“Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.””
Acts 26:32 NIV
Freedom has so many definitions in our world. Most of them are defined by our desire to justify our position or our place at whatever moment we are in because we aren’t really sure of how to do it better. We redefine ‘free’ so we can feel ‘happy.’ What does it mean to be ‘set free?’
In this story Paul was in chains for his beliefs, but considered himself free. His predicament certainly seemed to portray the opposite reality, and his observers agreed.
“Are you happy?” People ask us this and, though we can think of many reasons we are not, we say ‘yeah sure I am!’ (Just like when we tell our hairdresser we love their work and then go home and complain about it to our family and friends) Deep inside, a lot of the time, we are wondering why we can never honestly feel that happiness, or at least why it never hangs around that long, or seems to fade when we tuck ourselves into bed at night… Freedom, unlike happiness, is different and not dependent on a smile or circumstances being perfect. Freedom is the thing that can exist in the valley or on the highest mountain tops. We can cry and be free, we can mourn and be free, we can be mistreated and misunderstood and be free and we can hurt, yet still be free.
Perhaps that’s why we can’t find ‘happiness’ because it’s not actually what we really need or what we are seeking. We have got happiness confused with freedom and so we are looking for ‘freedom’ in places where the temporary version ‘happiness’ is found.
It’s not possible to be happy all the time, though we can quite easily cast out a facade of happiness to whoever we wish. Out of 100 selfies we usually get one or two that are social media quality!
Hair – ‘tick’
Brows – ‘tick’
Smile – ‘tick’
My good side – ‘tick’
Background scene looks inviting – ‘tick’
No food in teeth – ‘tick’
Appropriate hastags – ‘tick’
We can be trying so hard to look happy and like we’ve ‘got it together’ until we snap and feel we need to publicly fall in a heap. To those observing we ‘suddenly’ have the opposite extreme because we’ve done such a great job hiding the inner disharmony. It’s freedom we are missing and peace we are really wanting. We need a definitive answer to the question that rolls around in every one of our minds… ‘Am I actually ok?’ Not one of us is immune to it.
Freedom is found in the story of December 25. It’s about a love that says, ‘even if what’s around me doesn’t seem right, I’m ok and I have a purpose.’ It’s about a God that says, even if you’ve dropped the ball I’ll help you pick it up and even show you how to hold better, throw better and catch better… and there’s no time limit or pressure, I’ll give you my full attention until you are confident again.
Freedom is found in knowing that, though what I see isn’t all as I would like it, I am ok and valued and worth something. People may not see it or always acknowledge it, but in Christ I am valuable and loved.
What I see in the news and online and my previous religious experiences with people, and even churches, have given me a perception of a god very different from this. As Christians we are not void of the ability to get it wrong and portray our God falsely, and some do it more than others, but we try to do it better as we get to know him better. But the truth of it is that there actually is freedom to be found in the one who is the reason why Christmas is even a ‘thing’ in our world. Jesus’ birth was the start of the story of how we could finally link our brokenness to his love and and be free from the pressure to have to have it all together.
We don’t need to be perfect to be loved, because he who is perfect loved us enough to render all our weaknesses and imperfections invalid and eternally inconsequential upon our confession of belief in him. Nothing more need be done! That’s the gift of Christmas!!