Friday, November 18, 2011

The Christ in Christmas

Edited to addSorry about the self-righteousness here. Even though I don't go on these Compassion trips, I still have some "re-entry" problems after them. It's hard to reconcile first-world values with pressing world need, but self-righteousness is never the answer. 

Have you noticed something peculiar lately?

Christmas now comes after Halloween.

I find it audacious that retailers switched the order of our holidays, without consulting us. But then, I only go to Walmart, so perhaps it's just Sam Walton and Co.?

I used to like Christmas, but that changed about six years ago, when we went to one income. Did you know Christmas is something you have to afford? If that's never occurred to you before, you haven't been hard up. Or maybe you never celebrated an American Christmas to begin with.

Even taking away all the presents and decorations and greeting cards and special outings, holiday food itself stretches a grocery budget, unless you stick to the basics.

If you lose your income, what's left of this holiday? If it's not the presents, decorations, cards, or big meals, what is it? What is Christmas--given that Christ was probably born in the fall, and no one from the Bible actually celebrated Christmas, beyond that first one featuring baby Jesus in the manger?

There's nothing wrong with remembering the gift we have in Christ's birth. His birth means everything to the Christian. Without it, we have nothing but the Law.

So, looking at the word Christ in Christmas, are we to contemplate and give thanks for Christ, more than we normally would in our busy schedules?  Most breadwinners do get at least one day off for Christmas, giving us more time for contemplation and thanksgiving, if we slow down.

Let me offer something else here. What about contemplating and acting out the lessons Christ came to teach?

Mark 12:30-31

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

When vast amounts of money are spent in decorating houses already more lavish than what 94% of the world lives in, and more money is spent buying gifts for people who already have everything they need to overflowing, are we practicing anything at all that Christ taught?

Let's review the American Christmas. We don't slow down to contemplate and give thanks for the unfathomable gift that Christ is to us. In fact, we speed up this time of year. That speeding up indicates we aren't loving God like this:  with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

And we don't love our neighbor as ourselves in this season, either. Giving gifts to people who don't have what they need would satisfy this commandment. For this is how we would want to be loved: To be cared for in our time of need (including loneliness, not just physical need). To not be forgotten.

We all need to contemplate what Christmas should be, not what it is. When shopping this year, rethink buying something for someone who already has everything they need. How does this honor Christ and what he taught?  How does it commemorate anything, other than first-world greed?

We're to be set apart for Christ. That means we don't do what everyone else does; we don't love the world. We love Christ and we do what Christ does.

Christmas occurs in the heart, not at the check-out counter.

1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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