Today I woke up and checked my Facebook to see a young man locally had committed suicide.

Last week I visited a large church who at least for Easter spoke of Jesus.  At Christmas it seemed about 70% Santa and 30% Jesus.  I didn’t attend that Christmas service to be fair.  But all the promotion was about Santa and his elves were coming.  Their pictures on their website were all about Santa and elves.  The aftermath videos show more about Santa.  And then they had a brief 1 sentence line in a paragraph about it’s celebrating Jesus’ birth.  Although they did have a nativity scene.

And I go back to this teenage who took a gun to his head last week and blew out his brains.

Parents are frequently pulled at Christmas and Easter and Halloween how to celebrate.  They want their kids to have fun with their friends dressing up in costumes at Halloween, easter egg hunts and candy, and gifts from Santa.  The tension is real.

“It’s not a big deal,” most parents will say.

But then I read Acts 14:8-20.

The town of Lystra mistook Paul and Barnabas for Zeus and Hermes.  The town quickly ran to bring wreaths to them and sacrifice bulls to the disciples.  Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and shouted to them,

“We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn back from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them” (14:15).

There’s one phrase in particular that stands out:

“turn back from these worthless things to the living God”

‘But we don’t worship the Easter bunny,’ some say.  Or Santa.  Or death at halloween.  We just participate in the festivities.

It’s the same thing missionaries encounter.  For example churches in Haiti practice voodoo celebrations in church as it’s “part of the culture.”

The biggest problem is that it takes away from Jesus.  Santa gets the glory for being the good gift-giver.  The easter bunny distracts from the resurrection.  And halloween turns our thoughts from life to death and horror.

And it puts Jesus seemingly on the same ground as these myths.

Santa will not give hope to the boy that just committed suicide.
The easter bunny will not bring the understanding that the resurrection is the lifeline out of darkness.
Halloween will not give encouragement for that boy to live another day

Only Jesus can do this.

And Jesus does not need to stand beside the pagan practices of the day.

Jesus alone saves.

“turn back from these worthless things to the living God”

Can you imagine Paul and Barnabas dancing at the Zeus and Hermes Festival “because it’s Ok, we know what’s real”?

Or have Peter busting a dance move with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, “because I don’t want my kids to miss out”?

The solution is two-fold I think.

  1.  Stop participating in these things that take from the glory of the Lord.
  2. Celebrate with so much music, dancing, fun, games and food and life that all celebrate Jesus that the world wants to imitate the church, and not the church join the world.  Three times in Scripture we are commanded to celebrate our festivals

God is all about celebration.  He is the author of celebration. But it’s to His glory and not the glory of the world.

Just think for a minute.

  • If Jesus visited your church on Halloween, would you ask him to dress up like a demon or the devil?
  • Would you ask Jesus if he wanted to participate in an easter egg hunt on the day commemorating his resurrection?
  • Or would you ask Jesus on the day of his birth to dress up as Santa or be an elves that distributes presents?

“turn back from these worthless things to the living God”

Only Jesus saves.

And people, the world is dying (literally) in need of Jesus.