John finishes his first epistle with this practical exhortation: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. The holiday season brings its own unique challenges in this regard. If John wrote to us in our time and culture regarding Christmas and its false god’s pitfalls I suspect he might specify at least the following.
Keep yourself from the idol of possessions. Consumerism tops the list of things that can tempt us to seek our satisfaction in something other than Jesus. The Lord made it plain. We can’t serve God and money (Matt. 6:24). Determine to keep your spending in line with God’s plan for your stewardship.
Keep yourself from the idol of comfort. People often suffer from forms of depression at this time of year. Blocked goals, unmet expectations, pangs of loss, among other things, can tempt us to seek refuge in any number of counterfeit gods. Over indulging in food and drink, endless hours in front of the TV or surfing the internet, substance abuse, relational dependence, these and other strategies of self-medicating and escape have their root ultimately in digging broken wells rather than drinking from the fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13). Take refuge in the Rock that never runs dry.
Keep yourself from the idol of control. Whether the circumstances surrounding idealistic plans for Christmas and New Years or the people in our lives with whom we engage in this season – family, significant others, friends, and acquaintances – who may or may not cooperate with our agendas — exerting power by way of manipulation, guilt, threat, passive aggressiveness or any other sinful strategy designed to make others comply with our demands boils down to a dependence upon things outside our control that fail to deliver the happiness we invest in them. Let a “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16-18) ethic rule your spirit at every turn of events that doesn’t go the way you hoped.
Keep yourselves this Christmas from the counterfeit gods that tempt you through the power of the living God made yours by your union with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
We certainly have our idols and Christmas can bring them out. I pray that I do not show them to my children and they will not struggle with them as I do.