Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Such is the Spirit of Christmas

Sunday was our second Sunday of Advent and a pastoral reminder of the coming Christ’s Birthday Offering (CBO), which many churches take at this time every year. With that reminder came the biblical story of Christmas (not the typical marketers version).

Even the President tried to make this point, if you watched the official lighting of the White House Christmas tree. Recognition was given all around, the tree lost in the storm, even Santa Claus. However, when the President spoke, he referenced the Biblical Story and the faith expressed in this Christian Holiday. The reason for the season is the birth of Jesus, called the Christ--Emanuel: God With Us.

“Tis the season of Christmas, that time of the year following Thanksgiving, when business celebrates “Black Friday”, the day the business community recognizes as the success of American marketers in hijacking Christmas as a secular holiday for receiving gifts and doing 40% or so of their annual business.

I have no problem with gift-giving. I love the spirit of the holiday season. Yesterday, when I came through the Wal-mart line, I handed the clerk several twenty-dollar bills and reached for the change in my pocket. As luck would have it, I came up 2 pennies short, which meant breaking my last $20 bill. Immediately, the lady behind me handed a coin to the clerk and said “Merry Christmas” to me.

Thanking her, I spoke directly to her and her elderly mother sitting in her wheeklchair: “I’m glad you said “Merry Christmas rather than happy holidays.” Without batting an eyelash, she replied, “Without Christ, there is no Christmas!” I left the store with my cart of groceries, but not before leaving with her my blessing of peace: “And may His Peace be yours… “
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

When I opened my most recent gas bill for the month, it had a seasonal flyer from Semco Energy reminding me of the Spirit of the Season. This special assistance edition informed me how I could apply for Home Heating Credit, if I needed it, or how I could make it easier for someone else that needed it.
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

Another piece of mail offered me “The Most Important Gift Catalogue in the World” … for people still looking for the perfect gift. Inside, I learned about Since 1944, Heifer International has brought hope and healing to impoverished families (13.6 million) in more than 125 countries.

One example is Citu Liviu, whose family in Plostina, Romania improved their nutrition through sheep received from Heifer supporters. Nsangou Rachidatou, from Cameroon, has a heifer that provides her family with milk to drink while profiting from the yogurt she makes and sells to enhance their limited income.
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

From my Clay City, KY friend, Don Curtis, came this flyer from “Children’s Lifeline,” founded by Arnold Lemke of Buchanan, MI. Don is president/CEO and spends much of his time in Haiti. By utilizing I could buy a laying hen for $15 and improve the poverty of a Haitian family; they already feed 8,300 children a day. My support would help provide medical care for Haitian children who would otherwise be without such care, or a gift of $4,500 would provide a block home for a homeless family.Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

I don’t recall the goal of our church's Christ’s Birthday Offering (CBO) --I think a few thousand dollars. I know it will help support Christian missionaries abroad. It will enable our church agencies to further perform functions that have become vital to our institutional church life. Most of all, it will enable our congregations to continue cooperatively sharing God’s love story, and I consider that of vital importance to our networking, as well as to our relating as a global community. I believe, of such is the true Spirit of Christmas.

Now, I know that business must make money to stay in business, but I would feel better about it if business did not hijack a religious holiday for the purpose of private profit. I have no objection to giving gifts, but how much better that we teach the true spirit of Christmas--more about giving and less about receiving.

From Warner’s World,
I believe that bible verse that says it is better to give than to receive, and I am concerned that we be more about giving than about receiving, for of such is the true Spirit of Christmas.

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