12 Days of Christmas Countdown – DAY THREE

– Invitation to Open Your Hand –

A clenched fist keeps us from receiving Christmas blessings

Have you ever heard the story about how to catch a monkey? Supposedly in Africa and India, the natives will hollow out a coconut and put a peanut or banana inside. When the monkey reaches inside to grad the food and wrap their fist around it, they are unable to pull their hand back out while still clenched. The natives will put a string around the coconut and pull it to capture the monkey.

In reality, the monkey is never truly trapped. All he has to do is let go of the food and remove his hand. But apparently monkeys do not like to let go of treats once they have been obtained. So they end up getting captured because of their unwillingness to let go.

I checked this story out on Snopes.com (a site for checking urban legends), but still wasn’t able to verify whether or not it’s true. But the principle behind the story is still true, whether or not this is actually how you catch a monkey. The point is that just like the monkey, we get trapped by things we should let go of. We grasp for things that are not ours to hold onto.

As I think about Christmas, there is one character from the Christmas story who makes me think about grasping fists. His name is Herod. He came to be known as “Herod the Great,” but that is a misnomer. Any greatness He had came in the form of great cruetly and corrupt leadership.

The thing he is most remembered for is the “slaughter of the innocents,” (Matthew 2:16) as it came to be known. This is when he ordered the murder of all boys in Bethlehem under the age of two. He was attempting to kill Christ – the prophesied King – to prevent anyone from taking his throne away from him. And to be absolutely certain that his plan succeeded, Herod callously wiped out dozens, perhaps hundreds, of children. This brutal massacre was the height of living a “grasping fist” kind of life.

Herod feared losing power. He feared losing position and status. He feared losing control. And although it’s difficult for most of us to even imagine ordering the execution of babies, in reality we’re not all that different from Herod. Too often we, too, live a “grasping fist” kind of life. We cling to our desire for power, and we grasp after control. And the very things we grasp after end up trapping us, just like the monkey and the coconut.

Herod’s story is the dark side of Christmas. It’s the side of Christmas we don’t like to dwell on. It’s a story filled with evil desires and rebellion against God. But the reason Christ came 2,000 years ago was to save us from having to live in this dark Christmas story. Christ alone is the one who frees us and invites us to unclench our fists.  When my hand is clenched, I am in bondage. When my hand is open, I am truly free to receive all the Christmas blessings God has give.

Where today are you living a grasping life? Take a moment and open your palms as a sign of Christmas surrender to God. Give Him control over your day and let Him give you back the freedom and “Joy to the World” that He longs to shower on you.

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