I usually do a better job than this, so its kinda weird to not feel good about the gifts I gave. Some gifts didn’t seem enough, didn’t look as cool as they did when I picked them out, or maybe they didn’t turn out to be The Gift, the favorite gift of the year.
And I realize that means I’ve been giving selfishly before, in order to make myself feel good about what I gave. But, really, doesn’t it just feel awesome when you know you gave the best gift? Not so awesome to realize that that’s what you care about.
I also felt a bit awkward, or sad, maybe, to receive nice gifts when I never go to bed hungry, or worried about having a roof over my head. My needs are met.
This year Keith and I watched A LOT of Christmas movies, more than I’ve watched my whole life put together. And I bet I got something out them that wasn’t intended. They were full of holiday traditions that have nothing to do with my faith in Jesus Christ. These movies made me realize The Church’s similarity to the Israelites, God’s Chosen people, when they would take on the customs of whatever pagan folks they lived with. Their sons would marry those cute, pagan hotties they met at college, and next thing you know they’re adopting the in-law’s holidays and trying to find a way to fit them into their own faith. They mixed pagan holiday traditions with the rituals God established for them, to set them apart as His own. Can you really honor false gods and the one, true living God at the same time?
No matter what you think of Christmas, you can recognize that it is a mixture of traditions from different faiths. And if we, Believers have been grafted into His family and have become His chosen ones, we also have a calling to be separate from other cultures, set apart for His purposes.
Right now, while yesterday’s memories are fresh, with the mixture of feelings that comes along with every family gathering ( and every family gathering missed ), it’s a perfect time to sort through Christmas traditions and decide which ones to pack away for next year and which ones to discard.
If your best defense of any particular tradition or holiday symbol is “There’s nothing wrong with it” maybe you should dig deeper to see if there’s anything right with it or true in it. The holidays and traditions God established for His people were given to to remind them of specific examples of His grace and mercy toward them.
It’s not an easy thing to do after so many generations of mixing cultures. If you put a manger scene on a pagan holiday object, does it become holy? No, just like putting an asherah pole in the temple was a no-no for the Jews. No way! So there goes a lot of stuff you’d normally buy for the “Secret Santa” exchange for Sunday School next year. Which brings up the question, why do we make such a fuss about giving gifts to people who already have everything they need? It doesn’t seem like that could possibly honor the amazing gift of a humble Savior that we received from God. He gave something we couldn’t give ourselves.
Here’s one way you can tell there’s a problem. It is our normal psychology NOT to defend the truth with a lot of emotion when it is threatened. An innocent person, wrongly accused of shoplifting will express their innocence, and then wait for an apology after they’ve been searched. But if you accuse someone of shoplifting while their pockets are stuffed with stolen goods, they create quite a scene shouting about being persecuted and wrongly accused, and how evil the person is who caught them. They will LOUDLY defend the lie, even after you prove them wrong by pulling unpaid-for merchandise off their person. That volatile anger is one of the red flags that liars rarely resist waving.
That’s why this is such a volatile subject. Want to start an argument? Question the traditions people practice and perpetuate, which they know are based on a lie. That red flag of anger pops right up. Accusations follow. It’s human behavior-speak for “I don’t believe in what I’m doing, but I hate being challenged about it.” Can you think of some traditions that make people angry when challenged? Funny thing is, those traditions are the ones that get people indebted, exhausted, depressed, or burned out during the holiday season.
I’ve never heard anyone get angry if a coworker questions their practice of feeding the hungry or even going to a Christmas Eve church service. I suppose one might get angry if they really didn’t believe in it and felt pressured to be charitable, but otherwise they’d just accept that you don’t share the same faith and move on.
But what happens if you question anyone’s favorite Christmas tradition that’s based on a lie or a false religion? Where does that anger come from? Is it from defending the Truth?
Please don’t leave a comment about your tradition being “based on” a real historical figure or practice. Instead, when you think of the way it has always been practiced by you, personally, is it true? Does it reflect your personal faith in Jesus Christ?
If you leave a comment, why not give an example of a Christmas tradition you could do without next year, in favor of something that rings of Truth, the Truth that set you free? Celebrating Christmas in the traditional, American way doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a Follower of Jesus Christ. How about a tradition that sets you apart from popular culture and labels you as one of God’s own chosen ones?
It’s time to rock the boat. And you can’t rock it if you’re not in it, so this is not directed to people of any other faith. But to you who follow Jesus Christ, some things just might need to fall out of the boat so there is more room to rescue helpless and hopeless people.