I was watching a television program a few years ago that was spotlighting people who go to extremes decorating their homes for Christmas. One man had filled his lawn and adorned his roof with every conceivable plastic and inflatable Santa, snowmen, reindeer, elves, and thousands of lights. When he was asked where he kept it all he showed them his storage shed behind his house. Oddly enough the only thing that was in the emptied out shed was Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. I’m not making this up.
What if we jealousy guarded the symbols and the substance of our faith everyday and especially during holiday seasons? I know that I am not the only one who has realized that the greatest symbols of God’s covenant love for us are always trivialized and set aside by our world system. The apostle John sheds light on this and encourages New Testament believers.
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:19-21
Let’s define idol (idolatry):
- an image of a deity other than God
- a mere image or semblance of
something, visible but without substance.
- a figment of the mind; fantasy.
The world replaces the true and profound with semblances removed of substance.
Look what has happened to the rainbow. To children in our world rainbows are more associated with CareBears, leprechauns and cartoons than a covenant promise of Almighty God. Prior to the flood,
“A mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.“ Genesis 2:6
Often we read Scriptures and we don’t allow our humanity to really interact and think about what the biblical characters were experiencing. They would not be so different from us. Think “Katrina” or tsunami for a moment. Noah’s family experienced the destruction of their world on every level. The earth was no longer watered by a gentle mist. Now they would experience the gathering of ominous dark clouds, thunder, lightning, and at times torrential downpours. Can you imagine the fear, the flashbacks, and the gnawing dread they would experience if God in His mercy had not made this covenant with them and sealed it with a beautiful display above their heads? We’ve lost the meaning of the rainbow to leprechauns with pots of gold and glittery children’s stamps. To the survivors it was a constant reminder of His holiness and His mercy.
Then there is the cross. God’s holiness and mercy displayed for all to see. I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but the cross was not originally a symbol of Christianity, not at least for the first few centuries. Not until all those who actually knew first hand of its barbarity and cruelty were dead did it replace the ichthus or fish that seems to have made a comeback as a car bumper sticker. There was a shop in south London which stocked crosses as a fashion item. Punk rockers, Madonna, and other fashion icons have used it that way. The Evening Standard reported that one of their readers had gone into a shop to ask for a cross. “Sure,” said the assistant, reaching for the crucifixes. “Do you want it with the little man on, or without?”
We all know what has happened to our celebration of His resurrection. The Easter bunny and his promise of sweets and dyed eggs take front and center.
We are in the Christmas season and the emphasis in our world is on Santa and not a Savior. Santa appears once a year makes a list and checks it twice trying to find out who is naughty or nice. The Savior is God with us 365 days of the year. He knows we are beyond naughty and has come to save His people from their sins. Jesus is God’s indescribable gift to us. His grace lavished on us. His life lived to show us the way and empower us to learn and change.
We can’t expect those who don’t know Him to grasp the meaning and significance of God’s covenant reminders to us. It is up to us not to lose the meaning of these sacred things. Beloved guard yourselves from idols. They have no substance or power to deliver. Go tell God’s amazing story in every creative way you can think of during this and every season. Do it with joy, grace, and a heart of love for those who only know the world’s cheap substitute.
Father, we bow before you and thank You that you are a covenant keeping God. Help us to never ose our wonder and awe when we see Your covenant reminders.