It’s November 13th and my girlfriend is already having a Christmas party with some of her friends. Candy canes, red and green pajamas, hot coco, a Christmas movie, the whole nine. If you’re anything like me, the thought of celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving feels like celebrating the 4th of July in June. It would just be out of place.
I realize many of you strongly disagree with me and love to start decorating and listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. So just consider being told that you should wait till the day after Thanksgiving to do any of that, and if you’re at all passionate and opinionated like I am, your likely response will be, “No!”
Every fiber in our being resists changing that which brings us happiness.
And resist it I did. I tried to persuade the happy partiers of why they should postpone their Christmas fun for a few more weeks. They’d have none of it, and I was sorely dismissed as a Scrooge. I came home and decided to read a book, stuck firm in my decision to wait until the day after Thanksgiving, like usual. But I couldn’t read. I kept thinking about the things they had said. Why was I the only one wanting to wait until a certain day to start celebrating while they felt free to begin whenever they got the itch?
There’s no law stating when each holiday celebration should begin and end. Nor does the Bible tell us what day of the year Jesus was born, much less how his birth should be celebrated, whether with certain candles or melodies or food or drink. As Christians, we are all eager to celebrate the birth of our Savior. He was really born as a divine baby boy on a specific day in history, and we think that’s a good reason for a birthday party of sorts. For those wanting to have such a celebration, the specifics of it will likely vary from culture to culture because no guidelines are given to us in the Book. Not every Christian in the world will celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. I’m sure someone somewhere knows the reason we Americans celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Or why we bring trees into our homes and decorate them with lights and ornaments. I’ve heard it stems way back to pagan practices, which we Christians have adopted for our own purposes. That being so, the Christians I know enjoy their trees with a good conscience, not asking questions about what the pagans did (1 Corinthians 10:25-26).
So why do we love what we love and do what we do? In most cases, it’s cause we’ve been doin’ in that way since before we could walk. It’s what Mom and Dad taught us. It’s our culture. It’s what we know. It feels right to us. And it feels wrong to change it. I’m speaking here of things here that are morally neutral like whether we celebrate with apple pie or cherry, or both.
Back to the situation I was in, being stubborn and refusing to change was going to create discord between us. I was going to miss out on a joyous celebration. One person begins to rock out to Jingle Bells mid-November and the other pops the ear plugs in with a heavy sigh.
So, what’s a man to do in this situation? When he’s faced with changing a cultural tradition for the sake of another?
Well if he’s a loving man, he won’t insist on his own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Rather, he will look to meet the interest of others (Philippians 2:4). And in my case, I needed to put to death the desire to hold off on all Christmas celebrations until a certain day, and instead, embrace Christmas cheer whenever it appeared.
Now, here’s where I show you my dirt, and if you’re anything like me you can relate to this. I don’t want to do that. In fact, on my own, I can’t do that. I can’t because I won’t (John 5:40). My selfish flesh is unwilling to joyfully join what it feels opposed to. So like many other times, I had to get down on my knees, and ask God to do what only he can do in me. In spite of the pain of changing a beloved tradition, I asked God to put to death my desires. By his power I died to myself once again in that moment; something that had already happened decisively at my spiritual awakening according to Galatians 2:20.
When I was done praying, I stood and immediately my heartache was replaced with glad anticipation.
To seal the deal, I popped open my laptop and began to play some Christmas classics. A smile came across my face as I thought, This isn’t so bad after all.
Tis’ the season to be jolly fa la la la la la la la la…