a few Grinches complaining. But among Christians and non-Christians alike, I've always been able to see a greater than average number of broad smiles that reach the eyes, hear laughter resonate around me, feel the graciousness of others reaching beyond themselves.

But not this year.

I've seen impatience, irritation, bitterness, and just plain apathy. But most of all? I've seen, heard, and felt the cynicism--the pervading belief that nothing is going to get better because nothing ever does.

And that concerns me--not the thought that things might continue in a downward spiral, but the cynical attitude about life in general, an attitude that even some Christians seem to have.

Has not our God made promises to His children? And has not God been faithful to fulfill all His promises?

Consider two instances of cynicism from the pages of history:

The prophet Jeremiah most likely prophesied to a pretty cynical audience--the people of God living in exile from their homeland. The exiles probably thought God had abandoned them and believed they might as well just "make the best of it" because things wouldn't get any better and they would never return home. As the book of Esther shows, many did just that--made a new life for themselves in Babylon.

But God said, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jer. 29:11). He spoke promises of a return to Jerusalem...for those who followed Him in faith.

Earlier in history, the patriarch Abraham and his wife, Sarah, battled cynicism as well. When Abraham was 90 years old, God said his wife Sarah would bear the child of promise. At this news, "Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'” (Gen 17:17).

Cynical laughter. A lapse of faith that God could work beyond human limitations to fulfill His promises.

Sarah wasn't much better than her husband. When three "men" appeared at her house "in the heat of the day," Abraham told Sarah to hurry up and make some bread to entertain their divine visitors.

I can just imagine Sarah murmuring angrily to herself as she mixed the flour and oil--making bread wasn't exactly something a woman wanted to do in the middle of a hot day, even if the visitors were heaven sent.

Later, as she eavesdropped, she heard the visitors say she would bear a son within a year: "So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?'” (Gen. 18:12).

Again, this cynical laughter, this lack of faith in God's ability to overcome anything.

Cynicism is an easy response to the world around us. But it's not just an attitude problem. Instead, it shows a deeper problem with a person's heart and soul.

Cynicism is the opposite of faith. It is faithlessness in God.

Granted, things may not get better. The economy may not recover. Society may not do a 180 in regard to its morals.

But that doesn't mean we throw in the towel and sit, complaining in our own cynicism.

Instead, we get down on our knees. We pray. We ask. And we wait in faith that God will move in our best His time.

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