Like the teacher in my novel, I grew up following the world’s formula for success. Gain some kind of professional identity. Then achieve, achieve, achieve, for the sum of your achievements equals your root value.
I still remember the Christmas when this traditional paradigm was turned on its head. I read in the Bible that God knows we are all underachievers, unable to control the evils in our lives from both within and without. He knows we are unable to carry out our best intentions even when we drive ourselves crazy trying. Our worth is not grounded in what we do, but on what God does on our behalf. Christ’s mysterious birth sets in motion his ultimate sacrifice. Jesus dies the death we all deserve for our abysmal performance in this fallen world. The Star of David points directly to the cross and answers the heartbreak of a creator who desires peaceful reunion with his damaged creation.
This year, I’ve started a new memoir. Looking over the stains and disappointments of my youth, I marvel that God could love me at all. But if I am not the sum of my success, neither am I the sum of my sin. Jesus frees me not only from striving, but from shame. This season, as I look outside my wintery window, I really do feel whiter than snow. Joy to the world, to all who need to feel clean, the Lord is come, to set us free. Let earth receive her king, may we acknowledge our need for a relationship with the ruler of the universe. Let every heart prepare him room, Jesus is available to anyone who humbly desires his presence in the deepest spaces of their being, and heaven and nature sing! Hallelujah! That’s the Christmas formula for success.