It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go! And I suppose it's time.
A few weeks ago, I lamented how quickly our society jumped from Halloween to Christmas, skipping right over Thanksgiving. I wrote:
This year I noticed, more than ever before, how Christmas decorations came out on November 1st. Both online and in stores, our world jumped from Halloween right into Christmas... I’m all for celebrating Christmas - it is the good news of God’s love revealed in Jesus, who left His home in heaven that we might be adopted into the family of God!
What troubles me is that by jumping from Halloween to Christmas, we could totally bypass Thanksgiving... To put it in purely economic terms, Thanksgiving doesn’t really "sell." Sure, there’s a turkey here and some stuffing there, but Thanksgiving doesn’t grab our culture’s attention like Halloween or Christmas...
As followers of Jesus, I hope we fully engage in Thanksgiving. Not just around our collective tables on November 24th, but as a spiritual exercise whereby we recognize God’s goodness to us. 1st Chronicles 16.34 puts it succinctly: "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."
Now that we have done so, fully celebrating the LORD who is good, whose love has extended to us through Jesus, it's time to get that Christmas tree and hang up those lights, rejoicing in his birth. As we do so, may we not leave behind the spiritual exercise of giving thanks. What's more, may our gift giving might be in response to this ultimate gift given to us in Jesus. As Pastor Tim Keller writes in his book Hidden Christmas,
The giving of gifts is a natural reponse to Jesus' stupendous act of self-giving, when he laid aside his glory and was born into the human race... Jesus gave himself to us, and so we must give ourselves wholly to him.
It's for this reason that we conclude our annual "pledge drive" (with our pledge cards or online pledging) on this first Sunday in Advent, as we remember all we have to be thankful for and prepare to welcome God's Son into the world.
Perhaps its dangerous to do so - why not receive pledges for 2017 earlier in the fall, when there's less distraction?
We receiving pledges this Sunday intentionally, as it's the beginning of a new church year. We look ahead to a new calendar year just as we look ahead to again celebrating the birth of Jesus among us.
Pledging our commitment to the work of God through Good Shepherd fits best in November, as we pause to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. During this season, with its slight lull in activity before the busyness of December, we are able to see clearly how good God is and how good it is to be gathered into a family of faith like Good Shepherd.
So may our pledging to the work of God through Good Shepherd be a "natural response to Jesus' stupendous act of self giving." May we indeed "give ourselves wholly to him," now and forever.