Friday, November 25, 2011

'Tis The Season For Taking Out, Putting Back, And Finding Christmas

Today, as I write, is what has become known as "Black Friday," that conspicuous consumption day after the day of consuming great eats for Thanksgiving. All of a sudden those who gave "Thanks" show that gratitude by rushing to shop for Christmas, which is still a month away.

This year, just yesterday, somehow, out of nowhere, in a mad rush to get more of the Black Friday dollars, a few stores began Black Friday on Thanksgiving Thursday.

And many shoppers happily complied. To garner big savings. I guess that was one more thing to add to the "What I'm Thankful For" list this year. My big fear is that Thanksgiving will get squeezed out of the picture as "Thankful Thursday" takes over the consumer landscape. And we'll complain when no one says "Happy Thanksgiving" anymore. Retailers will greet us with "Happy Thankful Thursday" and lure us into earlier shopping instead of spending time with out families. Eventually someone will complain that "no one said Happy Thanksgiving" to me. But still they'll shop and spend. Doing it for the ones they love, saving big bucks. Why spend time when you can spend money? Why waste time with loved ones you may never see again when you can waste money on stuff that won't matter once it's opened?

Thanksgiving will come to resemble Christmas. The "real" meaning of Christmas gets more and more lost in the shuffle as people rush to do more and more and spend more and more and none of it even begins to "look like Christmas." And then some people complain because no one says "Merry Christmas" anymore. "They've" taken Christ out of Christmas!

"Put Christ Back In Christmas" becomes the rallying cry for Christians. Don't let "them" keep taking Christ out of Christmas!

Well folks, the "they" is "us". We took Christ out of Christmas and we can put Christ back. How? We can find Christ in Christmas.

Putting Christ in Christmas is more than saying "Merry Christmas." If you tell someone "Merry Christmas" and then do nothing to ensure they have a Merry Christmas, what have you accomplished? Even non-Christians can say the words and they have no real meaning to them, it's just another paid holiday.

If you insist people greet you, whether they believe in Christ or not, with mere words and then do nothing to show them the Christ of Christmas or live the Christ of Christmas, what have you accomplished?

If you really want to put Christ in Christmas, then find the Christ of Christmas. Where is Christ? He's at the homes of the poor and hungry and lonely. Those who'll have nothing under the tree. You want Christ in Christmas? Then stop getting all up in arms about words and get your arms busy showing the love of the Word.

Get hung up on what matters and stop getting wound up about what doesn't.

Christ is going to go without a lot this Christmas and we can do something about that. But it will take more than saying "Merry Christmas" to do it. And, by the way, nobody is stopping you from saying it to anyone you want to. Nobody is stopping you from finding the Christ of Christmas either.

But to do that, we'll probably need to spend some of those dollars on the poor and spend some of that time helping those in need instead of lining cash registers. We won't find Christ in the rush of dizzy conspicuous consumers waiting to spend big to save big.

He'll be at home with those who can't even dream of doing that.

If  Christ is out of Christmas, it's our fault. We can put Christ back in Christmas. First we may just have to find Christ in Christmas.

We can do it. He'll show us the way but that means we have to follow instead of run ahead. It means we need to read Matthew 25: 31-46 below and take it to heart.

In our family, we give Jesus a present every year. It's His birthday. Not ours.

And I am grateful!

(Matthew 25: 31-46 from The Message
31-33"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
 34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

   I was hungry and you fed me,
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me a room,
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
   I was sick and you stopped to visit,
   I was in prison and you came to me.'

 37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
 41-43"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

   I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
   I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
   I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
   Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

 44"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'
 45"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'
 46"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."