Lighting the Candle
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down
from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
When today’s Scripture tells us not to be deceived, it’s a pretty good indication that we might be deceived about something. In this case it’s a matter of being deceived about God’s goodness as we go through hard times. In today’s text James is writing to Christians going through difficult trials (James 1:3-12), tempting them to doubt God’s goodness.
There is a tendency to doubt God’s goodness when trouble strikes and things don’t turn out as hoped. We slip into a “Santa Claus theology” of God as some remote, omniscient being who keeps lists on the naughty and nice. Like Santa, He brings gifts for the good boys and girls, and lumps of coal for the bad. Then He’s off with scarcely a thought paid Him until next year.
But today’s text affirms the goodness of God even when things go wrong. James says that “every good and perfect gift” comes down from Him. All of God’s gifts are good, and they are good because God’s very nature is good. All of the good gifts, from the love of family, the taste of the Christmas pie, and the sound of the choir singing “Gloria”: these gracious gifts come down from a God who is good. As we go through hard times it’s important to remember that God is good, and His gifts are always good, even “perfect” for each of us.
James says that these good and perfect gifts come down to us from the “Father of heavenly lights”. The “heavenly lights” was a Hebrew way of talking about God as the Creator of the sun, moon, stars and planets. Our Father created them all. The sun gives us light by day, then goes down at night. Sometimes the light of the sun is even eclipsed. The moon waxes and wanes and is often dark. The planets and stars move and shift in the sky. The heavenly lights are variable and changing with the days and seasons.
God is not like that, James says. God does not “change like shifting shadows”. His goodness is constant and reliable. There are no days when God’s love stops shining on us. There are no days when God stops giving His good and perfect gifts. Nothing can ever eclipse His love.
Do not be deceived about this. If you’re going through hard times and tempted to think that God is stingy, trust that He is a good God who always gives His children good gifts. But not just “good” gifts, James says, but the “perfect” gift, perfectly suited to you this Christmas.
MOMENT OF SILENCE AND REFLECTION
Our loving God. Thank you for the gifts that you shower on us every day. Thank you for the gift of life, the joy of love and friendship, the cherished memories, the stunning beauty of your creation, and the bright hope for tomorrow. Most of all this Christmas, we thank you for your gift to us of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.