The moment my little brother walked into the room at Christmas, surveyed the party table spread with all manner of delights and asked … “IS THIS IT!?” has become legendary in our family. It’s now a running joke that if someone has clearly made a big effort to produce something impressive and lovely you say “Is this it?!” and we all have a good laugh at the fact that we are all just spoiled brats who have got a bit better at hiding our sinful hearts.
At the time of this announcement my brother was a cute, little, brutally honest kid and clearly his expectations had not been met. What made it so funny was the mismatch between his response and what was on offer – cheese on sticks, sausages, pickled onions, wotsits, salad, ham, celery, cow cheese, sausage rolls, crackers, chocolate log – your classic dream party tea. “Is this it?!”
Christmas is a classic time for meltdowns. I normally have at least one a year. Sometimes they are silent, mood-hoovering, muttering under your breath, rolling your eyes, taking yourself off to the other room to fume. Sometimes they are out loud as what’s inside finally boils over and you say something you regret, yell at the kids, lose it with a relative, or tell your husband every annoying thing he’s done over the last week / month / year / decade that you’ve saved up. Why? Because we all have that sneaking inner feeling – “Is this it!?” and the pressure of Christmas forces out into the open what was within us all along – I wanted more! I wanted better presents, a bigger home, a nicer family, a more understanding partner, more rest, more space, more kids, more fun, more laughs, more money, more patience, more friends, more pudding, more …. fill in the blank. If we are brutally honest, we all have the same question – “Is this it?”
Paul in prison, in chains for the gospel – not living his best life now – writes to his mates in a normal church in Philippi, filled with real people who therefore find it hard to love one another, and says:
“In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Jesus came to the world he made – scarred by sin, surrounded by sinners. If anyone had the right to look around him at us all and ask – “Is this it!?” it was him. Instead he came, making himself NOTHING! He was humbled, he gave, he served and he paid because this isn’t it. Our expectations can never be fully met in this world because we were made for more, we were made for eternity.
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippans 2:9-11).
THAT is it! That is what we were made for – adoring Jesus. One day we will do it perfectly. Until then, we are all works-in-progress, gradually becoming more like the one we worship. Paul was real about our own garbage and life’s struggles. As we press on towards the prize, he tells us about the key secret to learn in life – no matter your circumstances, fed or hungry, in need or in want, loving life or hating it, celebrating or losing it:
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).
You are completely loved NOW by the one who left heaven for the cross, for you. He is with you NOW. He is transforming you NOW to help you through the Christmas dinner, to give you patience with the difficult, to give you love where you feel frustration. He did not look at you and say “Is this it!?” He looked at you and saw what you will one day be – He hasn’t finished with you yet. Cling to him and when you take yourself off into the other room to have a swear, try kneeling instead and pray : “Help me, Jesus, to know your love for me. May it so fill me, so thrill me, that I love others more. Please give me your strength to be humble, patient and gracious when it feels impossible. Keep me going till the day when I see you in all your glory.”