As I put fingers to keyboard, millions of pumpkins are making their way to landfills and the airwaves are already beginning to chime with the sounds of Christmas (in particular, 24/7 Christmas radio). For those who would take a moment to step back and survey the landscape of our culture, the malaise that usually precedes cynicism might settle in. After all, it is no secret how lucrative the Halloween and Christmas holidays have become in our country, boasting billions of dollars in sales each year. In the midst of the holiday fray sits Thanksgiving. The irony stares back at you like a scarecrow in a corn-field. Two holidays consumed with consuming overshadowing one the namesake of which begs us to slow down, reflect, and "give thanks" for all these good things we enjoy so effortlessly.
American colonial history and secret family recipes aside, Thanksgiving indicates a subtle but all to frequent tendency in man to let the pendulum swing too far to one given side. Traditions do us well when our brains are as active as our hearts, and we are able to maintain a balance in our celebrations and the reasons why we celebrate. As is the case with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (and on the list goes), many of our holidays begin to blend into one another. We forget why we started remembering these special days and are content with the basic excuse of getting together, eating, decorating our homes and just plain having fun (by the way, I am an ardent supporter of all of the above).
The church is not immune to this forgetfulness. We too can get caught up in the rhythms of the calendar and family traditions and lose sight of important points in our spiritual heritage. This is why, in part, we make it a point to practice the art of remembering together in the liturgy of our Sunday morning worship. Each Sunday we walk through the gospel together by means of the reading of scripture, in song, in prayer, and sitting under the faithful exposition of God's Word. These reminders of God's plan of salvation are the fuel to our fire - we've experienced it, and it brings us great joy, comfort and conviction the more often we hear it.
We are moving at quickening pace into a season where the incarnation of Jesus Christ is more readily on our minds, and as such, we would do good not to allow Christmas to get so quickly in the way of the Christ for whom it represents. We will instinctively be drawn to images of baby Jesus, meek and mild, swaddled in the manger under the bask of moonlight on a silent night. Bells are ringing, angels singing, noels ringing... all fine and good. But let us not forget who this child would be:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
There is great beauty, no doubt, in our God becoming an innocent man-child. The path He took, however, couldn't contrast more with the images we tend to binge on in the Christmas season. The rest of Isaiah 53 spells out in great detail the tortuous path our Savior took to purchase our freedom.
There is a generous mix of themes in all of our minds at this time of year - death, thanks, family, gifts, etc. But for Christ's sake, remember the cross! Make the most of this opportunity and share the gospel in every season, taking care to tell the whole story, whichever holiday you happen to find yourself in.
Man of sorrows, Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid
Silent as He stood accused
Beaten, mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father's will
He took a crown of thorns
Oh, that rugged cross, my salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out, "Hallelujah!"
Praise and honor unto Thee
Sent of heaven, God's own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree
Now my debt is paid, it is paid in full
By the precious blood that my Jesus spilled
Now the curse of sin has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free, oh is free indeed
See, the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah, God be praised!
He's risen from the grave!
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