Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Is NOT Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter

After our first son was born, Monique and I wrestled through what we were going to do with Christmas. When I grew up, I was spoiled ridiculously (and thankfully) at Christmas time. I received many gifts every December 25th. But then on my birthday, I usually received one gift. As we talked about it, we decided to switch those around for our kids. We decided that we would limit Christmas to one gift (actually, after they receive one from us, both grandparents, aunts, cousins . . . they still receive a lot), but then on their birthday's, we would go all out. My reasoning at that time is that we wanted to teach them that their birthday's are all about them, but Christmas is about Jesus.

I am glad to see we are not alone with this thought. A few weeks ago, I came across Christmas Is Not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter. After seeing the title of the book, I just had to read it. Honestly, I wish I would have written this book. It is what I have been saying for about eleven years now, that Christmas is not about my kids, it is about Jesus. There were a few things in the book that made me uncomfortable, but I'm not going to go into detail on them since the major premise of the book is so needed in our culture today. In the book, Slaughter does not hold back at all. He says,
"Christmas has been hijacked and exploited. We have professed allegiance to Jesus but celebrate his birth with an orgy of materialism." (xi)
Wow. That's powerful. It is probably such a strong statement because it is true. We speak out of one side of our mouth as Christians that this is the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of our Savior. But out of the other side, we say how many things we want and what we want to spoil our children with. Even as a pastor, I really do not know what to do about Christmas this year. What better way to teach our children that this day is not about them than to go to church and worship Jesus. Unfortunately, I anticipate many Christians skipping church in just about ten days.

One of the most powerful parts of this book comes in chapter three when he describes the prophet Hosea and his marriage to a prostitute as an image of God's people's response to God. He says,
"This is beyond the scope of human imagination. I would be kicking her to the curb! Yet, this scandalous biblical account testifies to the outrageous, pursuing love of God for a broken world. This is the desanitized version of the Christmas story: God loves us and wants us even while we remain under the influence of unworthy lovers such as greed, selfishness, addiction, and deceit. So God has come to buy us back! The magnitude of this kind of love is beyond my comprehension" (45).
I think if we were to look deep down inside, we would all say that we struggle with the lure of the world during this time of the year. I know I do. So what should we do about it? I think, and he argues, that the only way to deal with our heart of selfishness is to give away. Give away to those who are really hurting and in need. That doesn't mean an extra toy to your kid who already has a dozen of them. It means to those who have no water or those who have no food. Maybe what we should do this Christmas is to give away as much, if not more, than we spend on our family. He says,
"Can you imagine the birthday celebration if every Christian in every church practiced the commitment of giving an equal amount of what they spend on themselves to a specific mission for Jesus somewhere in the world . . . More of him and less of us. More for him and less for us" (66).
I invite you to think this year what you will give away to those in need. What will you give to your church? What will you give to those who are hurting? Is there a need that you can meet outside of your family? How would your Christmas be different this year if you were to worship Jesus and not just say that you are worshipping Him? How would it be different if He was more important than your stuff? 

2 comments:

  1. Used to go to Mike Slaughter's church. It took our family about a year to realize we needed to get out of there fast. All I can say is that it's difficult to hear him speak about the evil of materialism. But who knows ... maybe he's changed. And of course his actions don't negate any truth he might have spoken in the book. My aunt currently goes to his church, and she said that during a Q&A he said he didn't believe in hell at all.

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  2. Josh,

    Thanks for the feedback. As I said, there were a few things in the book that concerned me. As you know, it is impossible to know everything about an author just by what they write in a book. Maybe he has changed.

    Nonetheless, what he writes about being consumed with materialism in a time that is meant to be the worship of Jesus is sad, but true.

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