with Bob Condly

December 2017

A Negative Nativity?


Feeling excited about Christmas? Or a little somber? If so, you’re not alone. Lots of people battle despair and depression around this time.

Why is that?

Writing for Psychology Today, Ray Williams lists several reasons:

  • Rebellion against excessive commercialization
  • Comparing oneself with others
  • Pressure to spend money you don’t have
  • Expected attendance at undesired social gatherings
  • Loneliness and loss

Which of these have you battled? How many have you observed in your friends, relatives, or co-workers?

Some people react by disparaging the holiday. To borrow a phrase from Spiro Agnew, these “nattering nabobs of negativism” criticize the value of Christmas. Think Scrooge, Old Man Potter, and the Grinch.

And King Solomon.


Didn’t he live centuries before the birth of Christ? Yes, but skim the book of Ecclesiastes and you’ll conclude–this is one gloomy Gus!  

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless’ . . . 14I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14

Not exactly Yuletide sentiments!

The virtues of Christmas–hope, warmth, and generosity–can alleviate meaninglessness and depression. But Solomon points to a problem that the holiday cannot solve.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” – Ecclesiastes 7:8

Jesus’ birthday, while celebratory, was never intended to bear the expectations some folks place on it. A wonderful event, Christmas is but the start of a larger and more magnificent story. And as Solomon stressed, the end is more important.

Through Christmas, we embark on a journey toward the goal of the gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

So you needn’t succumb to seasonal sadness. True, in some respects, Christmas is under attack in America; “Happy Holidays” has replaced “Merry Christmas!”

But regardless of what our culture permits or forbids, we can rejoice in the gift of God’s Son.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.’” – Luke 2:10-11

The purpose of Christmas? That Jesus would become your Lord and your Savior.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

A place in the Father’s family; that’s the blessing Christ’s birth makes possible for you.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” – Galatians 4:4-5

What Was He Supposed to Say?


“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. 23After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone, 24and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. 27But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ 28‘Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to You on the water.’ 29‘Come,’ He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” – Matthew 14:22-33

Think about the logic of Peter’s demand: If You’re the Christ, tell me to come join You. If You aren’t, tell me to stay put.

I love Kenneth Copeland’s insight: “What was Jesus supposed to say, ‘No, it isn’t Me’?”

Peter didn’t give Jesus much wiggle room. I count only three options.


Christ could lie about His identity, but what choice is that?

“It is impossible for God to lie” – Hebrews 6:18

The Father knows His Son.

“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’” – Matthew 3:17

Jesus recognizes His role in God’s plan.

“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.’ 26Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you–I am He.’” – John 4:25-26

He is the Christ; soon afterwards, Jesus will commend Peter for recognizing this fact.

“‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.’” – Matthew 16:15-17

The Lord will never mislead you or deceive you about Himself. You can rely on Him.


I suspect this is what most Christians would expect. Jesus will confirm it’s Him on the water but He’ll reject Peter’s conditions. “Yes, I am the Christ, but no, you can’t presume to work miracles on that basis. You’ve exceeded your authority, Peter; stay in the boat.”

Jesus would have been within His rights to dismiss the apostle’s reasoning. Fearing this, too many believers suppress their requests before they express them. Seeking to honor the Lord, they abort their chance of receiving a miracle.

In your desire to respect God, are you depriving yourself of something special?


Jesus accepted Peter’s terms but He dared him with them: “If you want a miracle, I’m game; let’s go!”

Christ challenged Peter with his own words. No arguments, no instructions, but a simple command: Come!

Did Peter mean it? Only one way to tell–get out of the boat.

And he did!

True, Peter let fear of the storm get the best of him, even though it didn’t make any sense. As Copeland asked, Would it have been any easier to walk on the water if it had been calm?

Impossible is impossible! Only God’s grace and power can make miracles happen, so give up worrying. You don’t have to understand the mechanics of miracles to receive one.

Jesus didn’t criticize Peter, but He did admonish him. “You had enough faith to get out of the boat; your faith, though small, kept you afloat. Trust Me and you won’t sink!”

Don’t bury your wishes; honor Jesus by voicing them without reservation.

And if you find yourself trying to control what God can and can’t do, get ready for the Lord to put those conditions on you. Not to shame you, but to train you.

“All things are possible with God.” – Mark 10:27

“Everything is possible for one who believes.” – Mark 9:23

Don’t worry about trapping Jesus with your cunning; there’s no way you can! But He will use the words you speak to frame the arena in which you experience the miraculous.

with Bob Condly

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