Addition by Subtraction

Many of us will see and have a lot less this holiday season. I’m not advocating that you should follow all government mandates but you will likely not be able to do all that you usually do from Thanksgiving to Christmas. You likely won’t see all of your usual friends and family. You won’t go bar hopping, like my family on Black Friday, because the bars are closed. You won’t see grandma falling asleep at the dinner table because they wouldn’t let her out of Green Hills Retirement Community. Your parties and get-togethers will be less than they were. 

A lot will be subtracted from you this holiday season and that really bites. But then again, what’s new? Many people year after year have things taken from them, especially during this supposedly most special month. Whether it’s the loss of a job, death in the family, or a divorce, things have been subtracted from people’s lives in a month where everything is supposed to be   merry.  

You could sit and whine about it. You could close your eyes tightly, click your heels three times, and wish it all away.  Or you could let God subtract some things in order to add some things. God does do that, you know. He subtracted something from Paul so that he would totally rely on him. “My strength is in your weakness,” Jesus answered Paul who didn’t like weakness.  He loves addition by subtraction actually.  He made a great nation out of a barren Sarah.  He made a powerful army out of a bunch desert nomads.  A Savior of sinners was born from an inexperienced virgin. A multitude of believers was produced by a bunch of fumbling obscure Galileen rednecks. Peace for all came from a cross. Life came from the death of God!

God subtracts things in our life not simply to make us appreciate those things more – although that does help. I definitely appreciate a lot of things I once took for granted (and will fight to keep doing them). God subtracts things from us ultimately to remove gods we thought we needed and to illuminate the only God who actually loves us and comes through in Jesus Christ.  

So many things we think we need to celebrate Christmas. So many gifts (and they are wonderful and good gifts) we think we must have in order to sing a Christmas carol loudly. This season God is stripping them away so that you will see the babe in the manger, the son on a cross, our brother walking out of a tomb alive. This is the one thing that matters.

Covid or not, you will lose all these other things eventually, until all you have is your naked self in a 2×6 box. And nothing will save you. Not your job, not your good times, not your good works, not your accomplishments, not even your friends or your family, nothing except Jesus. And save you He will. 

You will stand before your judge wrapped in His gift of forgiveness. You will walk out of that grave by the power of His promise. And you will enjoy many more Thanksgivings and Christmases alive and well, surrounded by friends and family, never to be subtracted again! Fight it all you want, but God just might be subtracting this year in order to add to you faith in the one thing that matters and the only thing that lasts!