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Your Presents or Your Presence

In Reformed circles we are very familiar with the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:  Q. 1  What is the chief end of man?  ( All together now)  A.  Man’s Chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  We become so familiar with the words that the answer easily glides across the tongue.  While the answer may come quick to our minds, often application proves to be much more difficult.  How can I give glory to God in all things?  How can I strive to make sure that nothing competes with my devotion to Christ?

As Christians, we are blessed that December 25th, and the celebration of Christ’s birth falls on a Sunday this year.  What better time than the Lord’s Day to celebrate the incarnation of Christ and to remember the one who was born to die so that we might live.  For us, those who are a part of the family of God, we rejoice in this time of year and in a lot of holiday festivities and fun.  We also struggle at times to not be consumed by the materialism in our world and it is often tempting to make Christmas more about the presents and the family traditions, than about Christ.

There is a relatively new Christian satire website that pokes fun at our foibles and inconsistencies, but in the midst of humor, brings out some important thoughts that should prick our consciences as well.  On December 20th, the Babylon Bee put out a satirical news story with the headline, “Church Honors Birth of Jesus by Canceling Worship Service.”   One of the quotes from the fake story states, “I can think of nothing more worshipful on the Lord’s Day than foregoing worship services in order to tear into gift after gift after gift from under our ornate tree.”

That last line ought to make us say, “ouch.”  While the story may be fictitious, a recent poll in the last week stated that 11-13% of Churches in the United States are canceling worship because Christmas falls on Sunday this year.  This number only includes those who are having no services, if you were to include the number of congregations who have more than one service or Sunday Schools who are canceling what they normally would do on any given Sunday, I would think those numbers would be much, much higher.  It is interesting that, in stories I have read this year, some are acting like this is a new phenomenon—Christmas falling on a Sunday.  But it happens approximately every seven years.

As I think of my own faith and practice, if the last Sunday of 2016 makes me worship any differently than I did the other 51 weeks of the year as I seek to honor the Lord’s Day, then perhaps I have a problem.  When presents and family and traditions and celebration deter me from being with God’s people and enjoying worship on a day that is to commemorate the Word becoming flesh, I have to re-evaluate whether or not I am striving to apply my faith to everyday life.  Let me be the first to admit that my own honoring of the Lord’s Day isn’t always as consistent as I wish it would be.  I have a long ways to go in seeking to apply the fourth commandment to my life.  But after a few weeks away from my Church family, and with this Sunday’s emphasis on the birth of Christ, I long to be with the people of God.  May each one of us, every year, examine our traditions and practices and continue to strive to make sure our lives line up more and more with the Word of God.

Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  

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