Monday, August 1, 2011

The Reduction of the Name Above All Names

There are many things we do that are part of some tradition but have lost any semblance of its meaning.  What we have are excuses to party with the original meaning all but gone.  This is sad when it happens to things of the world, but it is utterly shameful when it happens to things in the church.  Celebrating something as "Christian" while minimizing anything having to do with Christ is taking the Lord's name in vain. That is something we should not take lightly.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold [him] guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 NKJV
The name of the Lord is sacred.  I have spoken before on Christian labels and unrighteous celebrations, but today I want to take a more general look at the matter.  This past weekend, I had the chance to go to a quinceanera celebration.  That is the celebration of a Mexican girls's fifteenth birthday.  It is meant to symbolize her going from a child to an adult, specifically in the eyes of the church.  I believe it is particularly Catholic in nature.  Involved in this celebration is a church service and a party.  I went to both.  First of all, I am not criticising the celebration itself.  Part of me thinks that something lacking in the general Protestant church is any kind of rite of passage from childhood into adulthood.  There is nothing that signifies that a child is now an adult and responsible for his or her own actions.  I think the celebration itself is a good thing (though the Catholic nature involving Mary and Saints is horribly wrong), but it seems to have lost much of its meaning.  The party following the church service had probably around 300 people.  It was a happy celebration with surprisingly little drunkeness.   The church service, however, had maybe twenty attendees (including the guest of honor, her parents, and her eight escorts).  It was sad really, especially since it is a recognition of becoming an adult in the eyes of the church.  Perhaps it was a special birthday and perhaps it had cultural value, but it certainly lost much (if not all) of its religious value to many of those who did not attend the church service. 

I am not meaning to pick on that one celebration.  It is just a recent example.  I have been to many "Christian" weddings where the Christian officiator made little to no mention of Christ.  In fact, for these services, other than identifying it as a "Christian" wedding and it being in a church, you would never guess it was Christian.  Jesus was minimized in the service, readings were not from Scripture, and it was celebrated with mass drunkenness and lewd dancing.   We can't call something Christian and leave Christ out of it.  There is merely taking the Lord's name in vain and attaching it to something that would otherwise be an offense to Him.  If something is to be called Christian, it must be centered on Christ and in His character and nature.  When Christ merely becomes an empty label used out of some pointless tradition, you have some real trouble.  His name has meaning and abusing His name is a terrible sin.

What about the big holidays?  Thanksgiving has become more about eating the food then truly being thankful for it.  It has become more about family traditions and football than it does about God.  The world is even calling it a secular holiday, which is weird when you consider its name.  What I mean is that if Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, then to whom are you giving thanks?  Christmas is the same.  It is about Santa Clause, snowy winter scenes, family traditions, drinking (for many even in the church), giving gifts, large meals, and somewhere in there sometimes is even Jesus.  Even for Christians who do remember Christ on Christmas, it is an afterthought or at the very least buried in everything else surrounding Christmas.  Christmas needs to be about Christ first, otherwise it is just X-mas.  And, finally, there is Easter.  Easter at the very least generally involves a church service and sometimes there are even two.  We commemorate Good Friday when Jesus died and celebrate Easter Sunday when Jesus arose.  Some Christians call Sunday Resurrection Day, which is more accurate and sheds the pagan name we still use for our holiday.  But even Easter, the highest of Christian holidays, is often buried in tradition.  Nothing says Jesus like chocolate, magical bunnies, and hunting for prize-filled fake eggs, right?  I know we add some Christian message to some of those things, but we only use those Christian meanings as a way of defending them and not as a way to teaching them.  I wish I could say that Jesus was first on everyone's mind on these days, but in large part He is not.  It is about the children or (once again) large meals, and for some yet another excuse to drink.  Jesus all too often gets buried in man's tradition and the remnants of the pagan holiday we hijacked for Christ. 

Please do not think that I am saying that traditions are wrong.  Please also do not think that I am saying that Christian ceremonies are wrong.  What I am saying is that it is wrong when our family traditions take on more meaning than the holiday we are celebrating and what I am saying is that Christian ceremonies that are not about Jesus are wrong.  They are putting the "Jesus" label on something that really has nothing to do with Him and thinking that it somehow satisfies what a Christian celebration is supposed to be.  It is making Jesus just as empty as the pointless traditions we celebrate without Him.  It is taking His name in vain and more than that it is obliterating any meaning behind His name.  Quite honestly, if you have a Christian celebration without Christ, you do not have a Christian celebration.  You would be better off and just call it a secular celebration, at least then you would be honest.  You can not just call it Christian and minimize Christ, that is an offense to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and taking His name in vain.  You can not Christianize something that is not Christian just by attaching the name.   Please do not ever take the meaning out of the name of Jesus Christ.  Please do not take that name and attach it to a spiritually empty celebration.  Please do not cheapen the Name above all names.  Please do not minimize the value of the only name under Heaven by which man can be saved.  Jesus is not just some tradition we adhere to because it is what we do.  Jesus is not some label we put on things because we think it is what we are supposed to do.  His name deserves reference and fear.  His name deserves worship.  I say that because Jesus is Lord and Savior.  I say that because Jesus is God. 
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV

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