Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my friend about Christmas celebrations. I discussed how so many of us actually leave Christ out of Christmas. As a result, many have a festive, family filled, giving holiday, but, somehow, regulate God to a mere footnote on the whole thing. This should not surprise us. After all, most of us actually leave God out of our day to day living completely. My friend felt I might be overthinking the whole thing. After all, is it not possible for people just to come together and have an honest, good time without sinning (or worrying about sin?) The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “No, no it isn’t.” Here’s why.
In the Old Testament, as most people know, God gave Israelites a list of rules and regulations, summarized in the 10 commandments. Everyone understood that to break any of these commands would result in offending God and possible punishment. However, many Israelites came to an assumption based off of these rules. They incorrectly assumed that following these rules, in and of themselves, made God happy and/or lead to eternal life.
Jesus quickly corrected this during his ministry. He lashed out at the Pharisees who kept the letter of the law, but completely missed the spirit of the Law. These men missed the entire point of loving God, and loving their fellow man. They simply looked after their own self interests by acting as the rule keepers of the people.
Jesus took things one step further. He constantly challenged people to think about their motives. He showed that the thought behind something could be just as sinful as the action. He pointed out that if we express anger at a brother, that betrays the fact that, in our soul, we have committed murder. If we lust after a woman, we have committed adultery in our hearts. He basically took commandments, and showed the the heart of the matter, in each case, was a matter of the heart.
One of the largest commandments tells us that we must shun idol worship.
Ex 20.3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5″You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God
When I think of the typical American family Christmas gathering, I often see a celebration of family, giving, traditions…but very little focus on God. We have replaced Him with things that have loose connections to Him and His Spirit, but miss the mark entirely. In some cases, these elements completely replace Him. In some other cases, as I mention above, we may mention God, but He is not central to the gathering. And, yes, I feel that we sin in doing so… as an extension of Exodus 20.3.
While the commandment warns us not to worship or serve those things that we create, I wonder if the natural, logical extension of this idea is that we sin whenever we fail to give God the praise and glory He deserves in all that we do. And, should we not take the time to discuss and think through that…especially during the Christmas season? I believe we should. And, by failing to do so, in our hearts and with our lips, we have missed a mark. It is something that I, myself, need to repent of.
Sometimes, I find myself accused of possibly overthinking things. I get it. Look, I know it can be challenging to ponder through this stuff. And, in doing so, one has to wonder if people like me must have too much time on their hands. I get it. The pot calling things black needs to be careful. No one lives a perfect life. I certainly do not. But, I believe that we must pursue the truth so that we can better serve the One who gave His life for us. Only when we truly know and understand truth can we take the first steps towards pursuing Him. If we stick our heads in the sand, not willing to pursue truth in fear that it may add to the guilt we already carry, we have missed the point.
For the point of doing exercises like this is not to find the magic step that leads us to immediate holy living and qualifies us for heaven. No… we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. Our fates, sealed, led to hell. However, Jesus died for us on the cross so that we might experience true forgiveness, through no righteous act of our own, and experience eternity with Him. For that I am, and will always be, eternally grateful. And, it is with this heart of love for the one who love me first…that I give everything I possibly can…including dedication of my mind and spirit, to follow and pursue His glory. I do not discuss this stuff and look for areas of my life that need repentance in order to earn my way into heaven… I do this because I want to as thanks for what He has given to me.