My neighborhood in Marietta, Georgia, glows with bright lights. At the local malls shoppers fill their arms with packages. Employees in nearby office buildings bring sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles on them to work and swap presents at the gift exchange. Communities all across the country hold parades, put up red and green decorations and brilliantly lit trees. It’s the Christmas season. And I’m caught in the flurry of activity, the baking, getting together with friends, finding the right sweaters for my daughter and niece, the socks and aftershave my husband always asks for, the parties. It’s time to celebrate the bonds of friends and family.
But it’s so much more. It’s Christians all over the world rejoicing because Christ came to free us from the shackles of sin that we could not possibly shed on our own. By his grace, because of the blood he shed, the pain he endured if we accept him as our Savior, we’re no longer bound to an eternity of misery. Therefore, at this holy time of year Christians give thanks to God, declaring his majesty. We go to church to praise him. On Christmas Eve many of us sit in the still of midnight candlelight services, where the Hallelujah Chorus lifts our spirits to the Heavens. There we acknowledge that we indeed do know why we’re giving presents to friends, family, and those less fortunate. We’re doing it to honor Jesus. We’re giving because he told us to love one another, and we want to worship him. When he grew up, he was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22: 36 - 40).
But even with all God gave to us, with all Jesus did for us, for all he taught us, we don’t always love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds. Sometimes we don’t even acknowledge him. Not only that, we might even criticize those who do. Recently a college football player on a winning team said on television that he wanted to give glory to Jesus. Later I heard a churchgoer condemn that player, saying he believed the football field isn’t the place to praise God.
I first heard that politically correct term years ago, when my daughter entered the first grade in a public school. She was asked to perform a solo in music class and started to sing a song she’d learned in Sunday school. Then she was chastised. At home she repeated her teacher’s words, when she explained to me that she couldn’t sing a Christian song, because, “School isn’t a place for God.” I reassured my distraught six-year-old that God is everywhere. I asked her to keep the love of God in her heart and insisted that he never would leave her no matter where she was. Then I encouraged her to pray or sing hymns in silence at school, even if she wasn’t allowed to do that out loud.
God is on our football fields. God is in our schools. God is in our kitchens. God is in our living rooms. God is in our shops. He’s on our streets. He’s walking down our sidewalks. He’s on the battlefields. He’s in our airplanes, our cars, our buses and trains. He’s in the forests. He’s in the cities. He’s in the suburbs. He’s in the light of day and the glittering Heavens in the dark of night. He’s in the storms and the sunshine. We may choose not to recognize him, but he’s there. Some may declare his holiness only in select places, such as churches, or at special times, such as Christmas, but he’s in every corner of the universe every second of every day. Since we can neither put God in a particular place nor leave him out of one, a more correct statement for us to use if we feel we must be politically correct is, “God is on the football field, but I don’t speak of him in that place, or God is in the schools, but I don’t praise him out loud there, because it’s against the rules.”
It is so easy in our secular driven society to try too hard to please others. Also, I know many times I hear a comment made or a phrase used over and over by the general public so often that it no longer rings untrue to me, becoming part of my vernacular. Then I use it without even thinking about what it means or what I’m really saying. But I resolve to watch out for the secular pitfalls as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas in my heart year around. Christmas reminds me that I can do nothing on my own. I owe everything to Jesus. All glory and honor to him.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28: 7).
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10 : 32 - 33).