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How do we treat God?

A major part of our holiday tradition in America is Christmas. It is the time when we gather with the people who are most important to us and exchange gifts that are expressive of our love and appreciation for each other.  It’s so big it’s not a day or even a week—it’s a season. For many stores, it is the season that makes or breaks their year. Hallmark could still have a network but their movie catalog would be cut in half without Christmas.

Although it’s well off the radar, there is also a tradition we have that takes place in the days immediately following Christmas. This is a special time that we celebrate by meeting with people we don’t know. There gatherings take place in the retail establishments. Everyone brings some kind of gift to the event. It is something that doesn’t work, didn’t fit, we didn’t want and worst of all—we are unable to re-gift. Together we stand in the return line and wait. No one is singing songs. There is no egg nog and cookies.

Imagine you’re standing in the return line at the Costco in Santa Clarita, California. Lying on the floor in front of you is a tree that has obviously seen better days—specifically, it is a Christmas tree. It’s a few days after the holiday and it is being returned. “What’s wrong with the tree?” an employee asks.  “It’s dead,” is the reply. (While that is a correct answer it should be point out for the record that the tree was headed in that direction when it was purchased). Despite all of this, the customer is granted a refund.

I suppose you could take something like this in a lot of directions, but I’d like to use it to pose this questions: Is God ever treated like this? Someone uses God for their purposes and when that’s done they’re done with God and they’d like to get a refund (reward) for “following” Him for the brief amount of time that He was on their radar. The salesman who desperately needs to close a big deal with someone they know to be a disciple so they jump into their spiritual mode to get it done. Later they pat themselves on the back for making the sale and putting in a good word for God as well. Parents who take their children to church on Sunday morning and live the rest of the week like it’s Saturday night. It’s okay though because they’re setting a good example for their children by taking them to church, right?  

I image our response to this would be something like the response of some of the other people in that return line at Costco—not in agreement. Our vision may not be the sharpest but we can see how ridiculous that kind of behavior is. That’s good, but the question I want to ask is: can we see what the opposite of that kind of behavior is?

The answer starts with the nativity scene with the shepherds who show up to see Jesus and then leave to tell everyone about Him. Later they return “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). It continues with the magi (whose visit took place about 18 months later – Matthew 2:16). They traveled hundreds of mile to make their visit, offer their gifts and worship Him.  It continues today when we live in accordance with the truth that the real gift we need is not under tree, it’s on the tree. 

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