“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [NRSV]
I am ready to give up on the word “Christmas” as a title for celebrating the birthday of Jesus. But more on that in moment:
First: I am thankful for the businesses that try to keep the “true meaning” and urge theirs employees to say “Merry Christmas” instead of the generic “Happy Holidays.” Goodness knows I’m not persuaded to celebrate Kwanza, Hanukah nor Ramadan (no matter what time of the year it falls) to make adherents of other cultures comfortable. If someone’s religious practice includes a holiday, they can name it anyway they choose, but not to change it’s name based on my feelings. That would be intolerant.
If we lived in one of the Middle Eastern countries would we expect folks to start saying “Happy Holidays” instead of naming their respective holidays by name. So out the window with correctness!
Let’s get correct what needs correction. Jesus’ caution in LK 21 is that we have our heads in the sand when its time to look up toward heaven. When you see Jesus, point him out! Be on guard not to be weighed down by distractions and division that are earthly and miss the heavenly focus.
Second: When I wish someone Merry Christmas with the hope they find joy in knowing Christ is with us. But that is a very big assumption on my part.
What we name the celebration of Christ’s birth and presence and witness in the world is not actually the issue.
Christmas, Easter, Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Earth Day, Thanksgiving, New Years and Festivus: For the Rest of us are all creations of people for people. The meaning, ritual and purposes are a mixture of tradition, symbols and signs to mark time and celebrate memories and hopes.
The key is to remember why we mark these as significant markers and to keep the ones that guide our individual and collective journey toward God.
Third: The tradition of Advent has been replaced with the worship of Christmas. The text today cautions us to be on watch, to keep our guard up, to be alert and conscious of our actions… Advent is the season of alertness and we let Christmas slip in every year.
We have the lights out, the tree up, the parties and gifts prepared so that when the day of Christmas comes, it pretty much all over about noon. Just listen to the radio station flip the six week Christmas programing back to ‘normal’ just twelve hours into the first day of Christmas.
You might think I don’t like Christmas. You would be mistaken. I enjoy both the secular and faith celebration of Christmas. But we place ourselves in a slippery slope of trying to blend the two so we are save in both camps.
Did you realize that the religious “Christmas,” celebrating Jesus birth was not so popular until about 1000 years after Jesus was born. And its only in the past 300 years that the traditions we enjoy looked like the Christmas we know now.
But its just as much a political conflict as it is commercial. In the mid 300’s the Roman emperor, Constantine reframed and aligned Christianity with culture celebrations to help connect the influence of believers with the existing holidays. It’s not just a 20th and 21st century issue.
So my answer is to give up the word “Christmas” to shoppers and markets and commercial folks who have already claimed it as their own. I’m find not trying to hang on to “Merry Christmas” which actually not any clearer than “Happy Holidays” in reality.
These four weeks that begin today are a season of living out Luke 21 in anticipation of “Sharing the Joy of Christ with Us.”
Think of it this way: if your say “Merry Christmas” to someone they might think of Jesus or they might think of Santa. It’s no longer clear. Rather than fighting for what is unclear. State it bold and place.
May Christ live in me!
May the Joy of Jesus live in you!
In these next four weeks look at the signs and celebrations. Don’t skip any of the fun, but think about what we do and say, with words and actions.
Think of this way:
- If we knew your birthday was coming in four weeks, would we have all the parties before then and stay at home when the day arrived?
- If we were getting ready to celebrate your life and presence in the world, would we go buy each other and ourselves gifts and not get you any?
- If we put up signs and symbols on our homes, clothes and yards to tell the world about you would we use your name or something that make everyone else comfortable and appreciated?
- If we spent ourselves into debt to celebrate you how would that make you feel about our judgment and responsibility?
We could continue with this all day: But I hope you get my point.
If we spent the next four weeks preparing for Christ to be with us in personal and tangible ways: How would we do that?
If we spent the next four weeks getting our mind, heart, eyes focused on the things of God: How would we do this?
If we spent the next four weeks preparing signs that were clear to others that God was about to be revealed, What would we do?
If we spent the next four weeks reading ourselves to stand before our Lord: What would we change about our lives, thoughts, behaviors, etc.?
Advent.. this is the season we are called to begin
Christmas: Christ With Us, God with us. Emanuel, that’s where we are heading. Honestly, I’m not ready. Are you?
Here are a few greetings:
“Get to work, It’s Advent”
“Get your head out of yourself, God is coming soon.”
“You’re the fatted goose and Christmas is coming.”
“Put the light of Christ on the lampstand.”
Luke records the preparation for these four weeks:
- Be Alert
- Pray for Strength
- Avoid the temptation to confuse the world’s promise and God’s promise.
Merry Christmas and Be Careful