Saturday, December 3, 2011

*The headlines on the Drudge Report on the day after “Black Friday” tells it all.  This was the list of articles relating to the activity and excess of that day.  
  • Black and Blue Friday
  • Woman pepper sprays other Black Friday shoppers ‘to gain an upper hand...”
  • ‘Competitive shopping’ turns into chaos...
  • ‘Girls Punching Each Other’ Over Yoga Pants Sale at Victoria’s Secret...
  • VIDEO: Mayhem over $2 waffle maker...
  • Two women insured in brawl...
  • Woman shot, robbed in SC after midnight shopping trip to WALMART...
  • NC police use pepper spray to break up melee...
  • Grandfather smashed to ground as he tried to protect grandson from crowd...
  • Police taser WALMART customer...

As I read these headlines the song that came into my mind was, “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...”  I know it sounds a bit cynical, and I’m not criticizing anyone who tries to be a “value shopper.”  It does, however, illustrate the challenge we face at this time of year: finding balance in our Christmas celebration.  How do we make Christmas joyously special without it becoming either paganized or overly commercialized?  Is the answer a kind of “sanctified Scroogism” that spends most of its time attacking almost everything, or can I keep my head to make the holidays happily holy?!  I am very well aware that the holiday season is surrounded by the silly, the superficial, and the senseless.  I also realize that at the same time there is a definite openness of people’s souls that we can capitalize on to see the true spirit and message of Christmas reaching as many people as possible. Is there a way that holiday traditions can be applied without allowing an undermining worldliness to clutter our celebrating?  How about a few suggestions:

1. Why not be more like the shepherds?  The angels incredible announcement to them on that “night of nights” was "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.”  Their response is still the correct one over two millennia later, “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” (Excerpts Luke 2)

2. Purpose that your goal will be to embrace community not consumption.  The practice of gift giving is a tradition that has roots in the original Christmas story, which is a good thing.  However, try to remember that the things that really have value is relationships in home, church and those we work with.  This will help me approach this season without becoming overwhelmed by all the things that must be done in order to have a “good Christmas.”

3. Practice the wisdom of (1Pet.3:15) which says, “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”  This is not hype but rather a hope-filled witness to an inquiring world, which is especially applicable to our traditional year-end holidays.  I can’t think of too many things that are more likely to open hearts to Christ than being exposed to the joy of Jesus in a home or congregation where people have learned to make the holidays happily holy.  Sanctify the Lord Jesus first - centering everything around Him.  Then rejoice!  Let people learn what it is to live in the liberty that the truth and Spirit of Christmas really bring.

4. Always keep in mind Who and Why we celebrate at this time of year.  (Isaiah 9:6,7) contains mind-boggling truth about the Child Jesus, the Son who was born on Christmas day!  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”  In the Name and Person of Christ is reality that answers to every need in the human heart!

The bottom line this year and every year is that it is impossible to live up to all the hype of Christmas....without Jesus!  Think about it, Christmas without Jesus is a holiday that celebrates nothing.  Holiday trees, secular music and solstice winter celebrations are all fine, but they become a celebration of nothing.  I’m not a serial killer about taking Christ out of Christmas, but it is sad and sets up people for a horrible letdown.  Without Christ, nothing can live up to the hype of Christmas.  After the Civil War, when the Union troops captured Richmond, wagonloads of Confederate money were taken from the city.  In the evenings during that trip, the Union troops would play poker with Confederate money. It wasn’t an important game.  In fact, it was a meaningless game.  The money was absolutely worthless.  This reminds me of Christmas without Christ: it’s like the poker game that isn’t real; and, when it’s over, nobody wins in the game.  On the other side, because of the coming of the Messiah, you know what’s important.  You know truth that nobody but you can know because of Him!  This is the Christmas Spirit that we contend for year after year, and not just limit it to a holiday, but make it our goal to walk in that spirit all 365 days of the year!

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