When our daughters were in first grade, we had them attend a Christian school as part of en experiment as we tried to figure out how best to educate and raise them. That year I attended the class Christmas party that ended up consisting of Santa plates, snowman crafts and a group reading of the Polar Express. I left that party so sad, not about Santa, snowmen or fiction Christmas books. I left because the Christmas party at the private Christian school had looked identical to the Christmas parties in the public school system from which our family had just come. If a person had been plopped into our Christmas party via a time machine, there would have been nothing to indicate the party was taking place at a Christian school.
“Jesus” got left out in a place where we were allowed to freely speak His name.
I decided that year that when I have an opportunity to speak His name, I am going to seize it. I can’t speak freely about my faith at work, for example, but at a Christmas party at a Christian school? In personal relationships with people? In my answers to questions when asked? Absolutely. “Jesus” will be spoken.
This is what we read every Christmas eve. Still makes me cry, and beautifully illustrated.
Last week I had the opportunity to observe church-raised children (including my son) share their favorite part of Christmas. Answers included candy, presents, and elf-on-a-shelf. In full defense of those children, who doesn’t love those things? I can understand a young child not naming Jesus first. After all, Jesus is in heaven right now, sitting at the right hand of God. We can’t touch or feel Him like we can tangibly enjoy candy or presents. However, it happened again.
“Jesus” got left out in a place where we were allowed to freely speak His name.
I love enjoying the gift of freedom of speech here in America. I don’t want to limit that freedom for anyone else because they can then impose restrictions back on me. I want my freedom of speech that allows me to speak the name of “Jesus.”
Freedom of speech
Some think freedom of speech means we can say anything we want to , any time we want and anywhere we want, but that is not true. The courts are making decisions regularly about what freedom of speech means and doesn’t mean. For example, in 1919 it became illegal to say anything that presented a clear and present danger to the nation. The discussion I believe our global and diverse society desperately needs to have, however, is about how to extend the gift of freedom of speech on a daily basis in our relationships with people. It seems to me we are struggling in the following ways with what freedom of speech means…or doesn’t mean.
1. Civility is lacking.
Our freedom is being used for crass talk, profanity-laced speech, and words spoken in angry rage and judgmental tones. American citizens seem to be losing their ability to engage in civil discussions. Emotions seem to flare and escalate quickly.
2. Agreement is expected.
I am astounded at the lack of ability American citizens have to engage in polite disagreement. Why can’t two people share a meal together and dialogue about their opposing faiths without one getting offended because the other doesn’t agree?
Now that those clarifications are made, here is what I love.
I love freedom of speech balanced by ethics — civil discussions, the freedom to express myself without others feeling like I am criticizing them, and freedom to hear what others have to say without having to agree. What a world that would be!
Back to “Jesus” and Christmas.
Christians, it’s our holiday. Let’s seize the opportunity to celebrate our Lord. Let’s speak His name in our home and have Him in our décor. All month long we will be faced with decisions that give us the option of picking Jesus. Let’s pick Him! Here are some examples from my home and heart.
Santa doesn’t share the spotlight
Personally, I eliminate Santa from my Christmas celebration. I just don’t want to give the legend any more glory than our culture already does. I don’t mean his name is prohibited in our home, or even that Santa is spoken about badly. I don’t mean I am offended when I hear others talk about Santa and I don’t evaluate how others celebrate their holidays. (Remember, I cherish civil freedom of speech!) What I do mean is when I am faced with a plethora of gift wrapping choices, paper plate designs, or ornaments, I don’t pick Santa. In my opinion, his name is the #1 reason the name of Jesus is not spoken at Christmas, so Santa will not find me making any extra room for him. I think Satan is laughing gleefully at our twisted celebration of Christmas. (Santa-Satan, see the twist there too?)
Oh, my goodness. Because I have been in third world countries I cannot get excited about stuff we don’t need. When I need a sweater, I love picking out a pretty one amidst my choices, of course. But how many sweaters do I need? And how many toys to do my well- taken-care-of children need? And how many gifts do my well-to-do neighbors need? I am sometimes sickened watching the rich bless the rich. So yes, a budget is made and all the proper Christmas cultural expectations are handled as frugally as possible and with much, much joy. The greater fun begins, however, when deciding how to bless people who need it. Here are some ideas up my sleeve for this year.
1. Buy a chicken, goat, or rabbit.
This year I have purchased Hope Baskets from The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World. More gifts like this will soon be purchased. There are many catalogs like this from credible organizations like World Vision and Compassion International.
2. Do a random act of kindness with a Jesus twist.
My husband purchased tickets for our family to attend a customary event together this season. It’s a splurge. It’s special, and I plan to enjoy it. However, I have determined not to attend a luxurious event that blesses us without first luxuriously blessing others. I have the idea to pile the kids in the car that day and give each of them a bill (based on what our finances can handle that day). We will pray for God’s leading in our giving, then venture out to bless people. It’s a random act of kindness with a Jesus twist. Each of us must associate our lives with Jesus as we give the gift. If all we do, for example, is put a $100 bill in some person’s hand at Starbucks and then leave, we are simply good people. The recipient will have no thought of Jesus in that case. Therefore, my children will be coached to say the following in their own words — “Good afternoon, I am celebrating Christmas this month, the birth of my Savior Jesus Christ. Since He has loved me lavishly, I want to love lavishly too. (Hand money.) Merry Christmas!”
3. Care for someone God has put on your heart.
The person on my heart this year is a single mother who lives nearby. She is the daughter of an old friend of mine. I want to treat this sweet young mom like I would want others to treat my daughter.
4. Take care of family members in need.
This is a chilling verse to me that rings in my ears regularly: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Egads! Based on my understanding of God and His Word, no family should be exchanging gifts in a warm home while other immediate family members are in an unheated home with nothing. (Please understand that I know about the complexities of families. Addictions, broken relationships, personalities, etc. dictate unique challenges for each family. No pat answers exist, but nothing excuses us from reading and applying the Bible appropriately for each of our situations.) This verse gives food for thought, for sure!
5. Give Jesus a gift.
It’s His birthday, after all. I got this idea from Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, who gives Jesus something for Christmas every year. One year I purged my home of all Santa decorations (the year of that Christmas party at a private school). Another year I hosted a neighborhood Christmas event. One year I gave my entire paycheck to immediate family members in need. This year I am giving in new ways that I have never done before (items 1-3 in the list above).
The list goes on….
Each of you readers has your own way of celebrating our glorious Savior and each idea is equal in value. This isn’t about one-upping or copying each other. No pressure here! This blog entry is presenting the challenge, however, to make sure our Christmas celebration has Jesus in it as we enjoy our freedom of speech in a civil manner and associate our lives with the wonderful spoken name above all names…
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