It was sometime around the beginning of October when I began to notice it; the subtle creeping, commercial Christmas. As I recall, Mary and I had headed up to Franklin, North Carolina to enjoy a couple of days away and to marvel at the fall colors decorating the trees that lined the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was indeed a wonderful time of rest and reflection, a little time to get to know one another again; but as with all good things this too had to come to an end. In the late afternoon, as we traveled back down the road toward home the far off taste of chicken and dumplings began to beckon me. You see, I knew that in the not too distant future we would be passing nearby a Cracker Barrel, and sure enough in time, the old sign came into view. We pulled into the now familiar parking lot, requested our traditional table with a view and enjoyed a fine meal together, all the while reminiscing about the joys of the past few days. After the meal we wandered around the store a bit looking at the bobbles and bangles they sell. They do have some really interesting things and some pretty original gifts, if you are into that sort of thing. Nonetheless, as we wandered Mary drifted over to the clothes, so I faded back and worked my way over to toys as is my want in such situations. It was there that I noticed it. Amongst the toys was a nondescript little sign reminding me that Christmas was just ninety some odd days away with the implied warning that I had better get this or that toy while it lasted.
At first I simply assumed that the sign was a stowaway from last year’s season, but upon closer examination it appeared to be newly printed and placed. There were no tattered corners, the paper wasn’t discolored, and the tape had not yellowed at all. So somebody had actually put that thing up three months before Christmas day to get the sales going. It was then that I knew I was getting a bit old for I heard my father speaking when I muttered, “What in the world is the world coming to?” under my breath on the way out to the truck.
Since that time I have pondered what import the mess we have made of Christmas has had upon Christianity itself. What damage, if any, has been foisted on our faith by a world mad for money and our participation in the madness?
I have often preached that we as believers need to beware of being distracted by the commercialization of Christmas, but upon reflection I don’t believe that distraction is the greatest problem. I believe that the debasement of Christ and cheapening the gift of God’s grace is a far greater sin.
Just think of it. God has placed the mystery of the incarnation in our hearts through the coming of the “Babe in the manger,” and we have stood by and allowed the world to put the mystery in a box, wrap it with a bow, and put a price tag on it.
We have even allowed the world to kick Christ off of the public stage, even during the Christmas season. If I hear one more “happy holidays” from the lips of someone yearning to declare “Merry Christmas,” or hear of one more lawsuit against a town with the audacity to place a nativity scene on public ground, I believe I will have to choose between screaming and crying. How about you?
That being said, I am not declaring a moratorium on gift giving. The giving of gifts is a wonderful tradition and one that builds memories that last a lifetime.
I am simply thinking aloud and wishing with all of my heart that those of us who call ourselves Christians could find it in our hearts to place Christ first during this season of celebration; that we who claim to be the ‘children of God’ have the courage to declare “Merry Christmas” because of our unabashed love for Christ; that we put aside some of our worldly pursuits and worldly fears in favor of the things of God.
So celebrate the season with your families. Please don’t neglect that. Buy too much if you wish. Eat too much if you must, but never forget what this season is all about. Never forget why we celebrate.
† Christmas is a time to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child and all that that marvelous moment entails.
† This is the season to celebrate salvation coming to the earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
We must be on guard that the miracle of the Christ Child is never overshadowed by the ways of the world, for that Child came to this world of darkness to bring everlasting light and life eternal.
This Christmas season let us:
† Celebrate the Light!
† Celebrate the Life!
† Celebrate the coming of the “Son of God” into this world to bring us salvation from our sins!
† Celebrate the coming of the “Son of God” into this world to bring everlasting peace, and joy!
† Celebrate the coming of the “Son of God” into this world to bring us His unconditional, everlasting love which is beyond price!
† Celebrate it and pass it on!