One thing I want to ask for, if anyone is actually reading this, is to let me know how I can pray for you. I have an email listed up and to the right, and I think the comment section still works, but if there's something you need prayer for, please let me know and I'll pray for you.
Now, a few months ago, we joined a newer local church that was struggling, and due to my particular set of skills and abilities, and the natural desperation that can come from a church struggling to get its footing, both myself and my wife have been quickly accepted into the family and tasked with serious responsibilities. For example, I'll be preaching a sermon on the 15th, I am working with the head pastor to develop our membership classes, and I lead a small group out of my home. My wife is helping administrate and develop the childcare offered on Sunday morning.
My wife is also pregnant, so should God bless us with this child, we'll be well into the "you have how many?" territory, given the fertility rate for our state. We've never had to struggle with the loss of miscarriage, but we're praying that God's plan for our lives is that the struggles we face are oriented towards raising this new child, and not in learning to live with having lost one. A selfish desire, certainly, but this isn't a new boat or a bigger house or a fancier smart phone, we're praying that God would trust us with the burden of raising this child that has been conceived.
Thanksgiving was a mess. The event itself went well enough, I created a new green bean casserole dish on a whim and it turned out good enough that folks didn't like it as part of the overall meal because it didn't mesh well with other traditional dishes that were prepared. I made a good dish, but it didn't fit with thanksgiving, and so that's why people didn't like it as much as my more traditional green bean casserole.
These same folks then pressed my wife and I later on in the evening to explain why we don't celebrate Christmas anymore. I explained that we don't celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th, or participate in the various rituals and symbols that have become common with Christmas, in large part because none of it is actually "Christian" in nature, and so little good can come of participating in it. At best, it's a vain and frivolous celebration at face value, and Christians are supposed to be worshiping God with everything.
Somehow, for some folks, there's something left over from "everything" where fruitless tasks can still dictate their behavior and somehow this still makes sense.
Mind you, it's not that we don't celebrate anything at all. God never commanded us to never gather with family, to never feast, to never give gifts, etc.
What God did request is that we show some creativity and stop doing exactly what we did for other gods "in Jesus name" and instead worship God has he requested: in spirit and in truth.
Jesus Christ wasn't born on December 25th, year 0 AD. To act as if we need to put the "Christ back in Christmas" when people are participating in lies and deceit is not honoring to God.
December 21st, or 22nd, are the shortest days of the year in the northern hemisphere, the least amount of light and the most amount of darkness.
So what I decided was that on the 21st of December we would celebrate "the light" of the world who came and saved us from darkness. There are many different passages in the Bible which already address this symbolism and explicitly use that metaphor, so what we're remembering and honoring and celebrating is true. And, like the feasts that God declared for Israel, we are gathering family together, eating and drinking to the glory of the Lord, and sharing gifts and so forth, just like how Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has brought us the greatest gift we could ever receive.
Here's the thing: Jesus' birth was nowhere near as significant as his death. This is explained by Jesus Christ's prayer in the garden, prior to his crucifixion.
Up until that point in his life, Jesus' work on earth hadn't been completed. In the garden, beset with stress and anxiety, Jesus Christ prayed to God to "let this cup pass from my lips, but not my will, your will be done." You see, even if Jesus Christ had been born, but did not die for our sins on the cross, his birth would be entirely irrelevant. Yes he had to be born as part of the prophesies, but do we worship the fulfillment of prophecy or the God who provided such prophetic revelations in the first place?
So on the 21st of December we will gather for a meal, I will read passages relevant to how Jesus Christ is our light in darkness, and the children can be given gifts as an echo of what God did for us.
And then we can do the same thing in June during the summer solstice, because while we have much light physically, Jesus Christ is the greater light, and now folks who are in different hemispheres can be united in celebrating the same thing at different parts of the year, the thing being celebrated is true, and it's grounded in the existing symbolism that God provided without fixating on the symbols instead of the God that those symbols intended to describe something about.
The discussion didn't ever get that far on Thanksgiving.
Instead it ended up being a pathetic game of "well that's fine for you and your convictions", as if somehow the truths I was sharing were "mine" in any way.
I got an earful of subjective morality, where folks can do whatever they want, so long as they can justify it to themselves sufficiently.
I was told that because passages like Jeremiah 10 aren't specifically about Christmas tress, but idols made from wood and then decorated with silver and gold, that the fact Celtic druids used to worship trees as idols is irrelevant somehow. That going from a specific example to a broader category that the specific example still fell under somehow meant the "Christmas tree" tradition was fine, despite having roots in pagan practices.
I was told sarcastically that "I am apparently just not smart enough" on topics that are painfully simple to explain in a few sentences.
I was told that over a decade of research into the topic negated that simple truths had been missed that entire time because folks were more interested in justifying their existing behavior than in trying to align themselves with what God would desire from them.
I have never lost respect for someone so fast as I did during that conversation.
I had never seen someone trying so hard to avoid accepting that they'd been doing something inappropriate, swallowing their pride and then moving on.
Then again, these folks attend a church with a morbidly obese pastor. Gluttony is just as sinful as fornication, but hey, let's pick on the LGBTQA+P folks who want something we think is clearly icky and gross, so we're clearly more righteous than them, right?
People don't understand that judgment is applied inwardly to the church, not outwardly.
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” - 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 (NKJV)
Of note, I won't be preaching on this on the 15th. That one will be about how "Desires forge division."
I'll try and get a copy of it and post it in various places online, and see if I can embed it here.
Till next time, take care!