Secularizing Christmas

"The most wonderful time of the year" is one great lyric that describes the Christmas season.  Here at Bridge Church we do not secularize the traditions that we have held for centuries concerning the birth of Christ.  While we may celebrate his Nativity each December with all kinds of traditions, we actually celebrate his coming to earth all year round!  While we may celebrate his Resurrection each Spring with our Easter traditions, we actually celebrate the Resurrection each Sunday of the year!  These national holidays are times when this country recognizes its religious heritage.  I am glad that there are still so many who pay tribute to Christ at these special times.
Yet, as December 25th approaches, we are reminded that we live in an increasingly hostile environment when it comes to the celebration of Jesus' birthday.  It has become potentially offensive to even wish someone a Merry Christmas, or refer to the brilliantly decorated tree downtown as a Christmas tree, rather than the new politically correct term "holiday tree". 
It is funny how no one tries to call Abraham Lincoln's birthday "Log Cabin Day".  We are not pressed to call George Washington's birthday "Powdered Wig Day", "Cherry Tree Day", or "Wooden Teeth Day".  We have no problem recognizing Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in recognition for his efforts for civil rights.  Even Elvis' birthday draws no attempts to change it to some new name that leaves out his name such as "Rockabilly Day".
So why all the uneasiness among the secularists about Jesus Christ as a truly great human figure?  Why is it becoming increasingly popular to secularize His birthday to the point that he virtually disappears?  I think the answer may be in the fact that the name of Jesus Christ has real authority and power.  His name draws one to either worship Him, or feel threatened by his claims.  Even though there are those who have tried to deify some great men,  (There is even an "Elvis Church" in Las Vegas where you can get married)  the fact is nobody feels threatened by Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., or Elvis Presley.  We all know that whoever they were, and whatever they did, they are all in their graves, and have no claim upon our lives in any spiritual way.  Christ, on the other hand, claimed to be God in the flesh, Savior of the world, Judge of the world, and Coming King!
In a way it is a credit to the power of Christ that his name creates, at the same time, such adoration, worship and recognition as well as such scorn, spite, and resentment.  If he were just another great teacher or just another good deed doer, his name would not be so offensive to the militant secularists.  If he was only remembered for making some great contribution to mankind, but did not make his amazing claims to be the One before whom we must ALL stand one day to give account of our lives, modern America would not have a problem with calling it a Christmas tree, saying Merry Christmas, or having the celebration of His birthday be recognized in clear terms.
"The most wonderful time of the year" is indeed, upon us.  The prophecies of God's prophets were fulfilled in Him and are still being fulfilled.  The aged Simeon said, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against..."  Simeon foretold that this Jesus would shake things up!  He would elevate some and bring down others!  He would have detractors, enemies!
While it may seem offensive to those of us who love and worship Christ to see the popular culture play games with the holiday that celebrates Jesus’ birth, in a way, it should affirm our faith in Him!  Only a truly Holy God/Man could illicit such scorn from the unholy.  Only a truly great man could threaten the small minded.  Only One who was truly God in the flesh could bring out the best as well as the worst in fallen mankind.  This was foretold, and we see it with our very eyes.  This same dynamic was why he was crucified, why Christians were martyred, why the gospel is resisted, and why the current societal power brokers want to place Christ in the shadows of our culture.
For those who understand scripture, this present darkness makes the bright light of Bethlehem shine even brighter!  Let's keep our witness clear.  Let's make the most of the season as long as we have freedom to do so.  Let's invite our friends, co-workers and neighbors to celebrate Jesus' birthday with us as we present the Christmas story through song, drama, worship and proclamation.  Maybe some will see Christ in His true light, and be led to accept Him as Savior and Lord!

 "Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time."  Oswald Chambers
" Bees that have honey in their mouths have stings in their tails."  French proverb
"The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others."   Unknown


We are in a political year.  This means that certain high profile persons will be striving to become their party's candidate, and then these candidates will be striving for power against the other party's candidates for political office.  The goal of every election, every debate, as well as every war is basically the same.  It is to answer the question, "Who will rule?"  Now this may at first sound cynical, but it isn't necessarily so.  Someone can want to rule because he truly believes that his skills and policies will result in the improvement of his country and that the citizens will be better off with his administration than with that of his opponent.  Political campaigning is the art of getting other people to agree with you so that you can occupy the position of power.  As such it can bring out the best and the worst among us.  Often the art of politics is reduced to denigrating the other candidate and using unfair and manipulative tactics to ruin their name.
Politics can be a nasty business especially when the interests of a few are promoted at the expense of the many.  Too often politicians misuse the process and abuse their positions to pad their own nest and reward their supporters with sweetheart deals, kickbacks, and inside information to give their relatives and friends an unfair advantage in the quest for wealth.  Another great evil is the concept that there are some who are born or determined to be a "ruling class" over others.  They view the masses as fools to be fooled and dupes to be duped.  They will say what the voters want to hear and set their sails to catch the wind of popular opinion, knowing that once elected, they can pursue their agenda, that if they had revealed it up front, they never would have been elected.  They are elitists.
There are, however, many good public servants and statesmen who disdain such practices and have good ethics.  These will be up front and honest about what they believe and what they intend to do.  They will not tell one crowd one thing and then tell another crowd another thing.  They will be the same in office as they were on the campaign trail.  They will avoid nepotism, cronyism, and all other forms of corruption.  Our country has been blessed with such men and women.  May their kind increase!  Character does, indeed, matter.
Jesus warned us about being influenced by the secular political mentality.  In Mark 10, two of His disciples (James and John) came to Jesus to ask if they could sit one on one side and one on the other side of His throne when He set up His kingdom.  This brazen move to acquire prominence was not well received by the other disciples!  We find these men from time to time arguing over who should be the greatest.  They were already striving to pick their titles and positions in the upcoming political setup.
The Lord responded thusly, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Jesus was giving them a new and better attitude.  He was also using Himself as an example.  Truly Jesus did not forsake his title as Lord.  He did not abdicate his position as the only begotten Son of God.  He did not stop being THE authority in their lives but he did exemplify divine servanthood.  His power was never forced on anyone.  He did not impose laws except the laws of love, and these are given never taken.  He did not try to destroy anyone else or topple anyone else from power.  He simply held to a high standard of selfless love and service to others.  His disciples were to follow His lead.
We are to be political without being selfish.  We are to influence others without being manipulative.  We are to provide opportunities for others to display their best attributes, for their own benefit, not for our own profit, power, or pride.  We are to serve, not be served.  We are to give, not take.  We are to think, act, live, and even die for the welfare of others.  Politics, as practiced in the secular realm, is not to be found in the church.  We are not to "strive" but "be gentle".  In the body of Christ, we are to recognize the gifts that God gives to each of us and lovingly work together for the conversion of the lost, the edification of the saints, and the glory of our Savior!  The Holy Spirit guides us in this wonderful harmony and serves as a witness to the world that Christ is real and makes a difference in people's lives.

"I'm convinced more than ever that man finds liberation only when he binds himself to God and commits himself to his fellow man."  Ronald Reagan
"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in like you will have been all of these."  George Washington Carver
"I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself."  Aldous Leonard Huxley
 "Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it."   Colin Powell