Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keeping Christ in Christmas? Really?

This time of year is always fun. When mid-January rolls around, I can't imagine another holiday season. All the decorating, the cooking, the buying, the visiting. And even then, it all seems so far away. But every year, the holidays come back around and sometime around Halloween we all kind of ease into that holiday mindset. Something that has become more popular in recent years is the emphasis on "keeping Christ in Christmas". I understand the reasoning behind this push. After all, when store personnel begin telling guests "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" I guess it sits differently with those of us who have put our faith in Christ. Recently I saw a very catchy ad for a popular clothing store with a rhythmic cadence where actors and dancers were chanting, "Go Christmas, Go Kwanzaa, Go Hanukkah, Go Solstice" emphasizing a more universalistic approach to the holidays to their customer base. I noticed this blatant push to appeal to more people. It made me think.

I also get emails encouraging me to correct and reprimand store personnel who wish me Happy Holidays and to write CEOs of certain stores and boycott others because they will be celebrating the "Holidays" and not necessarily "Christmas". My question is this. When we choose to fight these "battles", do we really accomplish our goals? How many store clerks have come to a saving knowledge of Christ because someone corrected their "Happy Holidays" with "Merry Christmas"? How many CEOs have felt the love of God when God's followers (that's you and me) threaten to take their business somewhere else because of the store advertises "Holiday Discounts" instead of Christmas sales.

So what's a believer to do? Do we just sit back and watch the "De-Christianization" of America? Do we watch the fruits of postmodernism unfold right before our eyes? Well, I'm not sure I have an answer, but being belligerent about semantics isn't accomplishing anything. How is fighting that particular battle doing anything to further the cause of Christ? I think sometimes it's more about feeling personally threatened when someone doesn't adhere to our beliefs than it is about whether or not God is being glorified. As far as God is concerned...I'm pretty sure he can handle it. People have been doing their own thing for centuries. And the irony of it all is this. While stores are trying to appeal to a larger base of people who don't necessarily call themselves "Christians", many of the real followers of Christ are trying hard to appeal to an even smaller group of people by threatening stores with phone calls, emails, and boycotts. I've also seen nifty songs and poems written about keeping "Christ" in Christmas. But more often than not, they are about how "Happy Holidays" is some demonic tactic to take emphasis off of Christ during the holiday season. And when people drive by a marquis at a church or store and read, "Keep Christ in Christmas" how does that sit with average people? We know it'll get a huge "Amen!" from the Christian crowd, but does the defensiveness of the church send a message to the rest of society? After all, we have been eternally saved by the Creator of the universe who sent his Son to die for us. So why should we be so defensive and threatened by a culture that is not a whole lot different from the cultures Paul wrote to in the first century? So how about this?

Why don't we who call ourselves Christians try to live our lives in a way that shines the light of Christ this Christmas season. After all, if God has put his light inside of us, no one can take that away by saying Happy Holidays (Matthew 5:13-17). Should we say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays? Absolutely. But more importantly than that, we should live our lives in ways that bring honor and glory to God. I think if God had to choose, he would rather have his people living like he called us to while wishing everyone Happy Holidays, than for us to live the way we want to and wish everyone Merry Christmas.

I'm sure this won't be my last post before Christmas, but I hope we can all live the way the Master called us this holiday season and beyond that. God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Family Ministry Model

In the 15 years I've been doing youth ministry there has always been an unwritten, unofficial urge to find the perfect balance between having kids spend time with parents in a ministry setting and to have kids spend time away from parents in a ministry setting. This was especially true of kids whose parents were volunteer helpers in the youth department. But one thing I had never done before was a family event--until this weekend.

It took a while to sell the kids in my youth group on the idea of a family campout. Immediately everyone automatically assumed this youth trip would be a drag and would lack the luster of other events. However, once we got there, families started to be families. The awkwardness seemed to melt away in the smoke of the campfire like a flaming marshmallow.

I don't know why we didn't do this sooner, but I definitely know we'll be doing this again. The last verse of Malachi says that the prophet Elijah will come and turn the hearts of fathers toward their children. Jesus says this "Elijah" is John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11-15. Family unity is one of the numerous side effects of faith in Christ. So why do we youth workers strive so hard sometimes to get kids away from their families so we can do ministry? Hopefully, we are entering a new paradigm in the way we do things around the youth department. To learn more about the campout, read the article on our church website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why does so much modern worship music sound like U2?

I'm not alone. One of my all-time favorite pop/rock bands is U2. I love their style and sound and the way the Edge is not really a lead player or a rhythm player, but both at the same time. I love the way the bass and drums fit together in each groove. They've made some records I haven't been crazy about, but on the whole, most of their stuff is just great, in my opinion.
I'm sure I am not the only Christian musician out there who loves U2's music. But my question is this. Why do so many modern Christian artists, particularly those who write worship music, sound like U2? If you listen to Matt Redman, Delirious, and Hillsong United, you will find undeniable traces of U2.

So to redirect my previous question...do these artists intentionally sound like U2 because they love U2's sound? Or is U2's influence on modern music so heavy that it is difficult for them to separate from that style and sound? Another possibility is that maybe U2's style and sound is very suitable for worship music, therefore lots of bands try to mimic that sound.

Whether you are a musician who plays in a band at church or if you just like listening to worship music, I would be curious to hear your thoughts.