When I was much younger than I am now, I thought being prosperous was the same thing as being financially wealthy. I imagined how prosperity would look. Big house. Lovely furnishings. Servants (possibly in uniforms). Gigantic bank accounts. New car. Foreign travel. Twin engine plane.
I thought prosperity was about stuff.
With that same mindset, I thought Christmas was about the number of presents under the tree, the wrappings, the tinsel and glitter. As a child, I counted the number of presents under the tree with my name on them, hoping I had as many as my sister. If there was stuff to be had, I wanted my full share.
I thought Christmas was about stuff.
I was so wrong, on both counts.
This morning, I was reminded again of the difference between prospering and having stuff. In Isaiah, the words of God, speaking of Jesus, describe Him as prospering.
"Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted." (Is. 52:13)
This passage continues to describe Him as "marred more than any man" before saying "Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him..."
Being high and lifted up and greatly exalted sounds like prosperity to me. Being "marred more than any man" does not, but it was only in the marring that Jesus achieved His prosperity, His success.
The Hebrew word translated as prosper is sakal and is sometimes translated as to be prudent, to see with insight, to act wisely, to succeed (or prosper). In the passage in Isaiah, it is used as "succeed".
A close look at Jesus' life reveals little of the world's definition of success. He didn't own a home. He traveled on foot, spent time with gluttons and drunkards, and was despised and rejected by the establishment. He died an ignominious death on the cross.
By most standards, Jesus was not a success. Until the third day.
On that glorious morning, the stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. The enemy was defeated. The Savior was risen. The truth of His success was evident for all who would see.
The prosperity of Jesus had nothing at all to do with an accumulation of stuff. He prospered because He succeeded in accomplishing the task for which He had come, to be the perfect sacrifice for the Sin of the world.
It should be no surprise, then, that the celebration of His birth has nothing at all to do with a display of material wealth. Generations of gift-giving have not changed the truth.
Success is not defined by the accumulation of things, nor is Christmas.
This year, let's focus on our Savior, who found success in the marring, in the sacrifice, in the suffering. The number or quality of the gifts under the tree will never substitute for the gift most needed, that of a worshipping, humble heart.
Start first with the gift Christ most desires this Christmas. Let's give Him our hearts.
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Finding Christmas: Separating Truth and Fiction, Finding Christmas: Ongoing Surrender, Finding Christmas: Hidden Paths, and Finding Christmas: Not Forgotten, Finding Christmas: Sustenance for the Weary, Finding Christmas: Remembering the Stripes, and Finding Christmas: Look to the Rock, and Finding Christmas: The Rear Guard.
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