VIDEO Just Say Merry Christmas

prager-u-merry-christmas

Last month a Woolworth store in Germany made headlines in the UK and in the US for proclaiming itself to be a “Muslim” store, and therefore it would no longer carry Christmas items.

There’s more to the story — as the local management of the store defended itself by saying that there was such little demand for the Christmas products, they decided the shelf space was better used with other items. You can read about it here, here and here and decide for yourself what to believe.

Christmas as controversy is not new, of course, as the debate over whether to say “happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas” has long been a part of American pop culture. It even made an appearance in the 2016 presidential campaign as the question whether saying “merry Christmas” is offensive to some delicate ears. Donald Trump often said on the campaign trail that if he was elected, “we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store … You can leave happy holidays at the corner”:

I love Christmas. I love Christmas. You go to stores, you don’t see the word Christmas. It says happy holidays all over. I say, ‘Where’s Christmas?’ I tell my wife, ‘Don’t go to those stores.’

With the election of Trump, a writer at New York Magazine weighed in:

And so it is apparently ‘safe’ for Christians to be rude to their Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or nonreligious friends and colleagues by regaling them with sectarian holiday greetings. The war on common courtesy has apparently been subordinated to the war on ‘political correctness.’

Dennis Prager, who is Jewish, has a different take (the video is embedded below):

I’m a non-Christian. I’m a Jew. Christmas is not a religious holy day for me. But I’m an American, and Christmas is a national holiday in my country. It is, therefore, my holiday — though not my holy day — as much as it is for my fellow Americans who are Christian. That’s why it’s not surprising that it was an American Jew, Irving Berlin, who wrote “White Christmas,” one of America’s most popular Christmas songs. In fact, according to a Jewish musician writing in the New York Times, “Almost all the most popular Christmas songs were written by Jews.” Apparently all these American Jews felt quite included by Christmas!

By not wishing me a Merry Christmas, you are not being inclusive. You are excluding me from one of my nation’s national holidays.

. . .

The vast majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas, and who treat non-Christians so well, deserve better.

So, please say ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Christmas party’ and ‘Christmas vacation.’ If you don’t, you’re not ‘inclusive.’ You’re hurtful.

The American Family Association has posted a version of a naughty and nice list with its “Rating the Top Retailers and How They Market to Christmas Shoppers.” They divide up American businesses into three categories: Nice, Marginal, and Naughty — this is from their website:

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Among the Nice “5-Star” companies listed are Walmart, Cracker Barrel and Hobby Lobby. At the other end of the spectrum — the Naughty kids — are companies like Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Pet Smart. Pet Smart may carry Santa suits for dogs, but we all know Santa doesn’t exactly serve to emphasize the “Christ” in “CHRISTmas,” so that doesn’t count.

Before you head out the door for another round of Christmas shopping, visit the American Family Association’s “Naughty (and Marginal) and Nice” list. AFA even invites recommendations for their list, though they don’t include local or regional companies — only nationally-recognized companies.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Notes: Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! Luke 2:14

There are two levels of peace in the world. There is peace in my personal world and peace in the world at large. Things can be relatively peaceful in my life and my family—I have a job, the bills are getting paid, the kids are doing okay, and so on—while there is a distinct lack of peace in the world—there are wars, disasters, homeless refugees, economic upheavals, and more.

To the shepherds outside Bethlehem, to whom Jesus’ birth was announced, life could have been personally peaceful. It was probably a quiet night, shepherds and flocks at rest. But the same was not true of their “world”—they lived under the heel of Rome and its puppet governors like Herod. Soldiers were present everywhere and religious squabbles ruled the day. Then the angels appeared to announce “on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” With the birth of Jesus would come the promise of peace the prophets wrote about (Isaiah 11:6-9). Not only did God offer peace to individuals but to the world as well.

This Christmas, the world is not yet at peace—but you can be. Embrace the Prince of Peace as we wait for peace on earth.

Relying on Something Other Than God

1 John 2:15-17

The rich young man approached Jesus to learn how to secure his future in eternity. Out of loving concern, the Lord engaged him in a dialogue to reveal his wrong thinking and thereby identify a significant spiritual problem. (See Mark 10:17-31.)

First, the wealthy man erroneously believed that good deeds were the means of entering heaven. Eternal life is not “bought”; it is a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. Nor is it something we can attain apart from God. Eternal life becomes ours at the moment of salvation, when the life of God comes to us in the person of His indwelling Holy Spirit (John 4:14; John 14:16-17).

Second, the man’s identity was tied up in material things. Jesus addressed his spiritual problem by issuing a loving challenge: “Sell all you possess and give to the poor … and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). The Lord was not saying that giving everything away was the path to salvation. He wanted this young man to realize his difficulty—that his possessions owned him. Jesus offered treasure in heaven, but the man turned away. His action revealed what Jesus already knew about him: Attachment to belongings superseded the offer of true riches. Jesus then explained that those who have wealth and position tend to trust in themselves and not in God.

In our culture, we have so much more than most people in the world—which means we’re at risk of falling into the same trap. We believe in Jesus for salvation but trust in ourselves for daily living. We depend on our intelligence, talents, material possessions, or family to help us, but God wants us to rely on Him alone. On whom or what do you depend?

The Christian’s Power

“And . . . the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19)

The power of the triune Creator, as displayed in the resurrection of Christ, is directed toward us! We can be certain that we will never fully comprehend that, but the Scriptures provide several clear statements that will help us get some usable grasp on this resource:

1) We receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit indwells every believer (John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19) and is therefore readily accessible to all believers (Ephesians 3:20).

2) We use the power of God every time we preach the gospel (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18), whether to one person or to thousands.

3) We learn of the power of God through “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Indeed, those promises involve “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

4) We see the results of the power of God in our lives when our characters reflect “all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:11).

The Lord desires “that [we] might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) and “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (v. 16). The purpose of this empowering is to be “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), “able to comprehend . . . the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (vv. 20-21). HMM III

To Perfectly Love and Worthily Praise

O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. —Psalm 108:1

I will refer to one of God’s great souls of the past and his book, The Cloud of Unknowing. We do not know the name of the devoted saint who more than 600 years ago wrote in his pre- Elizabethan English for the purpose, as he declares it, “that God’s children might go on to be ‘oned’ with God.”

At the beginning of his book, he breathed a brief prayer of longing and devotion, and I come back to it often for the good of my own spirit.

He said, “Oh God, under whom all hearts be open, and unto whom all will speaketh, and unto whom no privy thing is hid, I beseech Thee, so for to cleanse the intent of my heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee!”…

I can discern no trace of theological fault or error in this prayer of devotion and desire breathed long ago by this saint of God.

“Oh God, fix my heart so I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee!” Nothing extreme and fanatical there. The true child of God will say “Amen” to this desire within the being to perfectly love God and worthily praise Him.

Father, may I love You and praise You with the same devotion; may I be one with You. Amen.

The Lord giveth wisdom out of His mouth

The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)

In a time when everything in the world seems to be related to vanity, God is depending on His believing children to demonstrate that He is the great Reality; that we are made by God and for Him! The answer to the question, “Where did I come from?” can never be better answered than by the Christian mother who tells her child, “God made you!”

The great store of knowledge in today’s world cannot improve on that simple answer! The scientist can tell us the secrets of how matter operates, but the origin of matter lies in deep silence, refusing to give an answer to man’s question.

It is important for Christian believers to be able to stand firmly and positively in this declaration: “Thus saith the Lord!” Our chief business is not to argue or to persuade our generation. With our positive declaration of God’s Word and revelation, we make God responsible for the outcome. No one can know enough to go beyond this!

There are times in our spiritual experience

There are times in our spiritual experience when human counsel or sympathy, or religious
ordinances, fail to comfort or help us. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because we have been living too much without him, and he therefore takes away everything upon which we have been in the habit of depending, that he may drive us to himself. It is a blessed thing to live at the fountain head. Having nothing of our own to trust to, but resting upon the merits of Jesus. Beloved, when we are brought to a thirsting condition, we are sure to turn to the fountain of life with eagerness.