Straining gnats and swallowing camels.
Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.
Every year, there seems to be some Christmas drama, normally involving a Nativity scene on public land or an atheist group putting up a billboard declaring everything about Jesus as a myth. This year, the drama is over the song, "Baby, It's Cold Out There," composed by Frank Loesser in 1944.
The concern is that it may promote date rape. There are myriad songs played by radio stations that degrade women and encourage sex outside of marriage but none are banned nor is a finger lifted against them. Yet, someone has chosen this song to suffer the wrath of censorship. It seems to be "straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel." Matthew 23:24.
Is the song flirtatious? Yes. Is it a Christmas song? Not in the strictest sense of the word. It is a song heard at Christmastime as is the song "My Favorite Things," from the "Sound of Music." In the "Sound of Music", the song is not in a Christmas scene or about Christmas, but it has become a Christmas tradition. By the way, neither of these songs will we use for our Christmas worship.
Is Christmas about Jesus? Of course, but not every custom at Christmas has its origins in Scripture or the Christian faith.
Do I have problem with that? No! Pews in churches did not come from Christians, nor Basilica robes worn by liturgical ministers nor suits and ties worn by others. The New Testament has given freedom to allow cultural customs and manners to be used.
Can any of these get in the way of the Gospel? Yes. Cultural shifts and misuse of a custom may cause some things to drop out of usage or be viewed as a detriment to the Gospel. Few ministers in America today wear the Geneva clerical collar. Why? It fell out of usage. A visit from St. Nicolas was welcomed by churches in the past, but today many Christians would find it a detriment to the Gospel, as the image of St. Nicolas has charged.
I play and sing at the nursing home in Eldorado about once a month. This month will include Christian and secular Christmas music. I look forward to seeing my grandchild opening gifts. I enjoy the Christmas foods and lights.
The key is keeping perspective, always remembering that all that is done on Christmas has not been kept alive because of some forgotten pagan custom, but because of Jesus.
Could our post-Christian world someday forget about Jesus at Christmas? Yes. But Christians will always celebrate the birth of our Savior.
I am sure that another issue about Christmas over time will spring up. People will continue to strain out gnats and swallow camels, but I will not let a gnat stop me or my house from celebrating Jesus' birth.
* David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.