Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: 01

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” - Luke 4:18-21 

It is October 12 and I am on my way to the local mall to purchase a new carry-on bag. I am scanning the radio channels and notice that one station has already switched to a twenty-four-hour Christmas music format. Bruce Springsteen is singing familiar reminders about Santa Claus seeing you “when you are sleeping” and knowing “when you are awake.” My mother used such reminders as part of some behavioural modification strategy leading up to Christmas season every year.

Growing up, Christmas was like a second birthday but a much bigger and better deal! Mom’s reminder was clear: I’d better be good or I would get a lump of coal in my stocking instead of the new Red Ryder BB gun that I was willing to trade my little sister for. Apparently reminders worked, because I did get my Red Ryder that Christmas. No I didn’t shoot my eye out but I did ricochet a BB off my forehead once while target shooting in our basement.
As we grow older, our desired gifts become more sophisticated. Unfortunately the idolatrous promise of the desired object to bring us life-fulfillment and meaning is never realized as the newness wears off and we seek the next new, best thing. We are hypnotically lured by the seductive marketing sirens of mindless consumption. And by buying into the false promises of secular consumerism we continue to feed our children’s materialistic self-focused addictions.

I arrive at the mall and notice that the marketing preparations are in full swing. Santa Land is under construction as workers on motorized lifts hang banners heralding the season of conspicuous consumption.

According to the National Retail Federation, as of 2010, adult consumers spent
an average of $830 each on holiday food, decorations and presents. In a two-parent family that equates to roughly $1600.00! Now add this cost to the average American household credit card balance of $15,788 with an average annual percentage rate of 14.67%.

Christmas has been hijacked and exploited. We have professed allegiance to Jesus but celebrate his birth with an orgy of materialism. Christmas is not your birthday; it’s Jesus birthday! This study will help you reclaim the broader missional meaning of Jesus’ birth and experience a Christmas season with more peace and joy than any toy or gadget could ever bring. 
(Michael Slaughter)

What was the best Christmas gift you remember
receiving as a child and why?

1. Think about your family’s Christmas traditions as you grew up. What were the most unique traditions you practiced? How many of them focused on your own comfort and pleasure, and which were sacrificial in nature?
2. Think of one of the best Christmas gifts you’ve ever given to someone. What made it the best, and how long do you think they appreciated it?
3. Name some ways you think Christmas has been hijacked. How have you allowed Christmas to become more about you and/or consumerism than about Jesus?
4. Do you typically use cash only for Christmas, or do you go into at least a little debt? How can you make this year a cash-only Christmas?
5. What are some things you currently enjoy or love about the holiday season? What don’t you like? Is there a common theme between what you like and don’t like?
6. What new tradition(s) can you plan that would focus more on Jesus’ presence than presents?

Challenge: Ask those closest to you, whether friends, family, parents or children, what they would change about the Christmas holiday and why? 


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