Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Faith and Culture

One of my foremost concerns about Christmas is the way we so easily allow our faith-based celebration of Christ's birth become interchangeable with the cultural observations that share so many of the same symbols.

Christmas marketing - aimed at hawking seasonal goods and services - has not only co-opted the Holy Family, but shanghaied Angels, shepherds and Wise Men too. Human Resources has done everything short of issuing the biblical characters with W-2 forms (or 1099s if they're independent contractors). Mary and Joseph, et al may be good for business... but is business good for Christmas?

Please don't misunderstand me! Yes, I'm a committed Jesus-follower; but I'm also seriously hooked on the festivity and fun of Christmas as a North-American social-cultural phenomenon.

I honestly don't believe there's any kind of a problem with faithful Christians jumping in the Christmas mosh pit (so to speak) and dancing ourselves silly with Santa and the elves. It's all good fun, and the amount of genuine goodwill generated by the show is an awesome commentary on the inherent goodness of people of all faiths and belief-systems.

But I am asking that we keep clear in our own hearts and minds exactly what we're celebrating. It's too easy to play the same games the people over at marketing have perfected, and - in turn - blur the line between faith and fiction on the church side of the equation.

So, here are a handful of gut-check observations:
  • If your god is looking a little too much like Santa, then there's a problem brewing that you might want to address...
  • If conversation about Jesus cramps your Christmas style, then get on your knees and start over...
  • If your prayer-life could be downloaded as a PDF file from the Amazon.com wish list, then it's time to re-explore the relationship aspect of faith...
  • If we plan this year to spend more $$ on stimulating the economy than furthering God's Kingdom, it may be time to re-think the idea of stewardship...
  • If your Christmas morning happily gorges on presents from the North Pole, yet neglects to open the scripture and acknowledge the coming of the King, then something is seriously amiss....
Be encouraged! It's still early in December. Read the following list of suggestions and pick one or more ideas to help get this amazing season of light and hope and joy and peace into proper perspective.
  • Start each day with a (short) devotional reading from The Upper Room
  • Get a copy of my Christmas book, read the stories every day, and make sure you don't miss Christmas by a mile!
  • Attend the church of your choice every Sunday this month (I attend First Presbyterian Brandon). Pick up an Advent devotional guide to read, and invite the Spirit to be your guide.
  • Choose this moment (right now) to ask Jesus to be a part of your Christmas 2010. Try a simple prayer such as this: "Jesus, I'm inviting you into my life. I'm serious about this. I accept your love, I accept everything you've done for me, and I want you to be the most important part of Christmas, and of every day to come. Amen."
God's rich blessings - DEREK

"The rising sun will come to us from heaven," John the Baptist's father said, "to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Luke 1:78-79). The path of Advent peace doesn't interface well with instant, prepackaged, super-convenient, or freeze-dried. The path of peace goes directly through Bethlehem... and then it continues - without hesitation - to Jerusalem and the Cross. (In My Heart I Carry A Star, page 58)

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