恢復聖誕節的適當慶祝

By Jim Mathis

身為耶穌基督的跟隨者,我和世上其他幾十億人一樣在12月25日慶祝耶穌的生日。沒人知道耶穌出生的確切日期,但12月25日似乎是慶祝祂誕生的好日子。

聖經告訴我們智慧人──博士──走了很長的路,帶來禮物送給將要成為世人救主的新生兒。因此,朋友與家人送禮物給彼此成為全球慶祝的一種傳統。

收送禮物是一種愛的語言,是一種告訴別人我們關心他們,而且想要與他們有情感上連結的好方式。想著一個人並且花時間選個我們相信他們會喜歡的東西,這是任何關係中非常真實的一部份。

然而,我們似乎把這個習俗變成極端,因為愈來愈多人忘了要尊榮耶穌,反而把精力用在花他們沒有的錢去買不必要的東西。這就是我喜歡去參加「白象」禮物派對的一個原因。

原來白象的觀念是送敵人一個他們必須花錢去儲藏及維護,但卻沒得到任何利益的禮物。一個白象禮物等於是一個造成收受者辛苦的沒用東西。雖然這種作法當初是出於惡意,但現代的版本通常是開玩笑,製造許多樂趣。

許多年前我的妻子與我處置了我們75%的東西,從四間臥室的房屋搬到兩間臥室的公寓,並且發誓要活得更簡單,對地球的破壞更減少。從這觀點看,我們了解到大多數的禮物都是白象,因為當初買得時候很容易,但後來卻很難賣掉,或很難送走。

可能我們現在應該改變慶祝聖誕節的做法,從買東西改成紀念耶穌給我們的一些原則。祂教導我們許多事,但祂的中心信息是愛與寬恕。祂指出任何人都可以愛他們的朋友,但真正的考驗是能夠愛你的敵人,並寬恕那些恨你的人。

我認為聖誕節在新年的前幾天是很棒的安排。在新的一年開始之前,遵循耶穌的教導,去饒恕那些對我們不好的人,並尋求與我們有緊張關係的任何人和解,還有什麼事比這些更好呢?

當我們慶祝聖誕節並準備2012年的結束時,讓我建議:明年我們花用更少,愛更多,饒恕每個人,服事別人。

若你誠摯地想做這些事,我相信你將經歷超過你想像美好結果。請記得:「神愛世人,甚至將他的獨生子賜給他們,叫一切信他的,不致滅亡,反得永生。因為 神差他的兒子降世,不是要定世人的罪,乃是要叫世人因他得救」(約翰福音3章16-17節)。

吉姆.馬提斯在堪薩斯州陸路公園市經營一家照相館。他的專長是商業和影劇界人像。他也經營一所攝影學校。他還寫了一本書「一般民眾的高度攝影表現」,那是一本有關數位攝影的書。他曾是一家咖啡店的經理,也曾是CBMC在堪薩斯州堪薩斯市和密蘇里州堪薩斯市的執行主任。

省思 / 討論題目
你和你的家人如何慶祝聖誕節?你有多強調交換禮物? 你是否認為人們太強調在聖誕節送禮物,而不夠注重慶祝耶穌基督的誕生?請解釋。 你是否熟悉「白象禮物」的做法?本文作者觀察到我們所擁有的許多東西都等於是白象,因為那些都不是每天生活中所必需的,而且常常維護起來也很麻煩,且要花比那禮物本身價格更多的錢去維護。你同意嗎?為什麼? 你可以採取什麼步驟,確保耶穌的誕生在聖誕節被紀念,在這一天成為你個人慶祝聖誕節的重心?若你想要看或討論聖經中有關此議題的其他經文,你可考慮以下經節:
以賽亞書9章6-7節;彌迦書5章2-5節;羅馬書5章15-17節、6章23節;哥林多後書9章12-15節;雅各書1章17節

RESTORING A PROPER EMPHASIS FOR CHRISTMAS
By Jim Mathis

Being a follower of Jesus Christ, I celebrate the birthday of Jesus on December 25, as do billions of other Christians around the world. No one knows for certain the exact date Jesus was born, but December 25 seems as good a day as any to observe His birth.

The Bible tells us wise men – “magi” – traveled a very long distance to bring gifts to the newborn baby who would become the Savior of the world. Because of that, it has become a tradition for friends and family to give gifts to each other as part of the global celebration.

Giving and receiving gifts is one of the languages of love, a nice way to show people that we care about them and want to make an emotional connection with them. Thinking about a person and taking the time to select something we believe they would enjoy is a very real part of any relationship.

It does seem, however, we have taken this custom to the extreme as more and more people forget about honoring Jesus and pour their energies instead into spending money they do not have for reasons that are not always easy to justify. That is one reason I enjoy going to “white elephant” gift parties.

The original white elephant concept involved giving one”s enemies a gift they had to spend money to house and maintain, without receiving any real benefit from it. A white elephant gift amounts to a useless object that creates a hardship for the recipient. Although this practice was conceived with malice of intent, the modern version is usually taken as a joke, resulting in a lot of fun.

Several years ago my wife and disposed of 75 percent of our possessions, moved from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment, and pledged to live more simply and tread more lightly on the earth. From that point of view, we realized most gifts would be white elephants, because it turns out it can be a lot harder to sell something or give it away than it is to buy it in the first place.

Maybe the time has come for us to change our Christmas emphasis from buying things to remembering some of the principles Jesus gave to us. He taught many things, but His central message was love and forgiveness. He pointed out anybody can love their friends; the real test is being able to love your enemies and forgiving those that hate you.

I think Christmas closely preceding the New Year is a wonderful idea. What better way to start a calendar year fresh than to follow Jesus’ teaching and forgive those who have wronged us and seek to reconcile with anyone we have had tense relationships with during the course of the previous year?

Let me make a suggestion as we celebrate Christmas and anticipate the close of 2012: Next year let us Spend Less, Love More, Forgive Everyone, Serve Others.

If you make a sincere attempt at doing these things, I believe you will experience positive results beyond anything you could have imagined. Remember, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save it through him” (John 3:16-17).

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager, and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions
How do you and your family celebrate Christmas? How much emphasis do you place on the exchanging of gifts? Do you think too much emphasis is placed on gift giving at Christmas, and not enough focus is given to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Explain your answer. Are you familiar with the practice of giving “white elephant gifts”? Mr. Mathis observes that many of the things we possess amount to white elephants because they are not essential for everyday living and often are more trouble to maintain than they are worth. Do you agree? Why or why not? What steps could you make to ensure that Jesus, whose birth is commemorated every Christmas, becomes more central to your own personal celebration of this day?If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages: Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2-5; Romans 5:15-17, 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:12-15; James 1:17

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