Can you feel and see it? The weather is cooling, but not cold. The leaves are at their loveliest. The most wonderful time of the year is here, the time when we have one holiday to give thanks to God for all of his goodness and another to celebrate him becoming flesh and being born in Bethlehem. So in this, the first week of November, please allow me to give you your very first set of both practical and spiritual instructions this year for the coming holidays, instructions that will hopefully keep your holidays bright and your attitudes right.
Here goes, in no particular order.
› Jeremiah 10:1-5 has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas trees. The entire passage was about idols, as seen from the mentions in verse five of them neither being able to talk or to walk. And this passage predated the original Christmas by more than 500 years, let alone Christmas trees. So, if you do not want to have a Christmas tree, fine. If you do, and some Grinch tries to steal yours by yanking that passage out of context, pleasantly tell him that he is welcome to take his opinion to the top of Mount Crumpit and dump it.
› "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie. Mind you, it cannot be cleanly watched without a cuss box or other device to remove all of the language, but with such protections in place, it ranks right up there with Miracle on whatever number street that other Christmas movie was.
› Canned cranberries are a sign that we are a failing civilization, and whoever came up with that sickly-sweet gelatinous goop should probably have their citizenship revoked.
› Online pseudo scholars are doubtless already preparing to publish their yearly screeds about how Jesus could not possibly have been born on Dec. 25 and, therefore, we should not celebrate Christmas. When you encounter such, ask them the following questions. One, when was he born? Two, do you make a large to-do about his birth on that day? You will quickly find their answers to be "We don't really know" and "Uhhhh ..." You may then feel free to point out that if they do not know, then they do not know that it was not Dec. 25. You may then follow up by reminding them that if they adopted a child and did not know the actual birth date, they would simply pick a date on which to celebrate each year, say, Dec. 25. But the one thing they would not do is nothing.
› White-meat turkey is bad. Really bad. Unless it is drowned in gravy or slathered in mayonnaise on a sandwich, it is actually inedible unless you also like eating dry sponges. Turkey should be forever set aside and immediately be replaced by ham or bacon or steak as the meat of choice at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
› On one hand, the claymation Rudolph Christmas special is one of the greatest things ever produced by Western civilization. On the other, it is one of the only things that can make a person want to punch Santa Claus in the mouth.
› Homemade fruitcake is actually delicious. Cheap, mass-produced block fruitcakes are doubtless served in hell for every single holiday.
› Holidays are very busy times. But life goes by pretty fast, so never fail to make holiday memories each year, especially with your family. Go look at all of the Christmas lights. Go see Christmas plays. Play games together. Watch "The Muppet Christmas Carol." Give memorable gifts. Play Christmas games. No one ever gets to their deathbed and says, "I wish I would have put in a bunch of extra overtime during the holidays."
› If you do not have deviled eggs at your Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, I may not question your salvation or your patriotism, but I do question your judgment.
› Based on Luke 19:10, the best gift you could ever give the birthday boy, Jesus, at Christmas, is to tell someone about him and see them place their faith in him. So do it. And as a secondary yet really important other gift to Jesus, and at the risk of sounding obvious, if you go through the holidays without somehow giving to and doing for people less fortunate than you, you aren't "holidaying" right.
› Apple cider is both delicious and the absolute quintessential scent of the holidays.
› Thanksgiving and Christmas are no excuses to completely fall off of the eating right and working out bandwagon, let alone dismantling the bandwagon and using it to build a bonfire on which to make s'mores. Your health does not care what month of the year you ruin it; it just doesn't want to be ruined. Enjoy some treats, yes; just don't undo an entire year of good work in the name of holiday cheer.
› Beware of holiday scams. There are human Grinches everywhere who will use your holiday goodwill to steal from you without so much as batting an eye. The safest thing you can do is ignore all pleas from people and situations that you do not know and give generously to people and situations that you do know. And that should be pretty easy since you could draw a 5-mile circle around your home and find more legitimate needs within it than you could ever meet in a lifetime.
› Oh, and Seroogy's chocolates. Trust me on this one.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@ cbc-web.org.