Summary: The opeing message that kicks off a six part series on making Christ more central in our Christmas celebrations.
Seasoning the Season
Sunday, November 24,2002
I’m always confused about this service because there are two things that need to be accomplished at the same time. Advent begins next Sunday and if we are to get the most out of our Advent season, it is important to hit it “running.” As a culture, we tend to begin preparation for Christmas the Friday after Thanksgiving.
For some people that isn’t true, however. For most of my life, I didn’t even know that people began shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I never knew that it was a big day. We began preparations the second Sunday in December, put up the tree, and did our own thing when we thought the timing was about right. My wife and I discovered, though, that there was something missing in our Christmas experienced and we wondered why that was. Then we got in touch with an old Christian practice that has been around for about 1,600 years called Advent. This is simply preparing for the celebration of the coming of Christ four Sundays prior to Christmas. Once we started doing this, we found that our experience was deeper and much more meaningful with a spiritual significance to it.
I think the themes of the Advent calendars which you now have give us focus. By practicing one per week, this helped us focus on the meaning of Christ-mas and helped us begin to celebrate it. By the time we reached Christmas Eve, we anticipated this long-expected Jesus.
At the same time, this week Thanksgiving is on Thursday. We don’t want to steal anything from the Thanksgiving service because it is a very important, religious, scriptural day. In scripture they celebrate the Feast of the Passover which is the feast of the harvest. The sacred assembly celebrated the fullness of the harvest that had come. Pentecost celebrated the beginning of harvest. It is right for us to give thanks as individuals, and it is right for us to give thanks as a nation. It is not as important to the universal church because the universal church does not
all live in America. This holiday is important for the American church and I know that as a society we have overlooked Thanksgiving. We go from Halloween to Christmas, and you see this in the decorations. You hardly see any harvest or Thanksgiving-themed decorations. I think the reason for this is that it is hard to get commercial with the Pilgrims.
We are going to tip-toe between these two holidays today. They do have some commonalities–they both have deep religious roots, they both include salient traditions, they both have an ambience that surrounds them, and they both include special foods that go along with them. They both have scriptural roots. At Thanksgiving the purpose is to give thanks. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
If there is any message for both holidays, it’s this: Keep the main thing the main thing. To help illustrate that, I have all the ingredients I need here to make a pumpkin pie. As you think of Thanksgiving, what are some of the aromas that tell you its Thanksgiving? Turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, hot baked rolls and stuffing. Pie-making is an art, and I have tried it at times but my wife is far better. If you don’t have the crust ingredients just right, it can be hard as a brick. Pumpkin by itself is kind of bland, but if you add the right spices and a little bit of sugar the flavor of the pumpkin is brought out. If you have a piece of pumpkin pie with a little whipped cream on top, there’s nothing better.
That’s the experience you get when you spice things the right way. The same thing is true with our holiday seasons, both Thanksgiving and Christmas. They can be a wonderful, deep, enriching spiritual experience if we spice them just right to bring out the proper flavor. As a church, we are going to look at ways that we can spice up our holidays to bring out the flavor of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To help us remember, I put all these suggestions in “G” words. We are going to spice up the season by
*Seasoning our Greetings
*Seasoning our Giving
*Seasoning our Gatherings
*Seasoning our Glorifying
*Seasoning our Getting
Today, we are going to talk about seasoning our Garnish. How do we decorate in such a way to bring out the flavor of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are going to look at Hebrews 9: 1-10. I think this gives us some hints about whether it is scriptural to decorate our homes:
One thing that is important to note about decorating for the holidays is that it is a good and righteous thing to do. It is not secular, it is not unspiritual, and it is not a sign of materialism. The key is the focus. It is interesting that God is very particular about how he decorates his place of worship. In fact, he is extremely detail oriented and he tells the people exactly what he wants in that place and nothing else. As noted in the text, there is a lampstand in the Tabernacle, there is a curtain which no one can pass through except the high priest, there is the Holy of Holies which houses the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat, there is the altar and the incense burner, and a whole list of traditions that are very important.