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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Hooffields and the McColts”

If you keep up with this devotional at all, you know I already did one about nursing a grudge. Not wanting to repeat that here I decided to try and find a different message in today’s episode, and as a result this episode got me thinking for a long while. It was several days before something finally jumped out at me.

In this episode, the two feuding families, the titular Hooffields and McColts, are completely obsessed and fixated with continuing their endless feud. They no longer care about anything else except finding ways to fight with each other. Each new individual who comes along doesn’t interest them unless they’re there to aid them in their feud, and either respective side doesn’t even focus on either food or shelter so long as they can keep fighting. Most of all, they don’t care at all about how much they’re ruining the land around each other with their squabble; which is ironic as it is eventually revealed that the whole reason their ancestors settled in that land was to preserve and maintain it. In the end, their obsession with getting even with one another destroyed the whole reason they began to fight in the first place, and they ended up hurting the very valley they wanted to preserve. They fixated so much on their own anger and wants that they totally lost sight of the bigger picture.

When I thought of that, I began to think of my own recent life…

The past two weeks have been putting me in a progressively grouchier and angrier mood. Work has been brutal since before Thanksgiving. You see, I work all week during “prime time” hours so I have to rush to schedule any sort of service if I need it. The battery in my car suddenly went out on a Friday night, and since it was a special type I ended up without my car that weekend. I couldn’t schedule an appointment until Monday and I had to arrange with family to borrow a car.That got made worse by the fact one of my light fixtures went out in where I spend most of my time in the house, so I had to try to work out how to repair it and go through the expense of doing so on top of that.

The next week I managed to schedule an appointment for the car and finally got it in by making phone calls while on break and rushing after work, but then I missed picking it up due to not having anyone to take me. When I did finally arrange to go with someone and get it, not only was it on the day of an ice storm, but on that same day my work computer hard drive went out and took a project I had been working on for a month with it. Again, since it was the weekend, nothing could be done until Monday although I stressed the entire weekend trying to save my data. On going home from the dealership, I ran into a sign and broke the bumper on the car I just got fixed, forcing me to run out and buy parts (which didn’t fit on my first two tries) to enact a temporary fix. When I got into work the next week my plans for staying late to try and make up for lost time were ruined because my computer was still being fixed. Finally, I lost my keys the first day of the week and had to stand out in the freezing cold for 45¬†minutes waiting for a family member to bring my spare.

By then, I was irate, miserable, and at my wit’s end. By that point I thought God had cursed me to have a new misfortune every day. That I did something to make him mad and now he was punishing me. I felt depressed, angry, and sullen. I was nearly to point where I didn’t care if I “skipped Christmas” as all I could do was focus on everything that went wrong those past couple weeks. All the songs, the baking, the gifts, the decorating, the time with family…all of it seemed an annoying bother. I just kept sulking in misery and wondering how everything had gone wrong.

But today, as I was coming home from work, I heard some news. My sister’s friend had her house broken into by an armed robber. He stole all the presents, wrapped and still unwrapped, for the family and her children as well as family heirlooms.

Looking around on Facebook, I also got reminded while I had some damage to my bumper, other people slipped, fell, broke multiple bones and split their heads open, and an ambulance couldn’t even get to them for hours due to ice and traffic. One of my own coworkers had his car wrecked, not just damaged, and got sick waiting four hours in the freezing cold for assistance.

Lots of people don’t have spare keys, spare cars to borrow, or relatives to bail them out. And while all of this may cost money I’m far from being bankrupt.

There are thousands of people in this country…and millions across the world…who would gladly trade their past week for mine. There are people living in poverty or under cruel oppression every day of their lives who continue to praise God day after day, while here I sit thinking God cursed me because I had more inconveniences and expenses than usual.

And as for me? The light fixture went out but it got fixed. The car bumper was damaged but the car still drives fine. I waited for 45 minutes in the cold but I drove home to a warm house. As hard as work has been I’m still employed and making a good living. I’ve been showered with blessings compared to a lot of people, and yet I chose to ignore all of those to only focus on my few relatively minor problems. I neither appreciated what I was given nor the people who helped me out with all of these problems.

Over 2,000 years ago the same thing happened. The Jews of Jesus’ day were so focused on wanting a king to reestablish the kingdom of ancient Israel and drive out the Romans that they failed to even notice the birth of the Messiah. Nor did they recall the words of the prophets on how He would become more than the ruler of Israel but that He would bring salvation to all the world. In the end, it was only a few shepherds and non-Israelite astronomers who even noticed His coming into the world (Luke 2; Matthew 2). For everyone else…they were so focused on their own desires to be out from under Roman rule and ideas for that day and age of having a kingdom like David’s that they couldn’t even see the one they were waiting for when He stood before them.

There’s been a lot of anger and hate thrown around this year in this country. A lot of people seem to think we’ve “hit bottom” and are choosing to focus on negative things as the Christmas season approaches. To let that consume them and cause them to ignore everything else. But with few exceptions, all of us have something to be thankful for, and most of us have a lot to be thankful for. Even if you’re only free to read this devotional, it at least testifies to the fact that you’re alive, cognizant, have access to the Internet, and are able to take time out to read devotionals at some point during your day. All of that is more than a lot of people have.

As this is probably the last message I’ll have before Christmas, I encourage everyone reading it, if they’re feeling miserable or unhappy or otherwise suffering from “holiday blues”, to take time out to appreciate not only their blessings but the reason for the season. Like in this episode, if necessary, force yourself to come to a halt and take a look around your situation and the others surrounding you that haven’t been given the attention they deserve.

And most of all, don’t let anything blind you or “choke” the reason for the season or the magic of the holiday out of you this year. As I get older I find I have to make time for myself to get into the season, but I never regret it when I do…only when I don’t.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, there are no words to express the amount of gratitude, praise, and thanks you deserve for giving us the ultimate Christmas gift in the person of your Son, Jesus, two millennia ago. Yet in addition to that, you have also blessed me in the following ways: (list them). Please forgive me when I whine and complain about what I lack, and grant that I may focus on you and things of importance not only in this Christmas season but for all of 2017. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”