It’s time for the holidays, a time of year that I both love and dread at the same time. I cherish my memories of cozy Christmases past and creating new memories with my family. I love the smells of Christmas and the excitement of the kids. I dread the hectic schedules, the feeling that there’s too much to do and the worry over buying loved ones that “perfect” gift. Such is Christmas in this modern world; no time left to reflect on the miracle of the birth of our Savior—I’ve got baking and shopping to do! Boy, am I ever guilty! While I don’t lack of a plan, I lack a mindset. The mindset of balance, moderation and contentedness.
In the book of Ecclesiates, “The Teacher” laments about the meaninglessness of life. If you’re experiencing a rough time in your life, it’s not going to be a pick-me-up to read, but it reads as if it could have been written in today’s world. The Teacher was wealthy and popular—and very unhappy. He feels that there is nothing in this world that has any meaning. His luxurious lifestyle has left him in despair. But he does make observations that are true, and you can certainly have empathy for the emptiness the guy goes through. One of the observations that he makes that I’d like to share with you is in 7:15-18, where he addresses balance in being both overwicked and overrighteous. His observation? “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
I wanted to find other examples where the concept of balance is put in a Biblical perspective. It overlaps with the areas of temperance (moderation) and self-control, but those passages didn’t address the times when balance is thrown off. The more I thought about it, the underlying cause of imbalance is a dissatisfaction of what we have and who we are. We are not content with where we are and what we have. Isn’t that when we try too much, and in the process reach too far? When we are trying to create the “perfect” Christmas, it is easy to move too far from Christ, who should be the center of the holiday. If I had more time/money/creativity, Christmas would be perfect. Spreading ourselves too thin, we are out of balance, discontent, stressed and generally not enjoying the Spirit of the Season.
If that’s not you, I am happy for you. Because you have learned to be content. And there are several verses that advise us on being content. Hebrews 13:5 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…” And Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but this time of year, I need to be reminded of that.
As we head full throttle into the Christmas season, remember how the extremes in the life of The Teacher didn’t bring him joy “under the sun”. Being content can be hard when we are bombarded daily with reminders of what we don’t have. It’s something we have to remind ourselves of. But we have something that The Teacher in Ecclesiastes didn’t have. We have, in the baby Jesus born in the manger, the antidote to that meaninglessness he described. The joy that can only be found “under the Son”.