Running In Vain?
A Holiday Challenge

1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore ye eat,
or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.

By Mary Stephens

In Galatians 2:2 the Apostle Paul writes regarding his visit to Jerusalem, And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.  This verse was brought to my attention in another context the very same day that I started writing this article.  (God is like that, and I love Him for it!)  It seems to me that there are so many Christians who, in the area of celebrating "Christmas", are running in vain.

Recently, I was looking at a holiday ad sheet from a national store chain (U.S). One page said something to the effect "make this the best Christmas ever."  When I finished looking through it I felt somewhat heartsick, and stopped to consider why that was so. 

I am glad that there is a movement toward more homemade and DIY Christmas gifts, but I take it with a grain of salt when the source of that encouragement stands to make a profit by it ($$$).  After all, the hobby and craft stores want you to buy their expensive craft items to make those gifts. It's possible to spend as much or more in the craft stores as you would at Wal-mart or even the mall.
For one thing, it saddened me to think that despite the failing economy and so many people's reduced resources, there is not enough encouragement to cut back on frivolous spending and use the limited funds that are available for true needs - house payments, rent, food, necessary clothing, transportation, etc.  We are led to think by retailers (and in a way, government) that despite the present shakiness of the world economy, we should have "the best Christmas ever".  In short, we should spend like there is no tomorrow.  Real sacrifice in the face of financial adversity is a lost virtue in the U.S.A., I'm afraid.

But, another thing that burdened me was the knowledge that so many of my family in Christ claim that they are "celebrating Christmas to honor Jesus" because it is allegedly "His birthday,"  yet I know that many of them are participating in this crass commercialism, whether they mean to or not. (Which brings to mind the old comment  - "The trouble is you didn't mean not to."  Hmmm.)  Besides the gifts for their kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, parents and each other ("to show them that we appreciate them"), there are all the other "necessary" expenses of this time of year - more stuff to add to the already-too-large pile of Christmas decorations, cards to mail, gifts for people that they really don't need to give to, obligatory participation in parties and programs, etc.

In thinking about all this, it seemed like it might be well to lay down some challenges to those of my family in Christ Jesus who celebrate Christmas and also desire to run a good race and abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). 

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

1 Corinthians 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

I thought about my own childhood Christmas memories (which I will deal with in another article, Lord willing), talked with some of my family about theirs and took into consideration the fact that some of you will not give this holiday up; or if you do, it will be slowly and by inches as it was for my own family.

I also considered the bottom line, which is that many believers need to reconsider how they celebrate a holiday that they claim is in honor of Jesus Christ.  It is time to ask yourselves, "What are we doing?  What am I thinking?  What does this really have to do with the birth of Jesus?  Are we doing all to the glory of God?"

So, this is a challenge.  A challenge to stand up and be counted; to lay aside the weights that are dragging you down and keeping you from running a good race; and to put your actions where you mouth is.  You say you celebrate this for Jesus Christ, let's see if you will buckle down and make some changes that will glorify Him.

I expect some of my non-celebrating friends may take this as a cop-out, but I know from personal experience that changing a sentimental tradition as big and overwhelming as Christmas is not always easy, and while some may be able to leave it behind completely in one fell swoop, many cannot.  Some never will.  My own family took years to wean ourselves off of the traditions.  Our abilities are all different, so the challenges must be as well.
This is not intended to be "results oriented". But, I urgently desire to see my fellow believers be more purposeful in what they do, especially when claiming that it is to the glory of God.  Because of this, I am introducing a variety of challenges so that you may choose one or more that you feel you can truly accomplish.  There will be some that are more challenging than others.  Please prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you to do.  We maintain still, as we have for some time, that Christ does not belong in "Christmas" - it was a pagan tradition first and a Roman Catholic holiday second, and only later accepted by Christendom at large.  BUT, if you are going to claim you are honoring the Lord Jesus at Christmas, then here is a challenge to do so in deed, not just in words or ideology.

You don't want to be like the people Jesus describes in Matthew 15:8, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

The Challenges

Challenge Number One: Spend Less, Don't Buy Stuff

Challenge Number Two: Get Rid of Santa Claus

Challenge Number Three - Simplify Your Holiday Activities

Challenge Number Four - Get Rid of the Tree

Have you considered what Jesus Christ would have you to do in "celebrating His birth"?  If you do not celebrate, have you considered what you might do at this time of year to lift the burden of the downtrodden and preach the gospel?

Challenge Number Five - Remember the Poor

Challenge Number Six - Seeing with Compassion

 

graphics and background by mary stephens
Created Dec. 2011
Updated 2013