In your house, when does Thanksgiving officially come to an end and the Christmas season begin? Do you follow the Advent calendar? Do you have your tree up yet? Or do you resist the peer pressure, thumb your nose at your neighbors, ignore your social media feed, and wait until later in the month? My daughter confessed to me last night, “Don’t tell Dad yet, but we have already put up our tree.”
It takes me a few days to slide from Thanksgiving into Christmas, but sure as shootin’, I can tell that the season has truly kicked in when the cravings begin. All that symbolizes Christmas for me has been resting contentedly in that alcove of my memory, receiving the occasional visitor of thought or recollection throughout the year—for weeks and months silent and undisturbed, all the way up until just a few days ago. All such peaceful existence came to a screeching halt. I want Christmas now, in complete abundance. I crave Christmas.
My eyes crave twinkling lights and curling ribbons and tiny Dickensian figurines. My ears crave favorite carols and songs and jingle bells and pa-rum-pa-pum-pums. My nose craves the scent of pine and cinnamon and peppermint. I want to start decorating now. I want to light candles and hang greenery. I want delicious treats, and glowing lights, and happy faces, and I want everyone and everything to be perfect.
Paul writes to Timothy about those who will creep in among the believers under his care in order to stir up cravings, to propose ideas and expectations and anticipations and needs that will tempt the weak to wander from the faith in search of satisfaction elsewhere. Paul doesn’t go easy on these interlopers, saying they are puffed up with conceit and understand nothing (6:4), declaring they will come to ruin and destruction (6:9) with their bellies full and their hearts empty.
Simply looking forward to Christmas and the joy that comes from the sights and sounds does not result in ruin and destruction, but neglecting the warning against idolatry might send me down that disastrous path. As if the craving cannot be loaded with traps and tripwires—because it’s Christmas and how can that ever be bad? Should discontentment ensnare me, then I will go to any length to find satisfaction, even wrapping up the season of the celebration of the birth of Messiah in my expectations and “senseless and harmful” cravings. (6:9)
Fleshly desires are a powerful lot, intrusive, manipulative, and deceitful. At this time of year, they are especially compelling when driven by the idolatry of “the perfect Christmas.” She who would be victorious over them cannot just “remember the reason for the season” or “keep Christ in Christmas” or “believe”, still craving something more, something better. She must assume a warfare mentality and put them to death. She must come to the battle with nothing but her desire for Christ above all. She must trust Him to be true, the Savior, her Savior in life and in death.
There is no room in the inn for both the cravings that fester in and erupt out of a heart of unbelief and ingratitude and a desire for Christ (Galatians 5:17). If, like me, at some point in the craziness of this season, you look around you and realize your flesh has been ruling the conduct of your heart, come back to Jesus. Spiritual things cannot begin with us, so don’t regard what it is you want—”put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3)—seek out what it is that the Lord wants. Crave the Incarnate Son of God; take hold of his promises, “O woman of God . . . Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.”
Desire Christ this Christmas.