Back in 1989, one of Keanu Reeves first movies came out. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was about two fairly dumb high school kids that travel back in time via a telephone booth (what’s that?) to gather characters from the past for a school history presentation. (Oh, mindless ‘80’s entertainment, where have you gone?) Now, let’s pretend that we can borrow Bill and Ted’s excellent time machine and travel back to the first celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and pick up a couple of locals.
In our little booth we would fit a Pilgrim couple who after struggling, and at times close to death over the past year or so, were joining their fellow adventurers and natives to give thanks to God for the bounty He had provided in this New World. We would then stop at the sleepy little village of Bethlehem, the night that three Magi, great wise men, had arrived from a long journey to pay homage to a new King, the world’s savior, in the most unlikely of places, nothing more than a hand hewn limestone cave where farm animals slept. Here they would be laying down their gifts at the feet of the child as signs of their hope and faith in God’s promise. Our last stop would be along a road leading from the great city of ancient Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, where two travelers were headed back home with stories of Jesus and the miracle of the Resurrection after an encounter with the risen Lord on that very road. In our time machine we now manage to transport our group of devotees back to 2014 Phoenix, or any other major metropolitan area. And then let’s say we were able to have these journeyers from the past stay with us from the week before Thanksgiving through the week after Easter, each in time to celebrate what we have made these holidays. What would their impressions be?
Well, the Pilgrims would certainly recognize the turkey and maybe the rest of the meal. (I guess cranberries come out of a can now – that’s convenient!) But how would you be able to explain the whole concept of Black Friday, which now has become Black Thursday afternoon? And what exactly is a door-buster? How would you explain the focus being turned from praise and thanks to God to that 60” smart TV on sale at Wal-Mart? Walk me through that parade with the big balloons of super heroes and cartoon characters – they had those back at Plymouth Rock, you say? And would they see anyone at our dinner table that remotely resembled the local natives who had helped to get them through the bitter winters of America’s northeast? Would they see our table opened up to the less fortunate and those in need?
Now, how freaked out would you think those three wise men would be when they see what we have done to Christmas? Do I need to get into the details? Would they recognize anything remotely to Christ’s birth through the sea of pine trees, snowmen, elves and even more overt consumption? And the fat dude in the red suit and white beard – is he some sort of Magi with the big bag of gifts? And how exactly does he get down all those chimneys with that waistline?
Lastly, we have Easter. Good luck with that one. These first followers of Christ might enjoy the chocolate bunny ears and those little yellow marshmallow Peeps. Who doesn’t? But how do you convince them to now worship at the feet of this 8-foot tall Bunny-god that lays chocolate eggs? Yeah, I said real chocolate! Can most people even describe Easter without the friggin’ bunny?
There is no doubt that each of these holidays started with a very specific intention and spirit. And there is also no doubt that as a people we love the celebration part because we keep on doing it. But I want to remind everyone, with God’s guidance, just what is happening here and more so what we have allowed to happen. I think most people would say after some consideration that the original spirit and intentions for the most part have, over time, been transformed, would you agree? It would be hard to argue otherwise certainly from the view of our now very confused time travelers. I also believe that through their perspective and actual experiences with the first celebrations they would easily see the source of these very apparent (to them) changes. They would likely attribute all this nonsense to satan, the master of confusion and deceit.
That’s what hundreds and thousands of years of perspective gives to you. We, in our short little time on this earth, don’t see it as such a big deal, because satan is not the Hollywood satan we grew up with, the real satan is much more subtle. Actually, it’s with the subtlety of hundreds and thousands of years and dozens of generations where satan does its best work. As subtle as how we spell the word ‘holiday’. It started out as Holy Day – obvious when you see them side by side, but since we never do, we forget. Don’t forget. For the sake of those that come after us, don’t forget. For God’s sake and theirs don’t forget.
We are not obligated to change our intentions regardless of what the world may propose otherwise…have a great Holy Day season!