Dec 24, 2008

Is "family" the new idol?

by Dan Grubbs

Well, I'm not sure I can say it's a new idea that "family" has become a distraction from our focus on God, but my larger point is that our society has used the family as an excuse for a deteriorating individual relationship with God.

What sparked this line of thinking is the fact that Christmas church services are nearly non-existent in a country where Dec. 25 is a specifically Christian celebration of the birth of the Messiah. Oh, there are Christmas-eve services aplenty still. But, according to an article by Amy Sullivan for Time, services on Christmas day are hard to find. Sullivan speculates, "most Protestant churches are closed on the actual religious holiday. For most Christians, Christmas is a day for family, not faith."

My unbelieving acquaintances would think Sullivan is daft for writing that last sentence. They'd say, "Of course Christmas is a holiday for the family." But, what struck me is Sullivan's central point -- that Christmas is no longer a day for faith. Her article indicates that this is a reflection of our cultural evolution in America where the family has been raised "to a sacrosanct level."

Now, before anyone goes down the road thinking I'm advocating that we abandon our familial responsibilities and lock ourselves away in some utopian cloister, think again. What I'm simply pondering on is how we in America live out our priorities.

If we claim that we are followers of Christ and desire to be obedient to His teachings and commandments, then our lives should be ordered in priorities that begin with our personal relationship with God, then our relationships and responsibilities to our families following. With that, then, I ask the simple question, What would stop us from attending a Christmas day church service? And, I believe the honest answer would be because we have family plans and activities that don't involve our local assemblies.

In my mind, one question leads to another. Therefore, I ask, how does this behavior reflect the choices we make regarding God? One thing I do know is that our God is a jealous God. He desires all of us, not just part of ourselves. It's also been my experience that when some distraction gets in the way of our relationship with Him, He will often remove that distraction. As the logical flow continues, if we esteem anything higher than God, it has then become an idol. Where does that leave us, then? As stark as it may sound, many of us has made an idol of our families insomuch as we esteem them (by our behaviors) higher than we do the Creator and Lover of our souls.

Can families remain at home and celebrate Christmas in a way that is faithful to Christ? Absolutely. To deny that is simply silly. However, I am sceptical that the majority of Christian families are actually celebrating Christmas day in a way that their focus is on their need for a Messiah to come to Earth.

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