Scripture reading for today:

 Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20

Living in the midst of idols

At the conclusion of this Advent season, I wonder how many times you have thought of Christmas as the opportunity to live free from idols? When one of the ten commandments declares; ‘you shall not make an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or the earth beneath…’ I expect few of us were contemplating melting down our Christmas presents to mold them into an image we could worship. So, what have idols got to do with Christmas?

Well, an idol is anything that is elevated to the centre of your life to the extent that it becomes your provider other than God. Your idol can literally be anything whether it’s money, sex, power, success, approval, a friend, any habitual thing and so on. An idol will always capture your heart (Ezekiel 14:5) drawing your affection away from God so that you serve the idol instead. When Jesus said that we were to worship God only (Luke 4:8), he literally meant that we are to live with a constant awareness of God, living in response to him each day and free from coercive idols.

Psalm 96:5 says ‘all the gods of nations are idols but the Lord made the heavens.’ Because there is one God who created the universe then all people created by him, having the same parent are valued according to what he says and his design. Furthermore, we share a moral code based on what God says is right or wrong. We can’t just make up our own version of what is right. So, Christmas is an opportunity to reject idols because God asks you to and you are precious to him. Based on your value and what it took for Jesus to make this possible, you can be free. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.’ God saw that it was essential to save us from idols and he stopped at nothing to do so. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Recently I met a church planter who came to Canada from Iran. He tells of how he escaped to live as a refugee in Turkey because his life was in danger because he converted from Islam to Christianity. When he said no to idols, he lost his job, house and literally had to run for his life. The Father’s love instigated the Christmas story so that by Jesus we might live free from the tyranny of idols (Isaiah 9:4). This freedom cost Jesus everything and it may cost us the same, too.

If the trappings of Christmas do a good job of hiding idols behind a veneer of merriment make no mistake, idols are still dangerous. This season I invite you to reject idols by asking Jesus to help you live free from them. This may put you in a place of discomfort, but freedom from idols comes as you focus on what God has done for you in sending Jesus. You become what you behold. You can live free from idols as you accept the image of Christ in you. That’s the best Christmas present you’ll ever get.

Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you are enjoying the reader, sign up to receive the readings in your inbox each day here: SIGN UP And please share this reflection with your friends and family who might also enjoy it.