Thursday, December 19, 2013

You Keep Using That Word...

...I do not think it means what you think it means...

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my all time favorite movies, and it just happens to fit this blog post perfectly.

I promised a blog post a couple weeks ago about my Christmas pet peeve. I fully intended to write that post, but time and other stressors prevented me from getting that post out on paper, or at least virtual paper. So, given the fact that it is now less than a week from Christmas, I am ready to reveal to you my biggest Christmas pet peeve. Are you ready? Here it is:

Merry X-Mas!

Now some of you may be thinking of course, she hates the way that businesses and even private citizens remove Christ from Christmas, literally by X-ing him out of the very word. If you are thinking that, you would be wrong. My pet peeve about this is the ignorance among so many Christians about its true origin. Western Christians are often very quick to pass judgement and complain about persecution and censoring of our religious beliefs. The problem is, if we really understood the history of our faith, we would not be so quick to be offended. In reality, the X is not crossing out Christ, it is representing him, in the most authentic way. It represents the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of Christos, the name for Christ found in the original language of the New Testament.

In much the same way, many Christians are misinterpreting the Constitution. As I scroll my facebook feed, I am being bombarded by posts in support of Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, many of them making the claim that his "freedom of speech" was violated. It wasn't, plain and simple.

There is an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, 7th Heaven, in which the oldest son gets a job. His father makes a bet with him that he will not last one day because he doesn't yet understand what it means to have a job. When the son loses the bet, he admits defeat, then asks his father what he meant by that. The dad looks at his son and says, "Whatever the job, the number one thing is to make your boss look good."

At least in the opinion of A&E, Phil robertson did not make them look good. The constitution protects freedom of speech from government censorship. It does not in any way prevent a private company, such as the owners of a cable TV station, from distancing themselves from the personal views expressed by one of its "stars" if they feel those views reflect badly on them. It is the equivalent of a professor for a Christian school signing a contract which states that he must portray a certain standard of behavior in public, in keeping with the image of the institution. Then he is caught at a bar drunk, cussing, and generally making a fool of himself. That professor is going to very likely be suspended, if not fired, because his behavior reflects on more than just himself. It reflects on his employer.

The fact is, most Western Christians do not know persecution. I heard a missionary to China once tell me that the Chinese Christians pray for persecution of the American Church. Why? Because persecution is what makes Christians become more like Christ. Persecution is what is faced by millions of believers around the world who are cut off from their families because of their faith. Persecution is what believers are faced with in countries where their faith lands them in prison, such as Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran. Persecution is what early Christians, such as Perpetua, and even the Apostles faced when they were tortured and killed for following Christ. Persecution is what Christ himself faced when he was beaten and mocked before hanging on the cross.

Face the facts. Phil Robertson was not imprisioned for his faith. He was not investigated or interrogated or tortured for his beliefs. He was not sensored by the government, and he was not even put under house arrest or warned by some government agency to stop stating his opinion. He was simply repremanded by his private employer who felt that he was not making them look good. That is not persecution, and it is not a violation of his constitutional rights. If he is that passionate about his point of view, then, much like the response of the son from the TV episode I referenced above, maybe next time Phil should be more careful about who his "boss" is.

And, even it if were some form of persecution, as followers of Christ, should we not respond to persecution the way He did? He did not fight it, He understood it as part of the suffering that comes with laying down one's life. He told Peter to put down his sword. Isn't it time we are more concerned with following Christ's commands to reach out to the poor and the needy, and to make disciples of all the nations, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and love The Lord our God with all of our being, and less concerned with standing up for our "rights" as US citizens? I don't know about you, but I am first and foremost a Citizen of Christ's kingdom, where the first are last and the servant is King.

I want to wrap this up by bringing it back to my "Pet Peeve." Christians need to stop giving Christ a bad name out of their ignorance. Learn what words like "persecution," "constitutional right" and "freedom of speech" mean before we use them. Learn the historical and theological significance of something before we dismiss it. Most of all, let's all remember what real persecution is, and pray for the millions of believers around the world who experience it every day.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year! We celebrate this as the "Holiday Season" or more specifically for many Christians, the "Christmas Season." It is the time to "Deck the Halls." We string lights, sing songs about Santa and Reindeer and the magic of a Christmas snow, and we set up displays of the stable where "the newborn king" would rest in a manger full of hay. We spend hours, not to mention dollars, buying gifts for everyone from our children to our best friends. We have parties, bake cookies, and plan a huge holiday feast, and then, the next thing we know, it is Dec. 26th, and it is all over, as quickly as it began. It is easy to get caught up in the tinsel and the excitement, and then we burn out. The excitement fades, and the new stuff we thought was the greatest gift ever becomes just another thing on a shelf collecting dust, or gets broken and thrown away within a few weeks. But, hey, that's what this season is all about right? And of course, we will put away all the decorations and then take them out again next November and do it all again.

Have you ever wondered if we are doing it right? Are we really doing justice to celebrating the birthday of Emmanuel, the one who would be God with Us? While all those around us want to get caught up in Christmas, perhaps we need to step back and remind ourselves that this season is not a season about what is, it is a season about anticipating what is to come. It is the season of Advent that we celebrate. It is the time of year when we look forward with great anticipation and hope, to the coming of Messiah, Emmanuel, Christ, both his first coming as a humble babe in the manger, and his second coming, when He will return in all his glory. 

At this time of year, we need to remember that as Christians we have a hope that the world does not understand, it is a hope that carries us beyond December 25th. We have peace that comes from within us, peace that is able to carry us through the toughest storms of this life. We have joy that is unspeakable. And of course we have love because He loved us first, and choose to come. These are things that are not meant to be present only in the season and be thrown away with the wrapping paper or be packed away until next year. They are meant to carry us through, year after year, season after season, until the day of the Second Advent, the day our faith will become sight. 

And what of the day, December 25th, you may be asking. Well, that day should be more than just a single day of celebration. In the early church tradition the season of Advent, or anticipation, led to a celebration which lasted for a full 12 Days known as Christmastide, or "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It is when carols should be sung to Christ the King, it is the time when gifts are given to commemorate the Epiphany, or the day the wise men saw the star and found the Child. So, let's take our time to anticipate the coming, enjoy the fullness of celebration of the King, and continue to carry the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to a world that has been shrouded in darkness, as we bear His light. Celebrate from Advent to Epiphany, and beyond, until He comes again.