Ho-ly adjective \’hō-lē\—def. “set apart; sacred”
With the arrival of Thanksgiving, Christians and others are now in holiday high gear.
This brings forth the “war on Christmas” debate. Society continues to take Christ out of Christmas through the commercialization and the change in terms (e.g. “Holiday tree” instead of Christmas tree or trying to make us say “Happy Holidays”). Christian actor Kirk Cameron has made a new movie on the subject, now in theatres called “Saving Christmas.” Christians, it seems, are fighting back against a cultural trend away from the true reason for the season.
Secular society may not be most at fault for the retreat from the holidays. We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to the true observance of holidays.
/// Our Achilles’ heal
Unlike some of our Protestant counterparts, Evangelical Christians and denominations seem to struggle our way through the holiday calendar. Perhaps it is because our contemporary songs do not comport with the seasons as well. Or perhaps it is because we pick and choose what holidays we emphasize. For example, we often make a huge deal of Easter Sunday but downplay the important days leading up, such as Palm Sunday.
We are also guilty of upgrading certain holidays, such as Independence Day or Mother’s Day, over more explicitly Christian holidays, such as Good Friday. At risk of ruffling feathers, I want to challenge evangelical pastors and worship leaders to delve deeper into the history and heritage of Christian holidays every bit as much as we do the “Hallmark” holidays.
No one is calling for us to become regimented or hierarchical in this approach. But some are calling for a renewed sense of awe around the longstanding holy days, such as Advent season or the Passion Week. This will accomplish a great deal in the life of our churches and our members.
/// Conform us to Him
C.S. Lewis believes that people are created with a desire for two conflicting ideals: consistency and change. With the holidays, we get both. Throughout the year, the “flavor” or focal points change, but the same ones come around year by year. In the Christian calendar, we conform our thinking to focus on the cross and His resurrection at Easter time. Of course we focus on this each day and especially Sundays, but Easter affords a unique opportunity to do so.
The Advent season, as well, affords a wonderful opportunity to worship Christ in rich ways. During a day and time in which the Virgin Birth is dismissed or ignored, the Advent (which literally means “coming”) provides a week-by-week focus on Christ’s First Coming, as foretold by the prophets from long ago, awakening in us the miracle of Christmas. In doing this, we work to conform ourselves to what the Church is doing instead of the Church conforming to what we are doing.
/// Practicality not sole priority
How often will we observe the Lord’s Supper? Should we hold a Holy Thursday service on the weekend of Easter? Too often, pastors and worship leaders decide what to emphasize on a practical, rather than spiritual, basis. They think about how many will show up or if it is convenient to the volunteers and staff making the service possible.
There is nothing inherently wrong with factoring practicality into what is possible. No one wants to offer a worship service that no one attends or that is understaffed. At the same time, if inconvenience is stopping your church from embracing a Good Friday service, now would be the time to re-consider your priorities. Following Christ is not about convenience; it is about faithfulness.
/// Remember the true reason
Regardless of the holiday, it is paramount to focus on Christ. If any special service detracts from a focus on Him, it should be scuttled. Only by focusing our hearts on the True Reason for the Season—and for life itself—will we get back to the heart of worship.