Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Holidays

I have a confession concerning the Holidays; I am a humbug. Now I fully admit that it's partly due to my flesh. Well, maybe more than partially. I am lazy by nature and all the cooking, decorating, buying the tree, untangling the lights, hitting your thumb on the hammer yet again, straightening the tree for the fifteenth time, chasing the cats off said tree, shopping for the wife and kids, wrapping the presents, cleaning up after each said event, ad nausea, really holds no excitement for a man whose idea of a good time is sitting in a comfortable chair with a good book. If physical exercise is required I want productivity; working out, tending to my garden. I want results for my efforts. Selfish, yes I know.

It also has to do with the flat out hypocrisy of the season. The thin veneer of pleasantness that people wear during the Holidays tires my spirit.  The same people that can barely stand each other and were fighting not but thirty days ago suddenly are in the same room kissing cheeks and cooing over unwanted gifts, most fighting again before the beginning of the new year.

Then there is the absolute crass commercialism that now dominates what use to be a special celebration for Christians. I am so sure Jesus came to die on the cross so that we could rush to stores on 'Black Friday', the day after my favorite Holiday, Thanksgiving (yes for the food but most importantly it is a time to give thanks), at an hour that farmers don't rise to, rushing stores for bargains that put us further in debt for things we don't need.

Bah! Humbug!

Can I challenge the Body of Christ (including myself) here for a moment ? Can we really celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year? Can we put aside the things of the flesh for just a moment and look through the trees and the lights and somewhere in there find the real Spirit of Christmas?

Three shepherds over two thousand years ago did. Out minding their flocks one summer night (Jesus was not born on Christmas day, December 25th was the day picked to celebrate his birth, no one knows the real day he was born) suddenly,
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "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 cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:9-14

We've heard this story so many times we've lost its impact. Good Tidings! Great JOY! The Angel didn't come to warn these men that God was going to flood the world like he did with Noah, he wasn't coming to warn them God was going to smite their cities because of their wickedness like he did with Lot,  he came to tell them that God had sent his only Son to make peace with man.

So this Holiday season can we make peace those around us? Not the peace of this world, but with the Love of God. Can we show love to those in our families and our lives who have harmed and hurt us? I'm not saying its going to be easy. For some of you (I'm in this boat), you can't even do it yourself. You will need the Holy Spirit to give you the strength and courage. We need to make peace with them, if possible, for God himself made peace with us.

I have a second challenge. Can we as the Body of Christ make this and upcoming Holiday Seasons less about shopping and more about giving? I know we say, 'it's better to give than to receive'; but do we really believe that? Does giving gifts to those that love us or to those who give gifts in return, is that really giving? Is that a true demonstration of God's love?

I know what my family and I are doing next year (I am embarrassed to say expectations are already set for this year but I am setting them for next year; family take note). Next year I am taking our Christmas budget and we are buying gifts for families that can't afford them and items the homeless need. We are going to wrap them and I am going to have my immediate family deliver them in person. We will then give the rest of the family Christmas cards that say something to the effect, 'Your present this year is you blessed this family with.....' and give them pictures and stories of how the gift we would have given them blessed someone else instead.

Giving gifts to those who cannot give anything in return. Radical? Not really. God did it for you. He gave you his Son so that you might live. And you what did you have to give to him? That's right. Nothing.

May you have a Happy Thanksgiving and a true Christmas of Good Tidings and Great JOY!