a baptist perspective

 

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Jason Sampler
New Orleans, Louisiana

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B.A. History Education, SWOSU
M.A. Theology, NOBTS
Th.M. Theology, NOBTS

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Monday, December 19, 2005

My Thoughts During Christmas

Well, since 3 of my 4 readers have recently complained because I haven't posted in awhile, I thought I would take a moment and post some thoughts. There is no necessary order to any of these, just 'thoughts i'm thinking':

1. As I sit in the library of my alma mater today, with snow covering the ground, I have reflected on many fond memories of my college days. I was pretty young and relatively immature then (and not much has changed since then, except i'm gettting older!), I am grateful to God for the way He has guided my life. Not everything has turned out at I would have planned, but He has made things work out. I've got so many friends still left in my college town. I even went to my old church last night to watch their Christmas play. It was a blessing to see old friends.

2. I'm often times caught off guard when I really realize that God is never caught off guard; He is never surprised by the events of our lives. Even when I don't know what to do, or when to do what I don't know what to do, I am trusting that God is working things out for my good. If anything, the events of my life in the last few months have been a test case in trusting God in the big and small things (Matthew 7.11 comes to mind at this point).

3. As I get older, the more frustrated I am with the commercialization of Christmas. Christians make such a fuss about "keeping Christ in Christmas" (in response to stores that announce "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas") but they fail to see their own inconsistencies regarding the holiday. I suspect I have a more radical view than others (which I am afforded due to my lack of wife or kids), but I see no need for Santa Clause or buying presents. I can't imagine how it is 'Christ-honoring' to spend hundreds of dollars each Christmas buying presents for family and friends. I'm not opposed to giving gifts, per se. However, I think Christmas has become too much about giving to ourselves and not enough about giving to others. Don't get me wrong. I think it's fine to buy a present or two, but I've changed my outlook on things recently. I've bought a few presents for my family, but told them not to buy me anything. I'm tired of the 'expense' of Christmas. The "joy" of shopping is a hoax and it seems that there is too much 'extra-curricular" ties to celebrating the Incarnation.

4. More and more I'm grateful for an obedient local church that seeks to minister to the community at large instead of being satisfied with hearing decent/good preaching and demanding that the pastor come and visit the sick and hospitalized. I pray that more chuches in my convention wake up to the fact that the world is moving past us and, for the most part, doesn't care about what we do unless we are actively engaging them outside of our own buildings.

5. Finally, I hope that this year I will have a greater understanding of Christmas. It has to be the most miraculous event in all of history. How did the Divine add mortality to Himself? How did the incorporeal take on a body? Why do I sometimes fuss when I am treated with guile when the King submitted to being born in a manger and sleeping in a trough? Will I remember that I was not worthy to receive the benefits of His Incarnation and then be motivated to share His story with others who are equally unworthy?

I'd like to hear your thoughts on Christmas. What are you thankful for? Do you agree with my assessment on Christmas?

May the King reign supreme in your heart and, as a result, cause you to celebrate His birth with more joy and thanksgiving than ever before. "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2.11)

posted by Jason Sampler at 9:35 AM

4 Comments:

Blogger cks said...

Jason--

I guess you're counting yourself as one of your four readers. That's cool.

I tend to agree with you. And I had a conversation with Anthony Orzo last night that echoed much of what you've laid out here in your first few points.

Not that he's trying to join the Emergent Conversation (whatever that is), but he voiced similar concerns. What's needed is a conservative response that owes nothing to Maclaren and everything to the Gospel. And I'm having deja vu right now, so I'll stop.

3:58 PM, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Bart said...

Jason,

Thank you for feeding your hungry readers. I'll just comment on thought #3.

I too am deeply disturbed by the materialism associated with Christmas. It’s pervasive and sickening. Of course, we should just admit that this is a reflection of the materialism that permeates our culture. It's just unfortunate that the most intense expression occurs during the season we celebrate the Incarnation.

Regarding Santa Claus, I am with you. I see no need for him, and that for two child-centered reasons. First, I am concerned about the confusion over the reason for Christmas. I don't won't to leave any doubt whatsoever about the reason for our celebration. I understand that this is really what you as a parent make it. But I prefer to eliminate the competition in my child’s mind. Second, and almost as important, I am concerned about the materialism associated with Christmas, as I wrote above. In my opinion, the idea of Santa feeds that association. At bottom, there is nothing connected with Santa other than getting things. I think this is harmful and inimical to the true meaning of Christmas.

Now, to move from the theoretical to the actual. Interestingly, I was always told that having children would change my cold heart toward Santa. Well, it has. I am now more committed than ever to bypassing Santa. And this was confirmed just this morning. As I was getting ready for work, Leslie (my wife) asked me to talk with our almost four-year-old daughter, Rachel. Why? Rachel had just told Leslie she loved Santa more than she loves Jesus. I was troubled for two reasons. First, we never teach her about Santa, nor do we have any Santas in our Christmas decorations. We avoid him altogether. Nevertheless, she’s connected the dots in her mind. Second, and more troubling, is the reason she gave—“Santa gives gifts but Jesus doesn’t.” If that doesn’t make you stop and reconsider this issue, I don’t know what will. I don’t care if she’s just three. Those words still sent chills up my spine. Needless to say, I went to work late because Rachel and I had a long talk.

So what to do (other than the obvious griping via blogs)? I think Jason is on to something, though I am not willing to follow him all the way down his "grinchly" path. I think gift-giving can be an honoring and appropriate part of Christmas if done in the right way. I would, however, suggest a marked scaling back of gift-giving, especially within one's immediate family. This year, for example, we are getting our two children, Rachel and Jonathan, one or two "significant" gifts. By "significant" I mean twenty or twenty-five dollars. Leslie and I will get each other something very inexpensive as well (maybe ten to fifteen dollars). We hope to spend around $100 dollars for our Christmas gifts within our family. I know we could get by with less, but that’s where we’re at for now.

Our family is also attempting to do more than restrict our giving to one another. We make an effort to give a sizable contribution (for our family) to missions during this time of year. This is made possible by being simpler in our gift-giving to one another. In addition, we participate in a program geared toward underprivileged children in our community, ensuring that they are given gifts during this season as well. Finally, we are hoping to go as a family this week to a children's home and take either gifts or supplies to the children living there. This will be a vivid reminder of how privileged we are and what we should be about. I think this last practice may be the most important of all for our own children. Of course, these are not given as must-do’s; they’re just a list of possibilities that refocus our efforts and attention during this time of year. There are, I’m sure, a thousand other ways this could be done.

In closing, I hope all the readers of this blog (I’ll let you insert your own smart aleck comment here) will understand that I am not crusading against Santa. I have not covered every angle nor answered every question regarding these issues. These are simply my personal conviction and, as such, will provide guidance for my family. And, no, I don’t think all Santa advocates are going to hell (unless the fact that “Santa” is an anagram of “Satan” means something). But as for me and my house…we will celebrate the pagan-festival-turned-Catholic-mass-turned-Protestant-holiday without Santa.

Merry Christmas,

Bart

7:19 PM, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Jason Sampler said...

Kelly,
I agree. I want to owe nothing to McLaren and all to Christ.

Bart,
I appreciate your response, especially to thought #3. It's good to hear that your views have grown stronger, not weaker, as your children grow. Please don't read me to say I think all gift-giving should be 'outlawed' by Christians. In fact, my brother, dad, and myself bought my mom a rather expensive gift this year, but it's the only gift I'm buying. We wanted to give her something nice this year.

I think in part my attitude towards Christmas is a growth in Christian maturity, but I would be foolish to think the effects of Katrina had nothing to do with it. Material things will come and go. It is far wiser, and a greater investment, to spend your resourcese on eternal things. I was grateful to hear you talk about giving mostly to missions. I whole-heartedly agree. I didn't go into it b/c I was mainly rambling, not providing a solid presentation, but I couldn't agree more with you at this point.

I think that disciples should give at least as much to missions (or by helping meet the needs of orphans/widows/aliens) as they do to buying presents. That seems only sensible.

Finally, and on to another point, after tonight I will step back two or three decades as I leave behind the internet world and travel to Arkansas to see family. I won't be posting anything new, or even reading any comments, at least until after Christmas.

Happy Jesus Birthday,
Jason

9:41 PM, December 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog sucks! I want my money back!

CKS

7:46 PM, December 31, 2005  

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The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Revised Edition) by Wayne Grudem


Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 by D. A. Carson

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Burleson Prepares for Battle
Psalm 46 and Me
Jesus, Santa, and . . . Paris???
Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
Encourage Dr. Rankin
Closed on Christmas???
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The views presented on this blog do not represent the opinions or positions of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the SBC, any local, or state Baptist association, or of Edgewater Baptist Church. The views represented here are solely the personal views of the author. Also, it should be made public that I am a rabid University of Oklahoma sports fan . . . BOOMER SOONER!

 

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