Thursday, December 18, 2014

Furthermore... Rejoice! Part 3 (Philippians 3:1, etc.)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

To the annoyance of some, I can be known to play Christmas music outside of the season. Or, what is just as annoying to my German friends, I will eat gingerbread before the Advent Season. I do understand that there is a value in saving things for their appropriate time. However, when it comes to Christmas, I try to celebrate the story every day all year round. My father used to read us the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke, bit by bit, every day of the week leading up to the 24th. Even with that tradition, which I uphold, I still read those passages throughout the year as well.

Eating a Christmas cookie before advent is most annoying to those for whom all of the joy of Christmas lies in the anticipation. As believers, our joy lies only partially in the anticipation of what is to come. We also have the assurance of what has occurred. Christ has come and sin is defeated. We do not need to develop systems of behavior, to deprive ourselves of certain joys to create levels of suffering in order to earn the love of God. It has been freely offered to all who will believe.

To some degree though, that is the goal of every religious system. They attempt, through moralistic measures, to please an image of a deity that is angry. They try to develop and force rules designed “for peoples’ benefit” that will make their lives better through their own efforts. This is a moralistic, therapeutic approach to spirituality and faith.

It is enough to know that the grace of God is ours. His love sees us through everything we encounter along this way to the world as God intends it to be. We will encounter enough suffering as a result of the evil and sin in the world. We do not need religious systems to inflict some sort of “suffering as purification.” We do not need a cost-benefit analysis to convince us to do the things that please God. As His people those things should be our pleasure as well.

More than anything else, Christmas is full of joy because it is a part of the most joyful story ever told…

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