Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Battle Over a Holiday

The Christmas tree has begun to go up at our house.
I take my time and decorate it over several days.

Christmas time.  What a jumble of emotions this time of year can be for me.  My childhood memories are of large family gatherings at my grandparents.  This year it is just the four of us, and as the boys begin lives of their own I imagine soon it may be just the two of us.  I miss the large family gatherings.  I miss all those who have left this life, my parents, my younger brother, grandparents, some aunts and uncles- holidays are not the same and those songs on the radio can make me cry.  I get pretty nostalgic this time of year.
ornament my youngest son brought back for me
from his trip to Germany this summer

I love Christmas time.  I love to set up the tree, I love to look out at the lights at night, to see the Christmas decorations come out in all the little towns, and homemade fudge, a tradition of my dad's that I have kept up with.  

But there is something that has started to bother me about Christmas.  Somehow it has become a battlefield.  When did we begin to take offense at being wished Happy Holidays?  I remember this greeting as a child and it was never taken as an insult, something to fight about.  I read Romans 2:24 this morning, "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."  Paul was saying this to those who claimed faith but did not live out that faith, rather doing the very thing they condemned in others.  I wonder what all of our calls for boycotts, letters to the editor, the arrogance with which we throw happy holidays wishes back at those who offered them, are doing to the name of God in society's eyes.  What kind of god are we showing to the world?  The One who loved us and came to die for us while we were sinners and enemies of God?  I keep hearing arguments these days that we are losing the meaning of Christmas, and as Christians we need to speak up.  The meaning of Christmas- I cannot find a biblical call to celebrate it the way we do, or any other way.  What I do find is a call to live at peace in the world.  To "give no offense either to the Jew or to the Greek or to the church of God." (1 Cor. 10:32, NKJV)  I find Scripture urging us to "increase more and more in brotherly love; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing." (1 Thess. 4:10b-12, NKJV)  This one hit me particularly hard when I read it last week.  I was giving a lot of thought to how we should live so as to influence the world and this seems to fly in the face of what I keep hearing we need to do.  
I have had this little nativity since I was a child

I like to use Christmas as a time to focus on the birth of the Lord.  As a believer the fact that Jesus gave up His place in heaven to become a man and die for me is central to my faith.  But we do not live in a world where everyone believes that. I would even venture to guess that we are in the minority.  If I am going to pattern myself after Jesus then I have got to love those people, not alienate them.  Why should it be a threat to me when someone believes differently?  They cannot take my faith away; nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.  It should move me to show more compassion, to love on that person, and pray for them.  What do I gain by picking a fight with them?  Didn't Jesus say something about loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us?  
There is much about our country that makes me sad.  One of my own sons is living the prodigal life these days.  I pray everyday that my words and actions would lead people to see how much the God of the universe loves them.  And I pray even more that my words and actions would not be a cause for them to reject God's gift of grace.

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