As a member of the trustee board at Oral Roberts University (ORU), I was invited to share a devotional at the December Globalization Task Force Summit. I felt called to share on a very personal level about Christmas and its importance to the holistic life education students at ORU are blessed to be receiving.
The tragic suicide of Pastor Isaac Hunter in Orlando comes close on the heels of another friend of mine who recently took his own life, and although it’s not easy to talk about hurt and pain and guilt and failure, clearly it is a very relevant topic that needs to be addressed. The message of Christmas is one that we all need to hear over and over again.
As the year comes to a close, I look forward to it being a time of relaxation, gathering with family, taking time away from the busyness of life to reflect and count my blessings, as well as celebrate the joy of having a Savior.
But I realize that for many, it is not such a joyful time. As they reflect, they see only reminders of failure, pain and inadequacy. It is a time of emotional pressure where the open wounds of life are exposed.
In response to the needs of young people who suffer—especially with depression—OneHope partnered with My Broken Palace to create an online community aimed at helping youth navigate tough challenges like addictions, self-injury, mental illness, suicide and other emotional traumas.
Self-injury is more common than people realize, and a primary risk factor indicative of future suicide. Brown University researchers found that found that 46 percent¹ of high schoolers had injured themselves in the past year on multiple occasions. That number is staggering. It translates to almost one out of every two teens having tried cutting—or worse ways of harming—themselves as punishment for guilt they don’t know how to deal with.
Religion—in all forms—promotes self-responsibility for our actions. Hinduism and Buddhism teach self-denial, penance, and that acts and thoughts of good karma are necessary to compensate for the bad karma we produce. Islam outlines strict works and ritual to overcome sins that have been committed. Legalistic and works-oriented Christianity puts the emphasis on self-sanctification to offset sin and appeasing God by our own righteousness. Orthodox Judaism requires rigorous compliance to an impossible standard of traditional rights and rituals. Religion screams of failures, insecurities, sins and actions and tells you that you are not worthy or deserving of trust or love.
I’m here to remind us all that Christmas is about a person and Advent is a time to celebrate the tearing down of strongholds and religious bondage through the person of Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel. Luke 2:11 says, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord”. Matthew 1:21 reminds us that, “…she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins”.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed with guilt and the weight of your actions starts to get heavy, when that need for self-punishment starts to take your mind places God never intended for it to go, remember that Jesus has already acted on your behalf and lifted the weight of all punishment from your shoulders!
Christmas and Jesus’ birth immediately point us to Easter. His death and resurrection once and for all take away all fear, guilt, shame and punishment and makes us whole!
When we truly can accept this greatest of Christmas gifts, we become new creations in Christ Jesus our Lord. That is when we stop seeing ourselves as a broken palace, and recognize that because of Him we are made royal and whole. “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
All education and maturity is incomplete without a full understanding of Christmas. Without the diligent and explicit portrayal of a grace-filled life made possible by Emmanuel who came and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live.
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