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I think other writers have clearly stated, much better than I, what the Christian should have as a guide to the celebration of Christmas. I refer to Dirk Westra’s article of last year, “How Should We Cele­brate Christmas?” and Michael Bosveld’s contribution to the Christmas issue of Beacon Lights in 1989/1990. I admire the way in which these men quickly pierced to the heart of the issue, contrasting materialism with spirituality, going-to-the-mall excite­ment with mature joy, and lifeless traditions with sin­cere recognition of the beauty of salvation proclaimed through the birth of Jesus Christ.

I myself despise the carnality of the Santa Claus – Christmas parade – red and green shopping craze which the modern Christmas has become. I purpose to teach my kids not to get caught up in that. Perhaps the worst thing about Christmas is not how it deludes people with a false idol, but how it erodes their capaci­ty to believe anything. Kids easily associate the manger scene with getting presents, the glory of God with the glitter of the Christmas tree, and Jesus with Santa Claus. What happens when as adults they real­ize all that is phony? They might think Jesus is phony too! “You believe in Jesus? He’s not real!”

We have to believe and hope that God will sovereignly teach us and our children what is true, don’t we?

In the Christmas of 1980 I suppose in a certain sense it might be true to say that I was as far from the Kingdom of God as it is possible to be. (Obviously not in the sense of God’s counsel of Election.) I had eaten a belly-full from the table of corruption. I was born to ungodly parents, raised in a humanistic household, a new-ager with a science fiction addiction since third grade, a drop-out from two different colleges, dis­charged from a military psychiatric hospital, a hitch­hiker, an outcast, lying on the floor of a foul-smelling motel room in the bitter cold of a Montana winter, my stomach churning, trying to absorb a handful of sleep­ing tablets. As I lay there thinking I should be seeing the bright light of the astral plane anytime, I had no idea of the future. The last thing I wanted was to sur­vive.

I was certain I had made the right choice. My studying and thinking had led me to the distinct con­clusion that the world was not worthy of such an “enlightened cosmic traveler” as myself. I deserved to go away; to get my dead-end life over with in order to begin a better one. I knew better than to keep trying to teach these stupid people at this level of conscious­ness. I had higher hopes. I would change my channel – my focus. Like I said, about as far from the Kingdom of God as possible.

How it came about that I ended up glued to the particular of the particular – the Protestant Reformed – is another story. Suffice to say that the Spirit of God, in keeping with God’s purpose of love for me, never permitted me to destroy myself. We each have our own mysteries. Mine is how a soul so blind, so profoundly deceived, could be found embracing the liberating truth of God’s sovereign salvation.

That, my friends, is Christmas to me. For all the torturous route I’ve come, I sit at the foot of the Baby in the manger, the foot of the Cross, the foot of the Savior Jesus Christ. DRAWN by the power of redeem­ing love. PRESERVED by Wise Providence. MOLDED by the Eternal Craftsman, Who makes of the same lump “one vessel unto honor and another unto dis­honor.” Why be reduced to the poverty of superficial celebration when one can rejoice in the reality of divine purpose? Why forsake the infinite intensity of God’s irrepressible love for the ruthless push and shove of the Babylonian marketplace? Why lose sight for one moment of the hope of heaven and the degree of glory which each shall receive? As Dirk Westra wrote in his article, “If we are to be separate from the world, we must celebrate Christmas differently. . . . Noble as these things [trees, shopping, etc.] sound, they are empty if they eclipse the hope of deliverance from sin.” Nothing else compares with this wisdom – this understanding. Certainly nothing this world has to offer.

Conscience must dictate us in much of the details as far as how we celebrate, but we should be bound to the same ideal when it comes to why. We must do all things to the honor and glory of God; not out of self­ishness, pride, carnality, or greed, no matter how dec­orated. We may not wrap our covetousness in colored paper and ribbons, our contentious spirits in the brief mirth of gay apparel, nor especially our Lord and Sav­ior in the outfit of some over-fed actor who cries “Ho Ho Ho” from his beneficent throne at Sears. (Nor should we teach this nonsense to our kids.) May God work this deeply into us as individuals and into our churches as an institution.

 

*Michael Brenneman, with his wife and four young children, is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.

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The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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