In the time since being called to mission work outside of the United States I find the celebration of Christmas to come with mixed feelings. It is always a blessing to gather with loved ones to share a meal and also to give a gift to someone you love. Celebrating the birth of the greatest gift ever given; The Lord Jesus Christ, is always a good thing. However I see great differences in mission and purpose of the One whose birth we celebrate and what we too often see celebrated. (Before I move on I must clarify a few things. This post is really not about Christmas and how we celebrate it. It is also not intended to open up thoughts about abolishing Christmas or anything like that. It really is, about how the way we celebrate Christmas is often just another revealer of what lies in men’s hearts throughout the year. Lastly it must be acknowledged, that there are people whom on Christmas, like all the other days of the year, celebrate in the true spirit and heart of Christ Himself.)
The concern is about the seldom spoken or preached about sin in the Christian church; covetousness. The Apostle Paul tells us plainly in the book of Colossians that covetousness is idolatry. That means for a professed Christian to practice covetousness from the heart is no different from setting up a statue of a false god and worshipping it. Wikipedia defines covetousness as the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. If not recognized properly parents in turn train their children to follow the way of covetousness.
One of the greatest blessings of having spent time with our orphan children in India has been to see such joy, thankfulness, and contentment in children that have so little. They have seen hardship and suffering that many children here will never face. I remember vividly the time when we took them to the beach for a day trip. On our way back to the orphanage we stopped to buy each child a package of cookies to enjoy. A treat that they seldom get. Our team at the time was made up of 5 of us. Each package contained 6 cookies. The reaction from these children to receiving this special treat was that they with joy and thankfulness offered each of us one of their cookies, leaving them with just one. They were so blessed and insistent that we each have one cookie. These are children without parents, no electronic games, no toy boxes filled with toys, no refrigerator filled with a seeming endless amount of food and treats, and maybe 2 or 3 outfits of clothing to wear. They celebrate Christmas by going to the village church to sing songs of praise and to dance to bless the church members, as well as to share with those who do not know the joyful news of a Savior that was born. They do this with or without the blessing of new clothes.
I contrast that with trees surrounded by more gifts that any one child could need. Hundreds or even thousands of dollars spent to make sure we “do it for the children” in the right way. Many times it comes with having to remind them to say thank you to the giver. We even see disappointment that someone didn’t get what they wanted (probably because the parents couldn’t afford to go further into debt) despite having a pile of gifts beside them. The first statement we hear is “what I got” for a gift or the first question is “what did you get?” When is the last time you heard “this is what I got to give” or the question “what did you give?”
While sad, this is understandable in a culture that stands in opposition to God. It is not like the Father who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Nor is like the Lord Jesus the One who came to give His life for others that they might be saved. The church of Jesus Christ is called the body of Christ and followers of the Head. The world must see the resurrected Lord in His people. They will not see that in a people who say they are Christian, and go to church on Sunday and live just like them. We are called to be like Him. In Luke chapter 12 in a portion of scripture where Jesus begins to address His concern about covetousness in His disciples He said;
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Jesus is not joking here. He is not speaking in a parable. He didn’t say “I know what I just said but what I really mean is….” He shows us the solution to covetousness. He tells us to be like Him. To those who trust Him for salvation He gives them the Holy Spirit changing their very nature and empowering them to live like Him.
I am thankful to my family in India whom the Lord used to open my blind eyes to see this. I am thankful to my dear orphan children who have taught me this great lesson. I love you all so dearly! They are children, who are really just the same in every place on the planet. They have learned the love of God and of our Savior Jesus Christ. They are being trained by Pastor Salmon and his family in the way they should go and their lives demonstrate that. To the church here in the US. We are training our children in the way they should go also. By our words and more importantly by the way we live and we are teaching them. We will be training up our children in the way in which they should go. The question is what is the way we are training them. For the follower of Christ He is the Way!!!