Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Column, 2011


Edward Mooney, Jr.
Antelope Valley Press
December 19, 2011

TITLE: Keep what really matters in Christmas

All around the valley I’ve seen a number of signs that ask that we "keep Christ in Christmas." I have no argument with that sentiment at all; I do worry that some feel that by simply "pushing" the name of Jesus we’re somehow staying true to what the holiday means. I’m worried that some believe that a sticker or a light display fulfills our duty. I condemn no one, but I respectfully disagree.

My friends, the thing that brought me to a relationship with Jesus was not through a sign. I am a Christian because He loves me, because I know His Presence, because my relationship with Him is alive and active in every day of my life – even on days when I fail miserably – and because He forgives me. My faith is based on a living thing, not on a word or a sign. As a pastor early in my life said, "Some see salvation as a noun when it is a verb – active and alive."

As a contrast, I’d like to propose that "Keep the Love of Christ in Christmas" is more true to the meaning of this holiday. The celebration is not merely about the word "Christ", but about the man and what he stands for.

Allow me to illustrate the difference. When I see thousands of dollars of Christmas decorations, some announcing that we should keep Christ in Christmas, I think of Matthew 19:21. "Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'”

Do we find it difficult to follow this advice from Jesus? I know I do. I grew up in a society that is addicted to material things. Come on, admit it. Most of us would have a hard time parting with a number of material things. But what I think this verse indicates is that Jesus knows that the material world is a shiny, luring hook dangled before us - fish swimming in the sea of life.

I have another illustration: when I see how people behave in store this time of year, with the insane shoving, overcrowding and harsh words, I remember Matthew 22:37-40. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment."

I ask, "Do we keep God first in our thoughts as we scramble through our days of shopping and scurrying?" I know it gets tough to do that when I’m stuck in traffic.

When I see how people insult each other, and cut each other off in traffic, I am reminded of the second portion of Matthew 22:37-40, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." I have to admit that I don’t perfectly have compassion for everyone I see. There are times I walk by those begging for money, when perhaps a few dollars from me would make a huge difference in their lives.

I was on that side of the giving once, after I lost my first wife, and I have to tell you, a human being taking the time to offer a little money breaks the crushing isolation and loneliness that poverty can bring. When I see such people, I whisper, "I know how you feel; I was there once." Do you not know it’s about more than dollars? If not, you see only one dimension.

There is one more illustration. At the end of Matthew 22: 37-40, Jesus tells us that, "On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets." Stop a moment. What He is saying, in my view, is that the law and all of our human systems rest and depend upon relationships. Matthew 22: 37-40 is really talking about keeping relationships holy, compassionate and true.

Here is the point of all of my wandering words this month – the objects we proclaim Christ with aren’t worth the plastic or paper they’re written on. It is in our relationships, in how we treat people, that we truly proclaim Christ. So, I would conclude by asking that we "Keep the Love of Christ in Christmas" and not just use hollow words.

I pray that your family will have a blessed Christmas full of love, forgiveness, and compassion. And to my non-Christian friends, I send you my love for whatever holiday you observe. I have no problem saying "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Holidays," for I say them all with love. I’m trying to keep Love in Christmas.

Thought for the Month: Never forget that the real gift of Christmas is love. 1 John 4:7,8

Edward Mooney, Jr., a Palmdale author, was the 2010 DAR Teacher of the Year for California.

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful and compassionate insights, Edward. Thank you .