Thursday, December 22, 2011

Please Lord, No More Business as Usual

I've seen this picture making the rounds on Facebook.  Most everyone likes it.  Most everyone comments positively on it. I think most Facebooker's see it as a positive 'push back' against the forces that would remove 'Christ' from 'Christmas' - a return shot in the battle to win the Christmas Season back from the Holiday Hordes.

With my recent desire to see the world through Kingdom Eyes, though - through the lens of The Word and the lens of God's great love for his entire world shown to us through Jesus - I can't help but scratch my head.

Jesus might well miss hearing us say 'Merry Christmas', but if I had to guess, I'd think Jesus is missing us hear a great many other things too.  Things much more important than 'Merry Christmas'.

From where I stand, 'Merry Christmas' seems to be just a phrase - a combination of two words put together in such a fashion as to convey some sort of meaning. The meaning of the words change according to the context in which they are used.

To most people in America, 'Merry Christmas' is little more than a pleasant social greeting used especially during the months of November and December, often followed by the phrase 'and Happy New Year'. To most Americans, the phrase 'Merry Christmas' conveys little or no religious or Christian message at all.  For a vast segment of society, it is a social pleasantry, nothing more.

Hence the deafening silence from most people when society began the shift from 'Merry Christmas' to 'Happy Holidays'.  Most don't care either way, because the phrase, to them, is a simple greeting meant to convey nothing more than a 'happy hello' during the last part of the year.

I've also head 'Merry Christmas' used as sort of a curse-word substitute.  We've all heard someone who has received some bad news say in a sarcastic tone, 'Merry Christmas to me!', clearly meaning to convey their disappointment or perceived bad luck in a certain set of circumstances.

So when Social Christians - Christians more concerned with the social battle over the pleasantries and appearances of christian life than the true battle for the hearts of men and women - take solace and rejoice in a shot across the bow of the heathens and pagans in society who are trying to take 'Christ out of Christmas'....... it makes me sad.

Truly.  Sad.

Sad because I think they/we (Christians all) tend to miss the bigger picture here.

Sad because Jesus is not just the Christ of Christmas, but the Christ of all-year-long and all-things-everywhere-all-day-every-day! Forever and ever!

Sad because Jesus is not just the Christ of Christmas in America, but all over the world!

Jesus is the Christ of Christmas in starving villages driven to famine by religious war in Africa.

Jesus is the Christ of Christmas in cities and towns in China and North Korea, where individual liberty is trampled, human rights are denied, and Christians are killed for their faith.

Jesus is the Christ of Christmas in town and cities all across the Middle East, where women are oppressed under draconian governments and dictators and religions.

Jesus is the Christ of Christmas in the streets and alleys of cities across America, where homeless and drug-addled people struggle for survival among the teaming masses of the most prosperous nation the world has ever known.

Jesus is even the Christ of Christmas in the diamond cases of Macy's and De Beer's, on the floors of Toys R Us and Walmart, and in the cozy, smoke and gin filled country clubs of San Francisco and Seattle and New York.

Jesus is the Christ of Christmas on the beaches of Miami and San Diego, and atop the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, and the towering Himalayas.  

Jesus is the Christ of Christmas everywhere - all the time.

Not just at Christmas.

Do you see?

I don't think Jesus cares all that much about whether or not American's say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' during November and December.

Instead, I think Jesus cares a lot more about out hearts, and what we do for others during the holidays and throughout the year, than how we greet one another during the holidays.

We say 'Merry Christmas', but do we help someone in need, or pass them by?

We say 'Merry Christmas', but do we pray and talk with those who are spiritually hurting, or wonder why 'so and so never seems to be able to get their act together'?

We say 'Merry Christmas', but do we love those who wish us ill will, who offend us and hurt us, or do we look for ways to get even and punish people, putting them in their 'rightful place'?

We say 'Merry Christmas', but do we flip off and curse at the guy that just cut us off in traffic, or do we lovingly pray for them and forgive them, and consider that they might be having a very bad day?

We say 'Merry Christmas', but do we say hurtful and mean things to the waitress at the restaurant that got our order wrong, or do we extend patience and kindness in the same way we'd want to be treated if we were the waitress?

You see, Jesus does care about Christmas, but he cares because Christmas is a part of  everything that he cares about. He cares about December 25th the same as March 2nd or September 30th, or any day of the year.

I think the goodness and joy that people display to each other during the holiday season is a fine thing.  Any increase in goodness is good, ya know? I'll take whatever increase in goodness that comes.

But we need to be about more than that.

I am convinced that we -people of the Kingdom of God, the adopted Children of God and followers of Jesus Christ - owe it to our Lord and Savior to be about wishing the world a truly merry Christmas every day of the year.

We can't afford to save it up for the Christmas holidays.  We need to be about the work of the Kingdom every day - right now.

Why do we save up the giving of gifts until December 25th?  Are people not in need all year long?

Why do we feel led to bless people more in December? We look around in America and see the cold and hungry.... are not these same people hot and thirsty - and hungry - in the summer?

Do you realize Christmas in the southern hemisphere is in the middle of a blistering hot summer? Santa comes on water skis.

What I'm trying to say is what I heard preached last week from the pulpit - take a look at the world through the lens of scripture.  See with Kingdom Eyes, as I like to say.

Realize that the institutional traditions of this world have very little to do with serving Jesus and advancing his kingdom - and even some of the institutional traditions in our churches really have little to do with serving Jesus.  Most traditions are for the comfort and stability of a community, little more.

Gift giving is fun and brings great joy - and I'm not saying don't give gifts or celebrate Christmas in America.  It's a wonderful American tradition that brings many families together and does tend to focus our attention on more goodness in society, and I'm all for that. But celebrate it and understand it as a cultural tradition, not an attempt to honor Jesus' birth.

Christmas, as celebrated throughout most of America, has almost nothing to do with honoring Jesus, or being thankful for his birth. That should be done in our hearts and minds every day.

Remember, first century Christians did not celebrate anything even remotely like Christmas.  There was no celebration of Jesus' birth in the winter, but instead a daily celebration of his resurrection from the grave and victory over death!

Jesus said in Luke 9,
"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."
Not just at Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Easter.


The world can't afford for Christians not to do this daily.  We are the light of the world, and the world needs to see this light every day.

Jesus said in Luke 17,

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day.  In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.
“And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building— until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
Business as usual.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 12 saying, 
"The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
I just can't do business as usual anymore. Time is short, both in my own life and in the admonitions of scripture. We need to be about telling a world that buys and sells, farms and builds, just like people did in Lot's day, that time is short! 

Paul says in Romans 13, 
“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
"So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Time is short. The night is nearly over. It's time for Christians to awaken to the true reality of Jesus Christ in this world, and live in that truth!

Lord, teach us to realize that Jesus Christ permeates everything in our lives, in every way, whether we see it or not.  Teach us to see the truth of The Living Word in our world,  and to reorient our lives around Him.  Teach us to clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ, and let the very real truth of his death and resurrection inform and direct every action we take.

Some are awakening, and lives are being transformed.

Please, no more business as usual, Lord.  Wake us up!