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Monday, December 24, 2007

Rethinking Christmas - Part I

This year I have sought to rethink or recover Christmas. I have faced a great deal of opposition in my attempt but I believe it is something that must be done. Every Christian is called to discern whether the things that they do is founded in scripture rather than merely following the influences of the world. In my search for the true way in which to celebrate Christmas many traditions have been called into question. It is not that I want to be a grinch (which I have been called) nor am I trying to do away with many of the good and beneficial things that are involved with Christmas. My aim is to celebrate Christmas in the best possible that brings glory to God alone in the most biblical way. In our society the existence of pluralism has caused most to think that if something is not inherently evil then it must be good and okay to partake of but the problem is that God gave us a best and when we are not constantly seeking after His best then we are not only hurting our selves (and missing out) but we are sinning against God by rejecting what He has given us to do. Now that I have given my explanation of what I am attempting to do here is my first issue:

SANTA - SOVEREIGN SAINT OR SACRILEGIOUS SYMBOL?


"Y
ou shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
- Exodus 20:4-6 (NASB)

The Bible says that we are to have no other gods besides the one true God. We are not to crave an idol, worship nature, or make up a god that fits to our liking. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve mankind has time after time been guilty of breaking this commandment and I believe the guilt continues. The modern day deception of the story or believing in Santa Claus falls into this category. I know that many will read this and begin to burn with indignation, wanting to verbally tear me apart and I understand. How could someone question the telling of children about Santa? It is not that hard when we look at scripture and the true reason (meaning) of Christmas. From the birth of Jesus Christ people have celebrated Christmas by praising God for sending the Savior into the world as payment for our sins. That is the historical and biblical reason for Christmas, no matter what cultural or spiritual background you are from. But for most around the world Christ has faded from our focus with Santa stepping into the spotlight. Children are raised being told that Santa is going to come to their home and bring them gifts. At the same time, those raised in Christian homes are taught that God is real, that He is the Creator, Sustainer, and that He sent Christ to be born of a virgin for forgiveness of sins. For that I am thankful but how is a child supposed to process this determining fairy tale from eternal truth. Sadly a child is not. With our cultures influence through media, children are receiving more messages about Santa and consumerism attempting to trump the belief in God and Christ. If we look at what we teach children about Santa we can see that we have created a god out of him. Like the the songs says, "he knows when you are sleeping/awake, when you've been bad/good so be good for goodness sake." Just in those little phrases we have made Santa into an omniscient and moral being. Then if you look at all the stories that revolve around Santa we find that he controls time and matter making him out to be sovereign and omnipotent. The only thing that he lacks, it seems, in comparison is omnipresence but as fast as Santa visits the world he comes close. Is Santa sovereign or is God the ruler of all things? I know you are probably thinking what is wrong with this guy and his deal with Santa? (Did he not get what he asked for?) It is nothing like that. I think that first and foremost the manipulation of an innocent child's mind is wrong and a lie that we will be held accountable for to God. (And no I am not a Puritan but the Bible says "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak , they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." - Matt. 12:36-37 NASB) This is especially dangerous in our pluralistic culture where every belief has been leveled out to be equally true. When we teach a child about God and Christ while at the same time we are telling them about Santa we are setting them up for unbelief. Eventually they are going to find out that Santa is a lie, either from you or a punk friend but when they do what do you think will happen to their belief in God? Of course it will be questioned. Well if my parents, in whom I trust have taught me about God and Santa and now Santa has turned out to be a lie what about God? That is a great tragedy that many kids, teenagers and adults are dealing with as I write. Giving gifts and surprising kids is good but when we shadow those things with a lie Christmas is lost and we are only celebrating the consumerism of our culture. So what if you are a parent that has already followed after the influence of the world - you can still do what is best! Confess to your children, tell them that you lied and that you were wrong and begin to explain and celebrate the true reason of Christmas. What a wonderful teaching moment for a parent to have with their children. It is a great lesson of repentance and a change of life that God desires from all of us. Remember parents, you will be held responsible for how you raise/train your children before God. Next if you are a parent and have not began the Santa story with your children yet, stay strong in your faith and stay close to the word of God. It is our only foundation on which to stand. And do not be condemning toward those that do Santa but help them one on one (not in front of the kids) to understand that God had something better planned for us than deception. Then for those that have been raised to believe in Santa as a child and now understand the true mean and reason for celebration - do not be bitter toward your parents. Forgive them and love them trying to show the truths of God's word through your actions. Many times we love to find truth and jump to condemn anyone else who does not see/understand it but we must be patient, as God is with us, as to bring them to understand God's best (His truth).

Just in closing I want to tell you a true story to bring this home:
A little girl had been disobedient to her mother. The mom came to her and told her that she had been doing wrong and the girl sadly turned her head to the side and began to mumble. Her mother thought that she was praying and saying that she was sorry for being bad. Well she was praying and she was apologizing for being bad but she was praying not to God but to Santa Claus because she did not want him to not come to her house.

That story among many others is just a small reason why the lie of Santa is so awful. God gave us the best, His Son, Jesus Christ born of a virgin as our gift for salvation. That is why we celebrate Christmas and the ultimate gift giver - God. Please think about theses things and search God's word for the truth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Conquered by Christ

This was posted at Desiring God yesterday:

The only statement Timothy McVeigh left behind when he was executed in Indiana, June 11, 2001, was a handwritten copy of the 19th century poem “Invictus” by William Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Henley’s life (1849-1903) almost exactly parallels that of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) who said that the modern world had rendered God irrelevant so that we could legitimately say, “God is dead.” Corresponding to God’s demise was the rise in Nietzsche’s thinking of the “√úbermensch.” This was the air that Henley breathed.

Would that Nietzsche, who went insane the last 12 years of his life—and Timothy McVeigh, who claimed the rule of his soul till he lost it—had both seen the beauty of being ruled by Christ. It is fitting that a virtually unknown poet of the early 20th century, Dorothea Day, should write the counterpoint to Henley’s poem. “Invictus” means “unconquerable”. Dorothea Day’s poem is called “Conquered.”

Out of the light that dazzles me,

Bright as the sun from pole to pole,

I thank the God I know to be,

For Christ - the Conqueror of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance,

I would not wince nor cry aloud.

Under the rule which men call chance,

My head, with joy, is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears,

That Life with Him and His the Aid,

That, spite the menace of the years,

Keeps, and will keep me unafraid.

I have no fear though straight the gate:

He cleared from punishment the scroll.

Christ is the Master of my fate!

Christ is the Captain of my soul!

Which will be true of you?