Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent: In a death match between Santa and the Easter Bunny...

Santa wins every time. In our westernized culture, we have two major religious holidays. One celebrating the birth of Christ and one celebrating the resurrection. I love both! I love Christmas decorations and lights. I also love Cadbury eggs with their delicious gooey egg colored filling! Some Christians may debate which holiday is more significant. I'm sure Easter wins that debate when you consider our entire faith is built upon a Man resurrecting Himself from the dead. Without the resurrection, there really is no reason to celebrate, is there? However, I'll quote my husband here as I think he makes a good point. "You can't have a death without a birth."

Christmas is so much easier to celebrate. Generally, you'll be hard pressed to find someone who will refuse a gift even if it is another pair of gym socks from grandma. Christmas music brings joy to most. Christmas lights decorate the world, and when we look into the eyes of baby Jesus in the nativity scene on the corner of First Baptist Church, we are not demanded to consider life change, necessarily. Sure, we may feel a bit guilty for skipping out on the toy drive, but do we really consider what that little baby calls us to do with our lives for the rest of the year?

For the American world at Christmas, baby Jesus remains a quaint story of a poor man's birth from a teenage girl and a man who considered abandoning his mysteriously pregnant fiance. Baby Jesus doesn't really rub anyone wrong. Baby Jesus is frail, meek, and mild, and if you ignore Him, He disappears into a mess of tinsel, ivy, and Bing Crosby. Santa wins the fight. Baby Jesus is simply an ornament on the tree.

The name Jesus at Christmas may not upset many in this American culture. The name Jesus at any other time of year makes the world a bit uncomfortable. I don't know if you're like me, but saying Jesus in the workplace is hard (third commandment aside). Throwing that name out there changes the air and dynamic immediately. Am I the only one who notices this? There is definitely something strange about speaking the name.

Adult Jesus demands a presence of mind.
Adult Jesus calls the world to repentance.
Adult Jesus reminds us of a higher standard of living.
Adult Jesus causes uncomfortable questions about death, the afterlife, and hell.
Adult Jesus brings on anger for those who don't want to submit.
Adult Jesus brings on guilt for those who don't want to change.

Speaking the name Jesus in some environments can get you fired, will cause you to lose friendships, can make relationships uncomfortable, can make families stop talking, and can bring your own life under scrutiny. In the political environment around the world, speaking Jesus into a conversation is inappropriate, even offensive. Who am I to bring up a particular standard of living, of faith? Everyone is OK with whatever they believe. Wrong. I'm here to tell you that if you buy into Christianity, you buy into a standard of living and a God who blatantly states that no one comes to God the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. If you don't believe that, you are not on the same page with the Savior you claim to profess.

Baby Jesus is much easier. Santa wins.

Friends, if we claim to be Christians we cannot shy away from adult Jesus. I'm not calling you to stand on any corner and intentionally hurt your chances for the next promotion. I am calling us all to hear the conscience God gave us, to act on the Holy Spirit when He nudges us, and to boldly speak the name of Jesus into our world at work, in our family, and in our neighborhoods. We are the only chance the world has to hear about Him. No more excuses. No more avoiding discomfort. No more Christ denials, because that's what it really is when we refuse to bring Him into the conversation--denying Christ for the sake of our own comfort.

Yes, Jesus calls us to change.
Yes, Jesus brings on our guilt.
Own it.
Yes, Jesus saves us from our sin!
Wear it.
Admit to it!

Jesus came to save this world. He came so that your neighbor could have life, your boss could have life, and your family could have life.

Thank God He came to remove our sin from us! Speak the name. Share Him. If you don't, who will?

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