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Archive for December, 2013

“The merriness of Christmas is not dependent on whether we are ready to receive it or not, Christmas is merry because the Rod of Jesse is here.” Once again I would encourage all to follow Pastor Uri Brito’s blog. Always from a sincere Pastor’s heart who is even more so a disciple of Jesus. This time of year is a very hard time for many, especially for those who have lost love ones. In these times, Death seems to regain the power that was thought lost . Uri reminds us that the Incarnation assures us that it has not.

How can Christmas be merry when I am grieving?

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Years ago I worked as an associate in a Christian bookstore. As with most retail businesses, Christmas season was a busy time. During one busy day, as a cashier at one of the registers I smiled and greeted an older woman with a friendly, “Happy Holidays! Did you find everything you were looking for?” Her response was not something I had expected from a lady that had just placed greeting cards and many other gifts she was looking to give in this season of giving on my counter for purchase. Her already sour face became even more so, “Happy Holidays!? You mean Merry Christmas! CHRIST-mas! What is wrong with you? Working here and saying “Happy Holidays”!?” It was then that I first experienced a culture war on a phrase “happy holidays” that I was before then totally oblivious to. I knew that many Christians were into picketing abortion clinics and protesting gay marriage but being against happy holidays? I remember thinking after the lady had left me there in disbelief, after the shock had worn off, “What have I gotten myself into?”

In the few years I had been a Christian before that incident I had learned that many churches and Christians believed they had a duty to fight for social causes without really fighting. What I mean is that I had found that many I knew would get angry and talk doom and gloom when it came to cultural differences (homosexuality, certain types of art, Democrats) yet I saw very little when it came to actual justice issues like fighting poverty, violence, inequality and other causes I saw as focal points of action in the New Testament. I had become numb to the “culture war” and didn’t really want anything to do with it, until that “Christian” lady came into my store and made me a target of her rage against the evil of “happy holidays”. That day I became a Christian against the Culture War.

I believe that “Happy Holidays” is a great way to speak and greet one another this season, “Happy holy days”. For far too long there has been a chip on the shoulder of the Christian culture in America and perhaps that chip is the real issue, not some plot to “take Christ out of Christmas”. If that was really a concern then perhaps we would focus on the extreme commercialism that has become the core of our society. This core reaches its fever pitch in the holiday season and we seem to have no problem with it whatsoever, though this American attitude and deeply dedicated custom of consuming is very much opposite of the teaching of the Jesus of the New Testament. In fact the Evangelical bubble seems to be inflated with the American Dream of consuming and autonomy rather than the Ruach Elohim that brings “good news” of the Kingdom of God. Many find their Christian identity in what they hate and are against rather than in the joy and love of their Savior, who I think would never be offended by someone wishing him “happy holidays”. He was a man who was acquainted with grief and yet was completely dedicated to forgiving his enemies. This season is after all about him.

If God is a faithful King who is not offended by “happy holidays”, why should I be offended? If not a friendly phrase, what does offend God? The Bible speaks of God being greatly offended by his people following after idols and other gods, Exodus 32. The Bible elsewhere paints a picture of God, the Great King on a throne who, upon hearing the cries of the oppressed and the poor, stands up and takes action to provide for them “safety”, Psalm 12:5. It is my hope that we would have the same mind and heart of the one we claim to worship. If God is offended by idols and other gods, what idols have been created that we conveniently pretend are okay because they are the norm? Do we go into debt to compete in the Christmas frenzy of gift buying as a show of status? Do we do whatever it takes to get that parking spot, even if we have to cut off and fight someone outside of Dillard’s?  Do we casually pass by the poor without offering “safety” and help because of some unbiblical socio-political justification to assure us that they are on drugs or have gotten themselves in this mess because of bad decisions or laziness? By the way, the Bible doesn’t allow for God’s Spirit filled people to not have compassion even when those assumptions are correct. We are called to help the addict, the lazy, the dirty, the wretched, and the sinner. We are after all, dirty, broken sinners as well. Do not all good and perfect gifts come from God, James 1:17? Yet we will follow after other gods who convince us that we have what we have because of our work and goodness? Do clean clothes and a job really make us better than those without? Is one addiction better than another? When we pass by without compassion, humans created and loved by God we are acting antithetical to the God of the Bible. Let us be authentic disciples. This world has enough pretenders fighting the Culture War, it needs more servants to work the harvest and live out the Kingdom through restorative justice, actions of compassion and the true communicating of the Gospel.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy Hanukkah, for all these greetings presuppose a Sovereign God Who is Holy and involved with this world. Whether ordaining a small amount of oil to last through the darkness or by sending a Messiah through whom to fulfill his promise to make this broken world right again. The time of Advent is a time to reflect on the God who sent his Glory to us in a Rabbi from Nazareth, who then gave that glory to his people in order to bring his restorative justice for healing to all peoples and nations. May we be a people who realize our place as citizens of the Kingdom of God and therefore live according to that Land, the Glory of God to a broken world. Happy Holidays. Grace and peace.

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