Christmas Eve and Cultural Disenfranchisement
Are you ready for some football? Not me. Not on Christmas Eve.
For me, Christmas Eve was wonderful! The afternoon services at Hope Church, led by our Family Ministries team, were delightful – family oriented, filled with Christmas carols, led by children, teens, and adults, with dramas that made us laugh and think. At the first service I sat with my granddaughter. I cried tears of joy at the wonder of it all. The evening candle lighting service was elegant, relaxed, inspiring. It culminated with that beautiful moment in the darkened sanctuary when everyone lights a candle as an expression of their commitment to receive Jesus the Light of the World into their life.
But I found one thing on Christmas Eve upsetting. As I left my home for the 10:00 p.m. service, visiting family members who were waiting to attend the candle lighting service, were watching TV. An NFL football game. The Chargers vs. the Raiders.
I couldn’t help myself. I cried out in disgust. That the NFL would schedule a game on Christmas Eve night I found vulgar and tasteless. But then I love Jesus in a way the NFL does not. It was Thursday night, and that means football – and if it happens to be Christmas Eve, so be it: there is a game to be played, advertising money to be made, gambling to be done.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (John 1:1, 10).
There is a term to describe what I experienced on Christmas Eve: “cultural disenfranchisement.” It means that Christianity once enjoyed a privileged place in American culture. Secular organizations and institutions supported the mission of the church, respected the place of holy days and holy ideas.
But not anymore. The world we inhabit is at best indifferent to Jesus and his church, if not openly hostile. We see it in so many ways. The removal of nativity scenes from public places. The change in greeting from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.” Football games on Christmas Eve night.
I miss the old days when Christianity had a special status. But this change makes sense to me. We live in a pluralistic culture. Everyone should have equal footing in the public square.
The shock of seeing that NFL game on Christmas Eve was a needed splash of cold water: wake up! You and I are the ones commissioned to tell the world about Jesus. We can’t expect the world to do this for us. Certainly not the NFL.
So let’s renew our commitment to bear witness to Jesus. Let’s be thoughtful. Savvy. Winsome. We don’t always need to bang the drum loudly. As Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33). A little evangelistic effort can accomplish a lot. In kingdom work, with the Holy Spirit ministering through us, small things can yield great results. What are the small things God is asking you to do?
Are you ready for some football? Sometimes. Are you ready to hide some leaven for Jesus? Always.
David Lenz, Lead Pastor