I Hate Christmas

To many, it’s probably surprising–even irritating–that a former pastor would declare that he hates Christmas. I just have to be honest. In actuality, it’s not really Christmas that I hate. More to the point, it’s what Christmas has become that draws my ire.

Several of my friends have posted an article entitled, “In Case You Missed It: Christmas is About Jesus, the Birth of the Christ.” At one point, I sarcastically commented, “Yikes! When did that happen?” The sad part is that it seems almost necessary to remind people of that reality. It IS about Jesus—or, at least, it used to be.

Lost in the Shuffle

Somewhere along the way, Jesus seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. The shuffle I speak of is daily life. Or maybe I should say, holiday life. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that Christmas should be a simple time. It should be a time of worship, family, warmth, and learning. For many—if not most—it has become a time of stress, excessive spending, crowded calendars, and no worship. The only learning that takes place is the knowledge that we’re broke.

I can see how things have gotten out of control so easily. After all, giving presents is a good thing. Still, the whole present thing has become the god of Christmas. That’s easy to spot considering the fact that slews of non-Christians celebrate the season. Unfortunately, Christmas without Christ is merely Mas. My Spanish friends can tell you that mas means more. That about sums it up. We give and get more each year. Frankly, it appears we’re having a lot less fun doing it.

Somewhere along the way, the church chose December 25 to celebrate Christ’s birth. We don’t know when his birth actually occurred, but I suppose December 25 is as good a day as any. While celebrating the birth of the Savior seems like it should be a bigger and better celebration, say, than that of our own birthdays, I’m going to go out on a limb to suggest that Jesus isn’t overly pleased with the way we go about it.

All I Want for Christmas

One of the things that brought all this up for me is the fact that there are now radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music that has nothing to do with Jesus. If these stations were your only source of knowledge concerning the holiday, you would think we celebrate snow, trees, and chestnuts.

I especially took note this year of the old Mariah Carey song, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” That’s all you want? Another human being? Frankly, that seems like quite a lot. Subjugating another human being just doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the season.

I encourage you to, at the very least, take a little time to read one of the Christmas stories from Scripture (Luke 2:1-20 or Revelation 12) and ponder it for a few moments. It might make all the difference for you this year.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Maintaining Happiness

It was recently announced by Bloomberg that Bill Gates (Microsoft Co-founder) has retaken the title as richest person in the world. He rings in at a cool $110 billion beating Jeff Bezos by $1.3 billion. If money could buy happiness, I suppose these two would be the most joyful creatures on the planet. That has not been determined, so I suppose it’s all up for grabs.

I’m not sure about Bezos, but Gates has revealed his formula for happiness. He says he’s far happier now at 64 than he was at 25 (why 25, I’m not sure). Apparently, it doesn’t have much to do with the money.

Four Things

He lists four things that help him maintain his happy existence. They are as follows. “1) Follow through on your commitments. 2) Have a mindset of giving. 3) Treat your body like a sacred temple. 4) Put family first.”

As I read through them, it hit me how Scriptural each of these things happens to be. I guess it’s not so surprising to me that these things make for a more contented life. I was, however, mildly surprised that Bill Gates was the source of this list. He has indicated that he and his family are participants in a local church, but he seems to emphasize ethics and morality far more than the spiritual aspect of the faith.

I don’t know how much of his philosophy of life he’s gleaned from the Bible, but I’m guessing he’s gained a lot by osmosis over the years. That is to say, even if he’s not a believer in Christ, he’s glommed onto much of the Messiah’s teaching—whether intentionally or not.

If he was solidly grounded in the Christian faith, his formula for happiness would probably differ slightly. For example, faith in God might be in the list somewhere—quite probably as number one. I don’t want to be too skeptical about him though. Since number one is following through on your commitments, his commitment to the Savior might be contained in that tenet.

If That’s the Case

If that’s the case, the other three would necessarily follow—Scripturally speaking. Number two, for example, is a strong tenet of Christianity. Jesus taught us to be wildly generous. Since Gates is a multi-billionaire, it’s no surprise that he’s given away $35 billion over the past thirty years. He’s definitely not stingy—at least it doesn’t appear that way.

Number three is a no-brainer if you’re a student of the Apostle Paul. Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Gates fits right in on that one. God gave us our bodies, we should take decent care of them.

His final one is a tad more restricted than the Biblical admonition to love your neighbor as yourself, but it goes along with the general idea. There’s an old chorus that says something like JOY—Jesus, Others, and You—in that order. Even we thousand-aires can do those things and find happiness. 

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Throwing Out the Baby

I remember my Mom telling me about growing up during the depression. She was the youngest of nine children. There was no such thing as a water heater (at least in their home). To draw a bath, water was heated over the coal stove in the kitchen. It took quite a while—not to mention, a considerable amount of coal. For that reason, everyone took one bath a week—usually on Saturday.

That thought is bad enough for twenty-first-century Americans. It gets worse, however. Everyone used the same bathwater. Let that one sink in for a moment. In my Mom’s home, they had two parents and nine kids. Even using modern math, that seems to add up to eleven. Eleven people using the same bathwater. Thank God for the showers in my modern, super-comfortable home.

The Pecking Order

It doesn’t stop there, though. There was a pecking order at bath-time. The oldest was always the first to get bathed. Once the eldest was clean, the next one in the age line took their turn. Consequently, the baby always got to use the dirtiest water. Yikes!

In my Mom’s home, they would place a metal tub in the kitchen (closer to the hot water). When everyone had taken their bath, the water—now tepid and grimy at least—was finally tossed out. I don’t know who coined it, but someone finally said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Since my Mom was the baby in her home, I’m glad someone came up with this sage advice.

Like many old sayings, this expression has been adapted and applied to various situations for passing along good-sense counsel. Essentially, in the absence of the communal bathtub, it is now taken to mean, “Don’t eliminate the good while tossing out the bad.” I like it.

A Thousand Reasons

Regardless of the fact that most of us are well-versed in that maxim, we often end up doing it anyway. A lot of people are doing this with their faith these days. Because the church is so messed up in many people’s eyes, they have not only rejected the church herself, they are rejecting Christianity in its entirety. 

As a retired pastor, I could give you a thousand reasons to reject the church. There are things that occur in congregations that are upsetting. In fact, some of them are disgusting, and others are downright vile. Not only are there distressing occurrences, but there are also parishioners—ostensibly Christians—who can be repulsive as well. There used to be a joke among pastors that said, “The church would be great if it wasn’t for the people.”

When I was a young pastor, I had a neighbor (who also happened to be one of my parishioners) who, over the years, had earned the nickname, “The Devil on the Hill.” He was credited with singlehandedly driving out several pastors. Folks like him have been catalysts for others to toss out the baby (so to speak). My simple suggestion—don’t reject Jesus because of the devils.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

I’ll Hold Your Beer

I was watching the fifth game of the World Series along with a few million other folks when it happened. I was also watching live in 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down on national TV. I suppose there were hundreds of other famous, live incidents I was able to see as they occurred, but these two are possibly the ones I will remember the most.

I’m referring, of course, to the now-famous Jeff Adams. Mrs. Adams had stepped out to purchase some food, so her husband was holding her beer as well as his own. Then Yordan Alvarez of the Astros jacked a home run. As Adams spotted the baseball heading his direction, he put himself in position to, uh, catch it. 

A Heroic Move

In a heroic move, he held on to the two beers (one in each hand) and blocked the ball with his chest. The ball fell to his feet, and he was able to retrieve it. Obviously, it was a well-deserved souvenir. The home run traveled over the left field wall going a distance of 405 feet at a velocity of 106 miles per hour. I’ve played enough baseball in my lifetime to know that had to hurt. My immediate reaction was to tell my lovely Bride that it probably broke a rib.

Apparently, I was wrong. Adams was interviewed after the game and said it didn’t hurt because, “the Astros don’t hit that hard anyway.” Obviously a Nats fan… I have to admit, I would have either tossed the beer and gone for the ball, or I would have dived out of the way. I’m just happy for Jeff that the ball wasn’t head high when it reached him—although he may have caught it in his teeth if it had. I would have had to look away if that had transpired.

TV is an amazing invention. We got our first boob tube when I was two years old. My parents told me years later that I was glued to it. That was sixty-seven years ago, and I’ve watched my share over time. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about the decades I’ve no doubt wasted during that era. I’ve viewed some pretty important moments, but I’ve also had to wade through eons of unnecessary drivel to get there.

“I Was Watching!”

With media the way it is these days, I can watch Oswald and Adams whenever and as often as I want. Seeing it live isn’t all that important—or is it? It’s kind of cool to be able to say, “I was watching when that happened!” That’s small reward for losing so much of my life, but that’s the way we seem to live.

Luke tells the story about Mary and Joseph finding the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. He told them, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” It appears that Jesus preferred spiritual matters over TV. I’m not sure how much time he wasted in his short life, but I’m guessing it wasn’t much.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]