In HOPE 6.38                                  back to home                        David Timms

Ministry Resource

For those of you who are preachers, Calvin Miller commends Barbara Brown Taylor's When God is Silent (Cowley Publications, 1998; 129 pages) with these words: "I have yet to find any book more crucial to understanding the task of the preacher than this book..." High praise indeed! My copy is on order.

Hope Happenings

Hope International University hosts the 2nd Annual "Managing Church Business in the 21st Century" Conference on January 18, 2007. The Conference offers specialized help to church administrators, Executive Pastors, and small church pastors who handle the tax issues, benefits, insurance needs, etc of local congregations. More information can be found at the University web-site: .

Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831

"To perceive Christmas through the wrappings becomes more difficult with every year." (E.B. White in The Second Tree From the Corner)

Taking Back Christmas

Christians mimic culture more than mold it. Not always; but too often. For example, our models for church in the West have frequently reflected the corporate culture around us - many pastors thinking of themselves as CEO's, church members referred to as "stakeholders", and marketing methodologies taking higher priority than spiritual attentiveness.

Perhaps the "Christmas season" has suffered the same fate.

Biblically, Christmas was less a season and more an event. That event marked the antithesis of what most of us associate with Christmas today.

We spend a lot of money; Christ was born into poverty. We consider Christmas a "family time"; Mary and Joseph were displaced completely from home and family. We hang lights and ornaments and tinsel; the manger was lined simply with straw. We give inanimate objects that shine, taste good, or use batteries; God gave a person - His Son. We gather in church buildings to worship the Lord; God sent angels to the fields to announce good news.

Everything about the coming of Christ contrasts with the ways in which we "celebrate the season." The marketing gurus have successfully seduced us to sanctify their plans. Once more we mimic culture with little more than a fleeting consideration of Christ.

I'm no saint in this regard.

My own inconsistencies shine like a floodlight amidst the tiny flashlights of other people. But I desire to be different. And the first step towards change is acknowledgment of the pathology. I need to diagnose and name the disease before beginning surgery.

My disease is sanctified secularism. Christ receives an honorable mention but is mostly excluded. And many of us have become unintentional carriers of this contagion.

The disease drives me to catalogs more than to Christ; it draws me to malls and distracts me with sales. I want presents, not Presence. Give me the latest gadget, not the ancient gospel. Sing about Santa, not the Savior. Open the wallet, but not the home.

Of course I'll join in the carols, listen to the preaching, and add angels to the tree. It excuses the foundational secularism. However, the Christ-event which calls me to simple gratitude and humility morphs into a season of impulse-spending, binge-buying, and excess. I use sacred terms to justify myself ... generosity, thoughtfulness, love, and family. But I let the marketplace, not the Master, define those terms.

I'm not alone.

I suspect the waiting list for this spiritual surgery might be long. Am I a Christmas Grinch? I'm too inculturated for that! But somewhere deep within me an authentic light pierces the darkness and beckons me to meditate more on Him. I'd actually like that. Perhaps you would, too. I know He would.



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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.