Monday, November 30, 2009

Putting "Christmas" Back in Christmas

There are a lot of people upset over various retailers who are using generic phrases like “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” in their stores. Whereas we used to encourage people to “put Christ back in Christmas”, now it seems that we need to encourage people to “put Christmas back in Christmas”.

I understand the angst of those who feel that every year we lose a little ground in the battle to keep the focus on Christ throughout the Christmas season. A lot of schools won’t let their kids have “Christmas programs”, even going so far as to preclude them from playing Christmas music.

However, I must say that I’m not nearly as concerned about how Wal-Mart or The Gap treat Christmas as I am in the way that professing Christians treat it. I really don’t expect the unbelieving, secular world to treat Christmas with respect or reverence. They’re in it for just one thing—the money. If they can improve the bottom line by diminishing the “Christ-aspect” of Christmas, then I’m not surprised that they do it. If they can increase profits by lumping Christmas in with Hanukah, Kwanza and Groundhog Day, then I’m not shocked.

But what about those who say they are Christ-followers? Does saying, “Merry Christmas” while ignoring Jesus make us superior to those we condemn? Does refusing to shop at a store that says “Happy Holidays” really improve our testimony while continuing to pursue all of the materialistic aspects of the Christmas season at other retailers?

I’m sorry, but I think a lot of the protests are just ways of trying to make Christians feel better about ourselves without having to change our ways. We are as responsible for making Christmas a secular day as the unbelieving world. Until we are willing to restore the “Christ-nature” of Christmas—with the emphasis back on Christ instead of Santa, Frosty or Rudolph—we don’t have any legitimate complaints. Until we insist that the birth of Christ will be celebrated in a way that honors and glorifies Him, then let’s not puff out our chests and breathe fire on those who denigrate the Holy Day.

When it comes to putting “Christmas back in Christmas”, let it begin with us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting Rid of Sin Stains

The look on Greg’s face was priceless. He had been recording our responses to his question on the marker board. He went to erase the writing, but nothing happened. He looked at the eraser, as though perhaps it was defective, but it looked fine. He rubbed a little harder, but the words that he had written minutes earlier were still there. Then his eyes fell upon the marker. In taking a closer look at it, he realized that he had been writing on the board with a permanent marker, not a “dry erase” marker.

He found a bottle of "dry erase board cleaner" and sprayed it on. While some of the ink ran a little, it didn’t make it go away. A few minutes later, Tim approached the board and began writing over the letters that were already there. Then he took the eraser and successfully erased the writing.

Did you know that if you write over permanent marker with a dry erase marker, you can erase it? I sure didn’t know it. Leave it to the guy who takes care of the marker boards in the Spring Hill schools to know it. I’m glad he did. Greg’s glad he did, too!

Tim tried to explain the science to us, but I didn’t really understand. It doesn’t matter—I don’t have to. I just know now how to erase permanent marker from a dry erase board the next time it needs to be done.

As I reflected on this, I couldn’t help but think about how this is kind of like our sins. Our sins leave marks. No amount of scrubbing or scouring or polishing will make them go away. No matter how many good works I do, my sins are still there. No matter how much money I give to the church or how much time I volunteer in the community, the marks of my sin won’t go away.

Then Jesus says, “Let me cover your sins for you.” He knows what to do. He’s covered lots of sins before. And He’s the only One who can do it. When you apply His blood to your sins, it’s like applying dry erase marker ink over permanent ink. It’s the only thing that will wash your sins away.

I don’t understand exactly how He does it. I’ve had people try to explain the theology behind it, but I still don’t quite get it. But I know He does it. He did it for me. In fact, He’ll do it for anyone. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13).

You don’t have to understand it or be able to explain it. But you do have to allow Jesus to do it. He won’t force Himself on you. But if you ask Him to do it, He’ll gladly say yes. This is what David had in mind when he said, Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

Whiter than snow. Even whiter than a marker board.