A few days ago I was going through my saved pictures on my computer and deleting those for which I had no more use. I tend to hoard and wonder why my computer is so slow. For example, I had a picture of an animal paw done in stars and stripes—cute, but not something I use every day. Then there was the one of Al Gore and Howard Stern, who bear an uncanny resemblance to each other. I was thinking at one time of creating a photo shop monstrosity, but decided I could spend my time in wiser endeavors. Well, you get the picture (no pun intended).
I brought up a few photos I had been using in putting together our church address-and-activity book for 2007. One of them was a picture of Jesus, which I had labeled and saved as “Jesus.” I right clicked on the file name and then clicked on “delete.” Immediately the little box appeared with the question: “Are you sure you want to send ‘Jesus’ to the recycle bin?”
My mouth dropped open, my breath came out in a gasp, and I stared at the monitor for a while until I remembered to inhale. Then I clicked on “no” and felt only marginally better.
It seems to me that, in many ways, that’s exactly what we’ve done with Jesus. Remember when Jesus used to be the “reason for the season?” When it was okay to say, “Merry Christmas” instead of ‘Happy Holidays?” Or to acknowledge the cross as a symbol of our risen Savior at Easter, instead of parading bunnies and baby chicks and colored eggs around our homes and churches?
I know I may sound preachy, and we’ve probably lamented all of this before. But this little experience made me stop and think. Have I sent Jesus to the recycle bin? If so, what has He been recycled into? An artificial tree decorated and lit up with cheap baubles? A wind-up Santa, who says, “Ho ho ho” until you want to scream and tear your hair out? Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” ONE MORE TIME? A shelf of 25% off Holiday cards at Wal-Mart (or Barnes and Noble, for those of you from the blue states)? An icon to which we pay lip service on Sundays and, carefully, a couple of holidays, if we’re politically correct about it?
Many years ago, when I was in first grade and it was still okay to celebrate Christmas in our public schools, I played an angel in the Christmas pageant, and I’ll admit it was back in the dark ages. That year and for several years after, one of the local businesses—it may have been a bank—presented an annual display of a living manger scene, in which many local residents joyfully participated. They always managed to come up with a real live baby for authenticity. There was an openness and a freshness and a sense of wonder that I could perceive even at my tender age. All that is gone now in our urgency to neutralize the very basic principles upon which our society was founded.
If we haven’t recycled Jesus, I’m afraid that we as Christians surely have diminished His significance by knuckling under to those who want to run our lives and take away our liberties. I am speaking to Christians, not to non-Christians, to whom this whole endeavor would make no sense. I assume it is permissible for me to address my fellow Christians without translating this into several languages or re-wording it so as not to offend our brothers and sisters of unlike persuasion, and to refer to Jesus as a male and not some androgynous being which may or may not have existed.
I don’t want to send Jesus to the recycle bin. If I am guilty of having done so I can only ask God to forgive me and to help me to focus on the Jesus of the Scriptures. God hasn’t lowered His standards; neither should we.