My one and only trip to Israel had more than a profound effect on my present-day psyche. It might have been three decades ago, but there is more than a lingering aftertaste.
It happened smack in the last fortnight of the year. Surprisingly absent were the familiar sights and sounds of the Christmas most people are accustomed to. Hardly any Christmas decorations in downtown Tel Aviv, if not any of the shopping thoroughfares across the Holy Land. Hanukah was a breath of fresh air – not anything resembling a Christmas carol most people grew up with did surface. The Christmas Eve service in a small Protestant church not far away from Jerusalem’s Old City was awesome; songs that truly celebrated the virgin birth of our Lord, which though seemingly unheard of, were a welcome inspiration to many a soul. There was even one sung in Arabic!
So it began, my overt disdain for the secular Christmas that rooted itself in outright commercialism – a festival that had nothing to do with Scriptural truth. What could cause me to frown most is none other than old Saint Nick, aka Santa Claus. Was this character ever mentioned in the Living Word? Through the years, this question would pop up around Thanksgiving. Then as I walked closer to the Lord, it became clear to me that this rather fictitious icon bore a lot of similarity where the abominable golden calf was concerned.
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; as for Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’
“And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'” (Exodus 32:1-4).
There is undoubtedly a common thread when comparing the ancient image with the current-day icon. It was and still is pure fiction, emanating from the mind of the fallen nature. The masses would truly adore make-believe versus the way, the truth, and the life. Simply said, it was deemed an object that enabled almost instantaneous gratification. This being the very case in the high technology realm which is an unavoidable facet of twenty-first-century living.
To the masses, the concept of a joyous eternity appears nebulous and boring when seen through misconstrued eyes. Everybody, including many Christians, wants their best moments on planet Earth – the afterlife could wait for quite a while!
With this line of reasoning, the all-important significance of the season is literally pushed to the back burner. Living Scripture is relegated to the likes of a fairy tale, while the worldly aspect is reason to party. This amounts to flaunting material gain in excessive proportions.
If some of the traditional secular elements are close to being barely bearable, there is a lot of recent stuff that reeks of lust. The godless can call this creativity, but in the eyes of those who walk with the Lord, it is wholesale depravity! When I hear incessant blaring of these disgusting pieces in shopping malls, it really sends my blood pressure soaring!
Disgust is intertwined with occasional disbelief when there is blatant disregard for the truth in the Living Word. This disbelief has indeed tapered off quite a bit as a result of getting into the thick of Bible Prophecy. All this opposite-direction stuff is truly the basis of deception, which leads multitudes away from His blessings. So it is the same old thing year in and year out. All about what the constrained world can give versus what the Lord can provide through His infinite riches and Glory.
When there is no focus on a glorious eternity, it is likened to something losing its savor. More like the staleness of leftovers way past the recommended expiration date. Perhaps enough to spin off a severe bout of salmonella!
Conversely speaking, focus on the genuine nature of the season renews our hope where His grace and mercy matter. Most important of all, we need to be reminded where the love of God is concerned – the moment when He sent His only begotten Son into the world so as to save mankind from eternal damnation. Question is, how many Christians really take this to heart amidst the festive frenzy?
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice For the time forward, and even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The top part of this reassuring piece of Scripture might appear in some greeting cards. But when you look at the entirety of the above-said passages, it is all about an eternal glory with our Lord. It would do a lot of good if there are pastors who touch on this aspect of the birth of Christ. It is not just a once-a-year showpiece, but it should be a focus that only ends when the Bride of Christ is eventually caught up to meet her Groom in the atmosphere. This emphasis on the Blessed Hope would be comforting in view of the tumultuous times which see no let-up.
At the end of the day, everything has to be reversed and placed in the rightful positions. The feasting and whatever revelry cannot override the reverence due to our Heavenly Father for His unfailing love, this love which no flesh and blood is capable of giving. Let us rather be aiming for a reduction in our spots and blemishes this season. This we do by sincerely loving one another.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
We could have our gatherings with family and friends this season amidst a sumptuous spread. But let the spirit of love for one another dominate the get-together. We do this because He first loved us – this being the true reason for the season.
Have a truly Blessed Christmas
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