Christmas Feelings

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   Hebrews 11:1

There was a huge billboard on the main drag going into downtown, bought by a local mega-church. The message was very simple: “Feel Your Faith!”

I hated that billboard. Faith is not about feelings.  Faith often exists despite feelings.  To equate the two is dangerously misleading.

Do you feel saved?  Do you feel loved by God?  Do you feel like God is walking with you every step of your life?  If feelings were necessarily part of faith, we’d have a lot to be worried about.  My answer to those questions is “No” too much of the time.  That’s why I’m saved by faith.

This brings us, of course, to the topic of Christmas spirit. I hear it every year from one quarter or another.  Someone just doesn’t feel that ol’ Christmas spirit this year.  That starts the downward spiral of sadness and depression.

“I just don’t feel it! What if I don’t feel it soon?  What if I don’t feel it at all?  Christmas will be ruined if I’m not in the swing of things!”

A recent court ruling allowed a public school to leave its Christmas decoration up. The crowd went wild!  They had won a battle against the ACLU or whoever that scrooge was.  How, I wondered, did they ever get past that nonexistent constitutional phrase, “Separation of church and state?”

It was very easy, really. The school board argued that Christmas is not a religious holiday.  Christmas is observed by many faiths in many countries around the world.  If nothing else, it’s a legitimate day off work and a reason for family gatherings.  It has nothing to do with Jesus or religion at all.

The court agreed.

*sigh*

That is, in fact, the prevalent view in secular society. They don’t believe in the whole Jesus thing.  They just really enjoy the lights, the gifts, the decorations, and family get-togethers.  It doesn’t seem to even dawn on them that Jesus’ nom de plume is part of the of the name of the holiday!

Most Christians understand that December 25 is not the day Jesus was born. I won’t belabor that topic except to say that the common understanding is that the hope was to convert the pagans to come to Christ by supplanting their beliefs with Jesus by making it the Lord’s birthday celebration.

“And listen to this, Mr. Pagan, sir! You can keep your trees and candle lights and gift-giving traditions.  We’ll just put a Christian spin on all of that.  What do you say?  I say it’s a win-win!  Yes, sir!  We’ll have you taking communion and getting baptized and doing alter calls before you know it!”

Yeah…that didn’t work out too well, huh? Pagans 1, Christians zip.

Put Christ back in Christmas? Was He ever really there?

Now I REALLY understand why God told the Israelites to marry within their nation. The minute you start letting a few things slide in the time-honored go-along-get-along tradition, that’s the minute you start becoming compromised yourself.  Marrying outside the faith is the first blink.  Whoever blinks first loses.

As Jeff Foxworthy is wont to say, “If momma aint’ happy, ain’t nobody happy. And if momma ain’t happy long enough, you’re gonna be unhappy…with about half of your stuff!”

If momma isn’t a) Jewish back then or b) Christian now, guess who’s giving in to keep the peace?

Yup, whoever blinks first loses. The pagans didn’t blink, so they got to have their cake and eat it too.  The Christians blinked, and before you know it, they’re playing hot potato with a decades-old rum cake instead of preaching about Jesus.

So what do we do about Christmas? Should we be so worried about being in the Christmas Spirit?  Do we need to place so much baggage on a holiday not called for in the Bible?

I haven’t decorated or bought gifts for a good 6 years. That started as a necessity when the economy and my life took sharp turn south.  Without the nerves from preparing for Christmas and the depression of taking everything down again, I find my mental health vastly improved this time of year.  What had been a necessity has become a relief.

Don’t get me wrong; I miss the childhood feelings. I love the music.  There are times I still would like to go back in time to those delicious memories.

I just can’t help thinking that Christmas has to be something else.

Let the comments begin…

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The First Week of Advent

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb;    Luke 1:39-41

Mary finds out she’s going to give birth to the Son of God. She’s also been told that her cousin, Elizabeth, is already six months pregnant.  Mary’s first considered action?  Go to Judah and see Elizabeth.

Nothing says “Road Trip” like new babies!

So begins the first Advent, which lasted more like nine months, give or take. Certainly the better part of a year.  I’m guessing Mary becomes pregnant not too long after Gabriel’s visit.  Since John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb on hearing the news of Mary’s arrival, I say she was pregnant then.  A long trip out, the same trip back to mark the beginning of the 2nd trimester, and she still had Joseph to deal with, the census, and barn birth coming.

Marty had a busier Advent than any of us could imagine. We’re cooking in modern kitchens, putting up decorations, and buying gifts, hopefully on the sly.  Mary’s maybe dealing with morning sickness, a possible betrothal-divorce, and the risks of giving birth even under the best conditions.

I’m sorry…what are we getting ready for again? Jesus’ arrival?  I’m thinking, ah, …no!  He’s been here and gone.  The scripts says He’s doing a return gig to call a wrap on Creation; that’s Cut!  Scene! And Print!

We’re getting ready to celebrate His birth, not another coming. We’re not even doing it anywhere near His real birthday.

Is God ok with us celebrating and appreciating Jesus’ sacrifice? Sure!  Does He enjoy the songs that are written and sung to praise and commemorate His birth?  Absolutely!  It’s when we start straying from the center of that focus that I have to wonder how much if it He likes.

Advent. We’re getting ready, but what for?  We’ve heard the clichés so many times, I doubt we really pay attention to what’s being said; “Get ready for Jesus coming?”

Like I said, physically, He’s been here and gone. Spiritually, he’s already here, in which case we’ve missed the boat with “Getting Ready.”

Try this on; maybe we just need one more Advent. Ever.  Just to get ready to face the reality that He’s here.  Now.  Either in your heart or knocking on its door.  Maybe we need to sweep away the traditions that clog our perceptions like so much plaque in our spiritual arteries.

Get ready. Get set.  Whoops – don’t go!  He’s right next to you!