FENTON, MI – Well folks, this is the season when we celebrate the birth of our Lord with all sorts of traditions, parties, food and gifts. It truly is the happiest time of the year.
As I reflect on Christmases past my heart and mind are filled with childhood memories of cold, December nights when it was so hard to go to sleep, and then wide eyed Christmas mornings that glistened with the wonder of tinsel laden trees and Christmas wishes wrapped in colorful paper. I can still smell the strong scent of an evergreen tree and the sweet, citrus aroma of fresh fruit. My mother would always buy the largest oranges and apples she could find, and fill our stockings with those and other candies. And of course, the comforting fragrance of a perfectly roasted turkey settled in around it all.
Throughout the years I have received all sorts of gifts and gadgets at Christmas, but as a young boy a gift that became one of my most memorable was a pet hamster. I had seen a whole family of them in our local “five & dime” with their labyrinth of tubes and tunnels, and I just had to have one of these energized entertainers. Sure enough, Christmas morning came and there under the tree was my very own hamster and self-contained habitat. Inside this rodent residence was a complete gymnasium of gadgets to keep the most lethargic and sedentary of fuzzy friends healthy and happy.
Right in the center of all this menagerie of moving parts was an enormous wire wheel where upon my new found friend could race and run for hours on end. And run he did. In the middle of the night when all self-respecting relatives of the rat family should be fast asleep, ol’ fleet of foot would be running his race to nowhere. The first night of our new family member’s stay in the home, my dad got up to try and find out why the refrigerator or our home heating unit had suddenly developed an annoying squeak. It took him several sleepless nights until he discovered it was “Herman the Hamster” and his midnight marathons that were disturbing our long winter naps.
Herman would get in his “nowhere wheel” and run for hours on end. He would then get off, have a bite to eat, rest, get a drink of water, and then begin again. I never could figure out why he put so much energy into something that left him in the same place he started. Have you ever felt like Herman the Hamster? That life was going nowhere fast, and all you had to look forward to was another round in the marathon wheel of a monotonous life? Have you been scurrying about with all your Christmas traditions, trying to produce some modicum of fulfillment, and still find yourself going in circles? Is it possible that you have been quoting Old Testament passages like, “Vanity. Vanity. All is vanity.”
There is a better Way. There is a Way that doesn’t leave you dizzy, dazed and desiring more. There is a Way that doesn’t make you feel like a termite in a YO-YO. There is a Way that has a destination of hope, peace, and fulfillment. That Way is He who was born in a manger on that wonderful Christmas morning more than 2000 years ago. And our Lord is the one who has come to provide for us hope, peace, and purpose in life. Let me invite you to get off the “wheel of misfortune” and step on to the Road of Life that leads to purpose and peace. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
The Gift of Christmas awaits and believe me, it’s much better than a hamster.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.