Christmas reminds me of a sticky ball rolling down a hill, accumulating bits and pieces from everything it passes, until it’s one big adhesive mess and it’s hard to tell what the original ball looked like. We’ve gone from a simple explanation of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth to the huge holiday extravaganza we now experience. This is one holiday that needs to go on a diet.
Some of the traditions we associate with Christmas make sense—at least I can see the connection. Giving gifts is a reflection of the magi’s offering of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Advent calendars and wreaths help us focus on God’s purpose in sending His Son. Decorating with lights reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world. And of course, there are Christmas carols (which may or may not be relevant or accurate).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. It’s written on hand-held signs at sporting events, emblazoned on clothing, and plastered on billboards. And we all assume that we know what this verse means: If you “believe in Jesus,” you’ll be saved.
I’ve been highly distracted for the past two weeks. Our daughters and granddaughters have been visiting, and I’ve been playing games, taking photos, cooking meals, and hugging—lots of hugging. What I haven’t been doing is writing blog posts. In fact, I totally missed last Friday, in spite of my best intentions. Instead of writing, taking time away from family that we don’t get to see nearly as often as we’d like, I thought I would cheat a bit.
The following is one of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog. Yes, it’s listed in the archives, but if you’re like me, you rarely—if ever—hunt back through the old posts for something to read. I think my point is just as important today as it was when I wrote it almost ten years ago. I hope you agree.
Have you ever been afraid to try something because you might fail?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fought this battle. As far back as I can remember, I’ve hesitated to attempt something that I’m not confident about. Let me give you an example.
I was a senior in high school. My grades were excellent and I had applied to a “selective” university that I really wanted to attend. I’d completed all the college track classes I needed—English, math, science, etc., but I still lacked a “fine or practical art.” I really wanted to take photography. I had been given my first SLR camera for Christmas and I wanted to take magnificent photos. However, academically, this was new territory. I knew I could do classwork, and I have a knack for taking exams, but photography was creative. Could I do that too? What if I couldn’t?
We’re all familiar with the Ten Commandments—honor your father and mother, don’t worship idols, don’t steal, keep the Sabbath, etc. God gave us the ten commandments, and we would be smart to obey them. But what about the commandments Jesus gave us? We’re familiar with His teachings, but were there things He commanded us to do, or not do?
Passover begins this evening. It seems especially significant that this year, Passover begins on Good Friday. After all, they both celebrate the same thing.
The very idea that Passover is still celebrated now, in 2018, amazes me. Over thousands of years (with minor exceptions, such as during the years leading up to King Josiah), the Jews have celebrated the Passover. Whether in Israel and Judea, or even when spread to the corners of the earth, they’ve faithfully reenacted God’s sacrifice and salvation year after year after year.
I recently read an article titled “Meet the Woke Young People Trying to Make Christianity Cool Again.” (I’m a bit confused by the “woke” in there, but whatever.) The article bemoaned the gap between public opinion and the opinions of evangelical Christians. To quote: “It doesn’t help that Christian communities can be out of step with the rest of the country when it comes to certain issues.” This assumes that being cool is a good thing.
Furthermore, the authors insist that Christians are the ones who need to change. In other words, we need to bring the ignorant, regressive Christians into line with the majority of Americans. In our efforts to be cool, we should embrace the world’s values. That would make Christianity “cool.” Continue reading