11This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. Romans 13:11-14
Paul assumes that his readers in Rome know how desperate the hour is. But do we? Paul echo’s the urgent words of Christ in the Garden who had to awaken his disciples three times, “40Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41Keep watch and pray so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:40-41). He even uses the same words when He says Judas arriving to betray Him and says “the hour has come”. In other words, this is no time wondering and waiting, it’s time for war. Paul uses the words describing the critical timing of this moment to prepare for what’s going to come before the coming of Christ. Notice that he challenges us to take off our civilian clothes and put on our armor. It’s a conscious decision to wake up every day with a mindset of battle and the battle is won or lost in the mind.
Now, I love this time of year. I love the music, the decorations, the traditions, the gatherings, all of it! But, I must ask the question Paul is asking, “Are we spending our time thinking of ways to indulge our flesh or thinking of ways to advance the gospel? The Christmas season has, by and large, become all about eating, drinking, purchasing and partying in ways we usually don’t have time for most of the year. I wish I was just describing those who don’t know Christ, but the truth is that Paul is writing this warning to Christ's followers. Is He saying that we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves? No, but He is urging us to avoid the distractions that come from serving self. The enemy doesn’t take a holiday. All stats point to the fact that our enemy ups his game during the holidays precisely because the warriors of light are so busy and distracted. Quite often the “Christmas break” will break a marriage. According to a recent survey by the law firm Irwin Mitchell Solicitors divorce filings jump by nearly one-third following the holidays. Often “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” can turn into the most painful time of the year.
One survey by the American Psychological Association uncovered some interesting data about the holiday blues:
-While the majority of people in the survey reported feelings of happiness, love, and high spirits over the holidays, those emotions were often accompanied by feelings of fatigue, stress, irritability, bloating, and sadness.
-Thirty-eight percent of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season. Participants listed the top stressors: lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and family gatherings.
-Surprisingly, 56 percent of respondents reported they experienced the most amount of stress at work. Only 29 percent experienced greater amounts of stress at home.
-Another poll of more than 1,000 adults by the Principal Financial Group found that 53 percent of people experience financial stress due to holiday spending, despite the fact more than half set budgets for their holiday spending.
So, all of this points to the need for a group of faith-filled Christ-followers who aren’t getting pulled in to the fray so they can fight for their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. We must take Paul’s warning to heart and not get lulled into complacency or indifference during the holidays. We are people of the day, we wear the armor of light, we have the light of the world inside of us and when he purposefully shine His love we will bring more joy to those around us than any twinkling Christmas lights ever could.
I feel You gently but firmly coming up to me and nudging me awake. This is the season not to slumber, but to stay focused on what You’ve called us here to do. Thank You for this poignant reminder. You came to fight for me. Let me do the same for those around me and fight for them instead of finding ways to serve myself.