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A Place Where the Sun No Longer Shines

Up until a few years ago, my Christmas shopping destinations included a couple of local Christian Bookstores. Whether I was looking a Bible, the newest Christmas CD or an inspirational gift, I went to explore to see what I could find. Whether I left empty handed or not, the people I encountered made every trip worthwhile. I could write an entire chapter in a book about my previous conversations at Christian bookstores throughout the country.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, John 1:5.

The one store which has made the most impact on my life was called the Sonshine House. During my first year of teaching Bible at Red Lion Christian Academy, I discovered that one of my students’ mom was the owner. This was sort of a reunion as Jackie, the former owner, helped me build my Christian music collection while in college. This woman of God was always encouraging, like a ray of sunshine in a dark world.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” John 8:12.

Due to the popularity of companies like Amazon, Apple Music and other online competitors, most local Christian Bookstores have vanished. While there may be a few local establishments like Blockbuster, abandoned store fronts are a sign of the times. Instead of promoting malls, retail shops and town centers, a growing number of people would rather shop online. Although this may be more convenient, the social aspect of life is being ignored. May this blog inspire you to become a light for Christ in places where the sun doesn’t shine spiritually.

by Jay Mankus

Baby Jesus or the Man in a Red Suit?

According to Washington Irving, the concept of Santa Claus emerged in the United States beginning in 1773.  In Washington’s 1809 book the History of New York, Americans borrowed from Sinterklaas, a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Commercial stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, followed by separate sections for holiday advertisements in 1840.  In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model.  The tradition of blending a real life Santa Claus to attract Christmas shoppers began in 1918.

Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them, Luke 18:15.

For the unchurched, Santa Claus has slowly replaced Jesus as the reason for this season.  As atheists, liberals and progressives continue to be offended by nativity scenes set up in public squares, law suits, public pressure and political correctness is eliminating the traces of this sacred holiday.  As a generation of babies, toddlers and young children have sat upon the laps of adults dressed up as Santa Claus, the concept of a baby Jesus is fading away.  Meanwhile, when asked by men in a red suit, “what do you want for Christmas,” Santa Claus has been elevated by many unknowing children to a god like status.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

Apparently, fairly tales and wise old tales was not just a modern phenomena.  According to the apostle Paul, first century leaders who opposed Christianity began to develop plans to mislead followers of Christ.  These schemes appear to have been successful in deceiving some believers who did not possess a strong spiritual foundation.  The context of the passage above refers to becoming rooted in Christ, relying on the Bible and prayer to serve as a spiritual guide through life.  Anyone who does not practice similar spiritual disciplines are vulnerable to believing in lies, John 8:44.  This dilemma has led me to ponder, who will today’s children believe: baby Jesus or the man in a red suit?

by Jay Mankus

Merry ???

Earlier in the week I went Christmas shopping for my wife.  Due to the nature of the gift, I was forced to rely on the expertise of sales associates.  After finding two similar items, I wanted to know which would be the best purchase for the long haul.  When I was finally convinced on the best brand name to buy, I approached the check out counter.  On my way out, I replied, “Merry Christmas,” that was followed by an awkward silence.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

Sometime in the last few decades, Christians have become afraid of offending other people of faith.  Due to political correctness, retailers are now training new staff to avoid expressing specific phrases or words.  Subsequently, Merry Christmas has become like cheap greeting cards, X’ed out and replaced with Happy Holidays.  It’s no wonder that this cashier was uneasy, not sure how to respond to my seasonal greeting.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

The apostle Paul witnessed a spirit of timidity in his day.  When persecution broke out against the early church, fear consumed many believers.  This environment initially hampered the growth of the Way as described in the book of Acts.  Yet, as soon as fear was replaced by the love of Christ, the tides began to turn.  May this wave of the Holy Spirit arrive on the scene today to inspire people to share two special words, “Merry Christmas.”

by Jay Mankus



A Merry Mess

In recent years, major retail chains have urged their employees to replace Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays as they greet and or say goodbye to shoppers.   Meanwhile, cities across America continue banning Nativity Scenes from town squares, hoping not to offend anyone.   All of this can be linked to greeting card manufactures, trying to save money by eliminating Christ with an X, not the actual Greek symbol.   If you can’t talk about Christmas, can’t express the true meaning in a re-enactment and struggle to find a card that communicates the reason for this season, we are left with a merry mess.

At the conclusion of Scrooged, Bill Murray risks getting fired to save his company’s production from excluding the message of this sacred day.  Convicted by his own selfishness, Murray goes from the production booth to the set, interrupting the live show to share what’s on his heart.  Although, this is just a movie, its a depiction of how the Holy Spirit can and does fill people with a story that must be told.  Unless average Americans intervene, I feel as if Christmas will become just another day on the calendar, filled with ignorant shoppers, rude drivers and a merry mess of trash around a dying tree.

According to Matthew 2:1-12, 3 Magi, experts in the stars, came from the East to follow a special star.  Aware of Old Testament prophecies, these 3 men, along with their caravan, traveled hundreds of miles across a desert to follow this unusual sign from God.  Bearing gifts, these 3 paid tribute to the promised Messiah, freely giving valuable offerings to Joseph and Mary for their babe.  Each Magi was so overwhelmed, they dropped to their knees and worshipped the baby Jesus, whose name means, he will save his people from their sins, Matthew 1:21.  This is the hope of Christmas.

If you want to save December 25th from commercialism, its time to speak up and speak out with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:13-15.  Cleaning up this mess won’t happen over night, yet Peter has the right idea in 1 Peter 3:8-9.  As you repay insults with blessings, the promise of Proverbs 25:21-22 will ensue.  When people see examples of Jesus in others, they will begin to understand the meaning of the mass of Christ.  Give God your best and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!

by Jay Mankus

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