In some countries, the end of the year is a time to get rid of stuff, things taking up space, thing we don't need. From a Christian view, ending a year seems a good time to confess sins and put them behind us. We learn from our rebellious ways (hopefully), then move on, wiser for the experience (though I find it preferable to learn from the failings of others). But what happens when we can't move forward? Often the reason is guilt, something that has no place at the start of a new year. Tim Keller writes, "Whenever I hear someone say, 'I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself,' it means that person has something that is more important than God, because God forgives them." God's forgiveness is the easy part; forgiving ourselves is often what sets us back from making progress in our pilgrimage. I don't like the sin in me, and so I need to admit it, seek God's help in forsaking it, and keep on serving Christ my Lord...a worthy attitude to take into 2010.
Once again we're faced with our culture's annual attempt to celebrate a secular Christmas and Chanukah. A local Rabbi was pleased that his town relented to having a Menorah on town property in honor of Chanukah; the Rabbi called this another "miracle"...it nearly was, in today's mindset of "freedom from religion". I wouldn't be surprised to see the end of "Tree lighting" ceremonies, regardless of what the tree is "called".
A friend of mine was buying an expensive TV and said "Merry Christmas" to the clerk, who said, "I can't say that to you." When my friend suggested he by a TV elsewhere the clerk quickly wished him a "Merry Christmas." I hope we don't become like the Japanese, who celebrate all the secular elements of Christmas and none of the religious ones. They learned this from us.
D.A. Carson writes about towns denying religious displays on town property, "If the display is located in a neighborhood where many religious traditions compete, then a great deal can be said for celebrations that inform the entire community of those different traditions. But where there is one whiner worried about loss of self-esteem, one begins to wonder why there is so little concern for community self-esteem, for forbearance within the community, for community pleasure at supporting the majority tradition."
One of my closest friends is a Jewish attorney, who never fails to wish me a "Merry Christmas." He is not offended by my celebration. I, in turn, wish him a "Happy Chanukah." It is, after all, a festival Jesus celebrated, but regardless of that, we ought to respect our differences and show true tolerance. Even atheists ought to be glad that religious people are free to celebrate their traditions and not be offended by public expressions of faith. No offense is intended. I don't have to agree or be indifferent to allow a religious display. As a former Army Chaplain I supported the free exercise of all religious beliefs, even those I felt were completely wrong. Religious liberty is part of our American heritage, which means we are compelled to adjust to a pluralistic society. This means we do not try to take religion out of religious holidays and reduce Christmas to "Happy Whatever."
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