Am I becoming a holiday Scrooge or Grinch? Lately I have wondered...
Let’s do some word association. I want you to think about what your very first thought is when you read each of the words/phrases listed below. Do not try to outthink this, keep it simple and just let your brain react. Don’t worry if you have the “right” response. Only you will know what you think -- no judgements. Here we go!
A few examples to get us started…
WORD/PHRASE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND
I’ll be home for Christmas
Ok, do you get the idea? This time, mentally fill in the blank for yourself after each word/phrase listed below.
WORD/PHRASE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND
Just do it ____________________
Over the ____________________
Happiest place on earth ____________________
Tomorrow I will ____________________
Ice cream ____________________
I’m lovin’ it ____________________
Play the ____________________
There were 20 words/phrases listed above. For the purpose of this exercise, the only ones that I am interested in having you examine further are your responses to the holidays that were listed; Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
What word did you think of for Thanksgiving?
What word did you think of for Christmas?
What word did you think of for Easter?
If we are completely honest with ourselves, how many had responses along the lines of:
Thanksgiving — Turkey, Pie, Football
Christmas — Tree, Santa, Lights
Easter — Bunny, Eggs, Candy
I do not mean to be a cynic, but I reached a tipping point this Thanksgiving when I felt the societal weight/presence/focus of money far exceeding that of peace/family/thanks be to God.
The concept of Thanksgiving, while not inherently a Biblical holiday, offers us a special opportunity to slow down and give thanks to God for the many blessings in our lives (past, present and future) while spending quality time with loved ones. What a beautiful concept, and absolutely something that we need more of in our society — thankfulness, quality relationships with others, and an opportunity to intentionally slow down (if even for only one day)!
But instead, what I felt/saw in our society this Thanksgiving was more of a prevalent focus on things such as money, power, gluttony, and consumerism. In some regards I felt Thanksgiving was less about taking a day to slow down and be thankful, and more about serving as “Black Friday Eve.”
And it’s not just the focus on spending, money, latest/greatest deals, more, more, more…Black Friday is frenzied enough, but then it is followed by “Small Business Saturday”, “Cyber Monday” and “Giving Tuesday”. Essentially, it is a murder’s row of in your face money driven focuses.
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24)
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." (1 Timothy 6:10)
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
Please don’t get me wrong here; I understand the importance of businesses earning a profit, and I am happy to support small businesses as well as charitable organizations. However, at some point it feels like the “Thanks” is completely removed from the mix, and the sole focus of the week becomes businesses and organizations looking to highlight ways for us to be financially “giving” to them.
And what about Christmas? What word did you associate with that holiday?
I am afraid that for many in the United States, even for children from Christian families, the answer would be something along the lines of Santa, presents, music, cookie or Hallmark movie.
Has Santa replaced Jesus as the symbol of the season? I’ve seen quite a few pictures of kids posing with Santa, but not so many pictures of kids posing next to a nativity scene.
Again, don’t get me wrong, there are good elements to the whole Santa concept, and it can bring a heightened sense of wonder and excitement to the season. Santa has visited my own family for as long as I can remember, and my children are eagerly awaiting his coming this year as well. But, at what point does Santa become the reason for the season? In the United States, I’m afraid that ship has already sailed.
This may be quite a stretch, but stay with me on this next observation. The letters that comprise Santa are also the same letters that comprise the name of the enemy of our souls, Satan. Both are portrayed with red being their predominant color. And both (seek to) distract us from the real things that matter; namely Jesus! Now, I am not calling Santa the devil! But, too much of even a good thing can turn into something “bad”, or create a sort of false idol. And we can be sure that the devil delights in seeing us focus our attention on Santa, and other holiday activities, rather than on Christ.
Finally, where do we stand with Easter? Easter (or more religiously stated “Resurrection Sunday”) is the focal point of the Christian faith. Without the resurrected Christ there is no Christianity. But because “He is risen, He is risen indeed!” we too have a foundation of our faith in and through Jesus Christ. Because He died, we can live!
Yet, again, when we do a quick word association with the word “Easter”, we find that many associate the holiday with a fictitious bunny and pastel colored eggs. I wont elaborate too much on this, as you get the picture based on my previous observations on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So, in review, where do we stand with these three holidays?
Thanksgiving — instead of pausing to focus on family, and to thank God for all of our blessings we instead focus on money and intentionally stuffing ourselves with excess amounts of food (gluttony).
*Spending the day planning what deals we are going to clammer for on black Friday
*If we are small business owners, thinking how can we turn a buck on Small Business Saturday
*Don’t forget to set-up a riveting “Cyber Monday” sale on your website
*Sadly, even the “Giving Tuesday” is all about money — give us more money, more, more!
Christmas — ho, ho, ho…Santa rules the buildup around the season and much of the excitement of the actual day. Everywhere we turn there is an opportunity for our children to meet Santa. Movies, music and decorations all glorify jolly old Saint Nick.
Easter — the tomb is empty! He is risen, He is risen indeed! The absolute pinnacle of the Christian faith. Yet, the seasonal icon seems to be a fictitious bunny and the candy treats that he delivers. The secondary aspect is having to take one hour out of our day to go to church.
Think I’m being a little too harsh/stingy with this? Maybe. But play this word association with your child or grandchild and see for yourself. And then reflect; who is teaching them these mindsets and focuses?
Then there is the thought that as Christian parents/grandparents we are blatantly lying to our children about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I am guilty of this, and I personally wrestle with how far to take it. Those characters are not real. But, our triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is real, and is our foundation for earthly and eternal (heavenly) life. Understanding about God and believing in Him can be complicated, and it certainly takes a lot of faith. The definition of faith is believing in something that we cannot see. If we burn that trust by building up fake things, such as Santa and the Easter Bunny, only to then pull the rug out from under our children when they reach a certain age, then why would they believe us when we say that God is real? It just seems confusing, and like we are speaking out of both sides of our mouths to some regard.
“Well, I was just teasing you about Santa and the Easter Bunny all of those years, but it was for your own fun. Now, I am not teasing you about God, He really is real, even though you can’t see Him. Trust me this time.” It seems like we are unnecessarily adding another layer of potential doubt to an already extremely deep/challenging concept (understanding, believing and following a God that we do not see, and who is three persons-in-one).
And, what do you think Paul would say about Christians so closely associating Christ’s birth and resurrection with a jolly old elf and a bunny? Think his letters admonishing the early churches that he helped develop were harsh? How do you think it would go over with him when we tried explaining how Santa and the Easter Bunny tastefully play into Christmas and the celebration of Resurrection Sunday?!!
Last, but in reality first, (Matthew 20:16) what do you think Jesus would say about Christians decorating their homes with Santa, elves, presents and reindeer, and then bunnies, eggs and jelly beans? Well, the First Commandment may provide some insight.
"You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:3-5)
Take heart, as there is good news too! That news is that God doesn’t throw us into hell just because the first word we may associate with a holiday is a secular one. Thinking that way does not inherently make us sinners (although we all are sinners in other ways; 1 John 1:8-10), and certainly does not mean that we are displaying unbelief.
He is patient. He is kind. He is loving. He sent His only Son for us! We are forgiven. We get another chance. We are redeemed. And all of this is not by anything that we have done, but rather through what Christ did/does for us!
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1)
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23-24)
"That if you confess in your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9,13)
Thank you, Jesus!
In closing, it will not damn us to hell if we celebrate the non-faith based elements of the seasons. It is ok for us as Christians to have some fun with those things. But, we must also be sensitive to what we are teaching our children, and how we are thinking/acting in terms of what our priorities are. It is our responsibility to serve as “Ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), and to let our lives serve as a testimony to how Christians can celebrate holidays while still prioritizing our faith. We must make those other elements just that -- small components of the much bigger reason, and focus, for the season.
Merry Christmas, and may the light of Christ shine bright in you this season and always!
Coach Shane is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, and an entrepreneur. He is an International Coach Federation (ICF) trained life coach and graduate of the Certified Professional Life Coach (CPLC) program through the Christian Coach Institute. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree (BA) and Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA).
Coach Shane has a heart for helping men, families, professionals, leaders and young adults in their earthly walks as they continue to grow and develop into the family, church, business, and community leaders that God is calling them to become. He does not teach about the Bible or religion as a trained Pastor or theologian would, but rather relates Christian principles to the everyday walk of earthly life, doing so from a layman’s perspective. Applying a Christian perspective to real life. For more information visit Shane Hansen, Christian Life Coach, LLC.
PHONE: (920) 428-1564
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