As the Christmas season
By Chad Ragsdale
[DEC. 1, 2004] As I think of Christmases when I was growing up, it seems like the weather was colder and there was a lot more snow on the ground during Christmastime than there is today. There are several different explanations for this phenomenon -- a child's selective memory? Global warming? El Nino? Or maybe it is because we start celebrating Christmas at the same time we start back-to-school shopping.
Over the last several years I have gotten into the habit of looking for the first Christmas decorations of the year. This year the first decorations I saw were in Walgreens two days before Halloween. The first Christmas TV commercials mercifully held off until the day after Halloween.
I wish that this annual rush into Christmas were driven by a sense of reverence and anticipation of celebrating Christ's birth. But I'm not naïve. The obvious and unfortunate reality is that most of this annual Christmas furor is driven solely by commercialism and materialism.
When I previously worked at Sears, I asked the management why we had to start playing Christmas carols as early as mid-October, and they responded by telling me that holiday music puts shoppers in a holiday shopping mood. Festive shoppers = festive shopping. At least they were honest.
It is cliché for people in the church, especially preachers, to lecture about recovering the true "reason for the season." Eventually such lectures sound tired and old. But if you will permit me to be cliché for just a moment, let me challenge you.
One of the things that I have tried to point out over the span of my last sermon series on Revelation is the idea that as followers of Christ we are always in conflict with the culture around us. We always face the challenge: Will I conform to the ways of this world or will I surrender my life to the ways of Christ?
There is no time of the year when we are more challenged than at Christmas. It is possible to decorate the tree, unwrap gifts, spend time with family and friends, sip eggnog, go to Christmas parties, have Christmas dinner, and perhaps even go to Christmas Eve service at the church and leave with the false assumption that we have done something that celebrated Christmas.
I am not against any of those things. I love the Christmas season. Like many people, it is my favorite time of the year. But it is possible to immerse ourselves in the "Christmas cheer" of culture and totally forget about Christmas altogether.
This year don't mistake the spirit of the season with the reason for the season.
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