Dec20WedDecember 20, 2017
What do the story of Jesus birth, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and Dicken’s “The Christmas Carol,” all have in common?
Among other answers, each story involves a character with deep-seeded bitterness and resentment – King Herod, the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge. Now certainly, each person manifested bitterness in different ways. Herod became paranoid and sought to eradicate the promised Messiah. The Grinch sabotaged Christmas for the people in Whoville. And Ebenezer treated his employee harshly, refusing to share either life or money with anyone.
If you look around, many of our most familiar Christmas stories involve characters who struggle with bitterness during the holiday season. Likewise, you may find yourself in settings with friends, family members or co-workers in the next few weeks who have harbored bitterness in their hearts (sometimes unknowingly).
According to counselor and author, James Hilt, there are three major causes for bitterness within the spirit. The first cause occurs when a person feels cheated or deeply wounded by something said or done by an individual who ought to have displayed unconditional love toward them (like a family member). The second cause occurs when a person experiences deep, personal loss – whether it be relational, financial or material. The third cause occurs within the spirit as a person internally struggles to deal with either the loss of their health or the loss of their previous purpose in life.
Regardless of the cause, the root of bitterness (as described in Hebrews 12:15) can plant itself so deep within a person that years may pass before it begins to show subtle signs of “trouble.” Without the powerful renewal of Jesus, bitterness becomes a deep-seeded, ensnaring poison (see Acts 8:23, Romans 3:14) which Satan can use to crush the life of an individual – either by tempting them to become vindictive (like Herod or the Grinch) or to recede from life (like Scrooge). This is a timely message in our culture because so many have deep wounds, and sadly, as Belle described to Ebenezer, begin to “fear the world too much.” Fear and bitterness towards others seem to be reoccurring themes in the news headlines in recent months.
Yet within the celebration of Christmas, lies the antidote to bitterness. Even our secular culture sees as much! Afterall, the Grinch does end up singing in Whoville and Scrooge shares both money and a meal with his employee’s family. However, those are fictional stories. It takes much more than Christmas carols and “ghosts from Christmas’ past, present and future” to find real freedom from bitterness.
Hebrews 12:15 gives us a glimpse into its release, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.” Another way to say it is this, “Plant the message and power of God’s grace deep into your spirit!” When we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are primarily celebrating His grace. He came into our sinful world and offered true forgiveness without strings attached. That’s grace. Additionally, every person who’s ever lived, deserves condemnation because of sin, but Jesus lived a sinless life and “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That’s mercy. When we look at our felt afflictions in the light of Jesus’ unmerited gift, bitterness begins to be slowly uprooted. There really is hope this Christmas!
Whether you or your loved ones have been wounded, experienced loss or feel out of control, the mercy of God has come and is now available to you through Jesus Christ. He is, as Zechariah prophetically declared, “the tender mercy of God” (Luke 1:78) for all who cling to Him. This is what we celebrate this Christmas season…freedom and peace from everything which can enslave by faith in the power of Jesus Christ. Glory to God in the highest!