Tuesday, December 20, 2011

World V. Christmas

Another year and another constant stream of gripes about some kind of war on Christmas.  We hear of students barred from singing Christmas songs that mention Jesus, lawsuits about Nativity scenes, and not being appropriately greeted in stores.  Personally, I am more tired on griping about some kind of a war of Christmas than about any kind of war that we imagine.  First of all, this is not a war against Christmas but the world's rejection of Christ.  This brings up the question of why do we only care this time of year.  Secondly, why is this any surprise to us?  Are we not promised persecution in the Bible?  I know that one does not make many promise calenders, but our Lord did promise us persecution. 
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [are you], for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.  1 Peter 4:12-14 NKJV
Do not think this rejection of Christ in Christmas is strange.  In other words, this should not surprise you.  Jesus promised as much in His ministry and earth and reiterated that promise in His word through Peter, Paul, James, and just about every other New Testament writer.  Persecution was, is, and will continue to be a part of the Christian life until the return of our Lord.  This is nothing new and it is not going to change. And why should we be surprised that avowed atheists want Christ removed from public life?  They have rejected Him and their virulence against all things Jesus only affirms the conviction the Holy Spirit is placing on their hearts.  Why should we be surprised that the worldly public school system rejects Christ from "holiday" programs.  It is just one of the many reasons why Christian children have no place in public schools.  Why should we be surprised that secular businesses trying to maximize profit from anyone gives a generic holiday greetings so they can be as inclusive to everyone as possible?  This so-called war on Christmas should be of no surprise to us whatsoever. 

Another mistake we make is whining about it.  Does Peter say here that we should whine and complain to the extend that we partake in Christ's sufferings?  No, he says we need to rejoice!  We should not be whining about it!  Rejoice that the world rejects Christ because it shows His conviction of the world.  Think about it, does the world reject the Boogeyman?  Does the world reject the Easter Bunny or even Santa Claus for that matter?  Are there movements against speaking about the Tooth Fairy?  To the atheist, God is just said to be just as imaginary as any one of those are, but yet they do not have such anger against them.  The reason they all reject Christ as vociferously as they do is because they are doing all they can to try to hide from the conviction of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  They try and try some more to harden their hearts against that work. Eventually, they will get their wish and the Holy Spirit will leave them alone, but for now their rejection is the rejection of the God they wish was not real. 

Even more than that, we must rejoice personally for the personal persecution we receive this time of year.  If they tell us to take down our nativity scene, we should not be angry but we should rejoice.  When they tell our child not to sing a certain song at school, we should not whine and complain but rejoice.  When we tell someone to have a Merry Christmas and they make a face at us, we should not get angry but we should rejoice.  Whenever we are persecuted for Christ, we share in His suffering and enjoy an even deeper relationship with our Lord.  If we rejoice and share the love of Christ even through the persecution, we are showing Christ to an unsaved world.  Jesus loved us and died for us while we were still His enemies, and we should love those who reject Christ even though they count us their enemies.  We need to even love our enemies, the Bible is clear about that.  Rejoice not just for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, but celebrate the persecution we receive from the world. 

We have to recognize that it is not us, our decorations, or even the song that the world is rejecting.  The world is rejecting Jesus and the world sees Jesus in us.  That, again, is a cause for rejoicing.  I love how Peter puts it "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [are you], for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."  In other words, Jesus is truly working in you and through you and people are seeing it.  They may not react the way we hope, but they react the way our Lord promised they would.  They are reacting to the conviction they feel when they are around us. They are reacting to a nativity scene that represents the birth of the Son of God, whom they reject.  They are reacting to the praise and worship coming from your lips in the song that you sing.  They are reacting to the Spirit of God Who shines through your life. 

One other point I need to make is to ask why are we giving a fallen world the responsibility for keeping Christ in Christmas.  It is not the world who carries the Gospel, it is us who brings the Gospel to the world.  It is not on the employee who may or may not know God to wish you a merry Christmas, but for you to share the good news of Christmas and the gospel with that employee.  It is not for the school to allow or not allow a song about Jesus to be sung, but for you to praise the Lord no matter what the world may say.   It is not the the atheist to control what you do or do not do to worship the Lord, but for you to worship how and when the Holy Spirit leads no matter what some atheist may say.  Christ can only be taken out of Christmas if we stop putting Christ in Christmas. 

So this year, if you want Christ in Christmas, then put Him there wherever you go and in whatever you do.  Do not complain that the world rejects your Lord, but rejoice in that you are counted worthy to share in His suffering.  So sing your songs, put up your nativity scene, wish that grumpy employee a Merry Christmas, and above all share the reason for the season with all who do not know or believe.  As for the Scrooges, pray for them and love them just as Christ loved you when He died for you while you were still a sinner. 
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great [is] your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV

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