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Summary: This is the first message in a series aimed at getting people to re-evaluate how they observe Christmas. I've drawn some ideas from Mike Slaughter's book "Christmas Is Not Your Birthday."

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AM Sermon preached at Central Christian Church December 1, 2013

A Different Kind of Christmas sermon series Message 1 “Expect the Unexpected”

Okay so I went to the store Wednesday evening to pick up a few things we were wanting to have in our Thanksgiving dinner and when I walked in the door of Wal-Mart, the first thing that caught my eye was this (hold up paper), the early edition of the paper with all of the Black Friday sales ads in it. Or should I say, the pre-Black Friday Thanksgiving Day sales and the Black Friday sales ads. My first reaction when I saw this was “wow that paper’s huge!” I knew right then, I had to spring for the $1.50 to have one---not so I could plan my Black Friday shopping spree because we’d already made plans to spend Friday in Indiana visiting with Lori’s side of the family. No, I wanted a copy of this paper for this morning, to hold it up and use it to illustrate that this is what the world has made of Christmas. Now please don’t take me wrong and immediately tune me out. I don’t see myself as some type of Grinch or Scrooge who stands in opposition to all the gift giving that goes on. I’m not saying this is all bad, folks. And I’m not going to stand up here and tell you shopping on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday is a sin. What I am saying is that this newspaper in many ways symbolizes what Christmas has come to mean to many people in the world---and that’s more than sad, it’s tragic.

Very quickly let me share some bits and pieces from the ads--- Guitar Center suggests that if you buy from them you’ll be able to “give the greatest feeling on earth...” ToysRUs suggests by shopping at their store you can “make all their wishes come true!” Sports Authority claims “there’s nothing like the gift of sport.” The Sleep Number store claims their New Tech-e Pillow is “Everyone’s must-have gift.” Then of course not only are advertisers suggesting that through your purchases at their stores you can make everyone feel wonderful most of them are saying you can do an even better job of that if you buy at their store because their store offers special financing----the front page of h.h. gregg’s ad says you can save up to 40 percent or more and have 24 months special financing; elsewhere in the add they offer 12 month special financing and 48 month special financing. Rothman furniture store’s ad boasts 5 year’s of special financing! Special financing is another way of saying buy now and pay later and pay later and pay later and pay later and pay later... This Hallmark store ad came in the mail it advertises using phrases like “surprise them all season long,” “here comes the fun” “get in the holiday spirit” and my favorite this is bound to tug at their heartstrings and make them want to spend, spend, spend catch phrase was this one “Show them how special they are.” I look at all this and I can see why Mike Slaughter wrote in his book “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday,” “Christmas has been hijacked and exploited. We have professed allegiance to Jesus but celebrate his birth with an orgy of materialism.”

This morning we’re beginning a new sermon series called “A Different Kind of Christmas.” And that title expresses my hope for us this year and every year to follow. My hope is that we will this year draw a line in the sand and say this is it, this is the year I’m taking a stand and refusing to allow myself to get lured into the world’s way of looking at Christmas. This is the year that I begin re-evaluating my Christmas routines, traditions, spending habits and practices and if there are things I’ve been doing which do not honor God or go against His purposes for my life then this is the year I begin to chip away at them or cast them completely aside. My hope for us is that we will not only refuse to give any further ground to the world’s consumeristic approach to Christmas but that we will also begin to reclaim lost ground. And I hope that if you’re not with me on this now that you will be by the time the holiday rolls around. This is my hope for us for two reasons---one because I believe it will honor and please God---and two because I believe our doing so will enable us to experience more peace and joy than any toy, gadget or thing could ever bring. Friends and family members may not understand us if we make these heart-shifts and life changes. People may think we’re a little weird. But to me that’s okay---in fact that’s really what being salt and light are all about---I mean we’re told we should shine as stars in the universe---and to me that means we don’t just mix in with the crowd and we don’t just go with the flow---it means we live and act differently---besides, when you read the stories about Jesus in the Bible you find that a lot of people didn’t understand Jesus. And a lot of people thought He was weird too. But in the Kingdom of God, weird works. Now that may sound strange coming at you from a preacher. I mean we usually you the word weird in a derogatory way. But the Encarta Dictionary simply defines weird as “strange or unusual.” And in a non-derogatory way that describes the way God works. God Himself says “My ways are not your ways.” Or in other words God says my ways are different from your ways. My ways will come across as unusual---strange, weird to you. So when the world says “here’s how you have a great Christmas” expect that God’s way will be different.

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