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Summary: Christmas Season

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It All About The Love

Scripture: Mark 12:30-31; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:16-19

Introduction

There is a controversy going on right now in reference to the use of the word Christmas to describe this particular holiday season. It is politically incorrect to wish someone a Merry Christmas unless you know for sure that they are a Christian. Even though a lot of our holiday stories centers on Santa Claus, Christmas for Christians, started as a celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas, as we know it, is a rather modern innovation. Christ’s birthday was not celebrated until more than 300 years after his death and resurrection. For the early Christians, His birth was not as important as His death and resurrection. Based on biblical account of His birth, Christ was probably born in the spring. The celebration of Christmas being on December 25 was chosen to coincide with a Roman holiday in which the sun god was worshipped. By 386 A.D. church leaders set up the celebration of “Christ Mass” so that Christians could join in the festival activities that the Romans were already participating in without bending to paganism. After the Roman empire dissolved, Christians continued the December 25 birthday custom. Through the years other customs were added to the celebration to the point that what we have today does not resemble what was originally celebrated. So we find ourselves in the midst of wondering can I wish someone on my job a “Merry Christmas?” If I know a person is a Christian, I can wish them a Merry Christmas but if I do not know, now I run the risk of offending them, especially if they are Jewish or Islamic. Retailers are also getting away from using “Christmas” in their advertising as to not be offensive. They are now wishing everyone a very “Happy Holiday Season”.

I was watching a talk show this week and the host had an atheist, a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest as his guest. The host was also Catholic. The focus of the conversation was on why “religious” people believe in God and why the atheist did not. They also discussed the obvious fact that there is a division among those who believed in God but reject the belief in Christ. Both the rabbi and the priest could not believe that the atheist could teach her children that all that they were existed within them now, that there was no higher power than them. Her response to them was that the so-called “religious” people cannot agree with one another. The first place she went was Christ. She said to the priest and the rabbi that one of them must be wrong since one believed in Christ and the other did not. The rabbi responded by saying that both believed in God and that was more important. He took it a step further and said that he believed that Christ was truly the Messiah for the Gentiles, but he did not think that Christ was God’s Son. I did not hear all of the conversation, but the prevailing thought of the atheist was if the religious people could not agree how could she agree with and/or believe either group. It was easy to see the difference between Christians and Jews, but it is much harder to explain the differences between Christians, which is a point that the atheist quickly pointed out.

Christians are divided on a lot of issues, from how to baptize correctly to the words that must be said when the baptism takes place. We are divided on worship service, to have music or not, beliefs around the gifts of the Spirit, Church buildings versus meeting in someone home. We are divided on how we should dress, how we should act, what can and cannot be done in Church. We are divided on what we can eat, what we can watch or what music we can listen to. We are divided on who can stand in the pulpit or who can serve in other ministries of the Church. We are divided on what we believe about Jesus Christ, His teachings and the Word of God. We are divided on what is sin and it true penalty. We are divided on what we believe about salvation, who can have it and who cannot. We are divided on Church name, if the name of your Church is not right, you cannot be saved. Christians are divided, not just between denominations, but it can be found in individual Churches. There are people in this congregation that do not hold all of the same beliefs as someone else. Is it important for everyone to believe the same thing? Let me tell you what can be a motivator for some of the divisions – the belief that I am right and you are wrong and neither of us being willing to change or consider something different from what we already believe. If you hold beliefs that are the polar opposites from someone else, we may never say it, but deep down we have the tendency to believe that we are right and maybe someone else is wrong. If I truly believed someone else is right, then I will be faced with a decision about changing my belief and that can be very hard to do. So what do we do, we remain divided in a lot of situations. It is this divide that fuels a lot of the controversy that we find within the religious community. There is little tolerance for beliefs that do not agree with our beliefs. This division is one of the key elements as to why many choose not to go to church at all. When there are 15 churches on one city block and all of them claim to have the right answer, the right path to God and salvation, how can someone know what is right? How can five people read the same bible and walk away with 5 different interpretations? This is what we are faced with and what is hindering the church as a whole from growing. One point of interest for you, if you read the writings of Paul, this has been an issue from the very beginning of the Christian Church.

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