Lately, I have noticed that people have become far more casual about things than they used to be. Things just seem to be watered down more than when we were kids. Back in the day, there were only four or five channels to watch on television and now, there are literally many hundreds of channels to choose from. Of course, there is much more programming needed to fill all this air time and most of it is, well, garbage. But that seems to be okay, because at least it keeps the kids occupied. Movies of the season are being replaced by mindless programming – turning our kids into young adults who really don’t know what they even stand for. We are turning into a society of people that waters down almost everything in the spirit of being politically correct.
Merry Christmas has become Happy Holidays and even the White House Christmas Tree has been dubbed a Holiday Tree this year. I almost can’t remember the last time that a store owner actually wished me a Merry Christmas and quite frankly, I miss the decisiveness of the past. Let’s face it – Hanukkah is the Jewish celebration, Christmas is the Christian celebration and not to be outdone, we now have Kwanzaa celebrating the African American heritage. Of course, this has only been around since 1966 or ’67, but it seems that everyone has to get in on the act.
And although there is no doubt that the idea of giving gifts on Christmas is centuries old, those folks in the retail world have successfully taken the religious overtones out of the holiday and now expect all faiths and cultures to partake in the giving of gifts. Now maybe I am a little old fashioned, but I don’t celebrate Hanukkah and most of my older Jewish friends don’t celebrate Christmas. And you know what – we are not afraid to respect and openly discuss our respective differences about the holidays.
But I am sure that younger families would be worried if they didn’t buy gifts for their kids on Christmas, even if they aren’t Christian. And more and more, there are pretenders to the holiday – those folks who participate in the concept of Christmas but really just disavow the religious basis of the celebration. In other words, people take the freedom to do what they want to do to make the celebrations fit their own idea of what they should look like.
It’s kind of like giving every kid a trophy for just showing up, or not holding kids accountable in school. These days, if you miss an assignment, you have until the end of the semester to get it in – and if you don’t like your grade on a test… well, just take it again and get your first score erased. What’s happening to our society? No matter how hard people try, we will never become a society of people who all believe the same thing and it is important to keep our traditions and honor God in the process, assuming, of course, that we believe in God.
While Jesus certainly believed in forgiveness and supports us in our attempts to minimize sin, there are certain things that Jesus expects from us as His followers. We are to worship God, we are to love one another, we are to extend forgiveness to others, we are to pray, we are to give of our time and our treasures to advance the kingdom of God on earth; and we are to spend our lives growing more Christlike in our behavior – progressively sanctified…
In order to do that, we must re-dedicate ourselves to the practice of the disciplines that God has set forth for us to follow in obedience to Him. And that means that we must acknowledge that there are differences between us and that we all don’t believe the same thing – and you know what? In the ultimate analysis, that is okay. Because some of us will choose to believe and some of us won’t – it’s as simple as that. God gave us free will.
Our verse for this evening recognizes the desire of Jesus to reinforce His hope for us. We are told, in Mark 7:8, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” These words were spoken by Jesus Himself. My encouragement this evening is that it is okay to be different from your neighbor. Jesus wants us to follow Him, not doing what is necessarily popular by the world’s standards. My prayer this Christmas is that you will reinforce the Christian traditions of the holiday and teach your children the traditions of God. Merry Christmas! – and have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…