When I came over to evangelicalism from Catholicism, I was surprised to discover hostility to Christmas celebrations.  We needed to be rid of Santa Claus and Christmas trees and mistletoe and gifts and stockings and yule logs – anything that had its origins in paganism.  The devil had touched it and tainted it, permanently rendering it unusable for God’s good ends.

Is the devil that powerful?
Is God that impotent?
Christ redeems us.  He rightfully takes something back.  When our souls were redeemed, our personalities weren’t obliterated; we weren’t turned into completely unrecognizable brand-spanking new people.  We still possessed the same facial expressions, personality quirks, and sense of humor.  Those things were simply redirected to new and better ends.

Christianity does the same thing when it touches culture.  Culture is just the way we live life – our customs and traditions and practices.  The Spirit of God doesn’t generate a purely “Christian culture”.  Instead, He seems to have always taken Roman or German or African or Celtic or Oriental or Jewish ways and repurposed them as tools to new and better ends.

There is no purely Christian culture.  There are only human cultures baptized by the Spirit.

This bothers some evangelicals.  They seem to think that if Colonel Mustard used the candlestick to commit a murder in the library, all candlesticks and libraries must never be used again. 

But couldn’t God redeem the same candlestick and set it up in the library to shine light for people to read by?

Isn’t this what redemption is about?

Some evangelicals worry too much about the devil and what people have done supposedly under his influence and not enough about the fact that Christ has overcome the world.  Is everything about every non-Christian religion demonic and diabolical?  Is the devil’s touch so poisonous as to be able to taint God’s creation and put it beyond the renewing touch of an Almighty Redeemer?

The apostle’s take on unbelieving Gentiles is that they are feeling their way toward God, groping in the dark to find Him (Acts 17.27).  Perhaps some groping in the dark is demonically inspired, but perhaps some of it is the best that a sincere blind man can do.  I don’t criticize my four year old grandchildren for their attempts at writing their names or drawing stick figures;  I post them on my refrigerator and recognize them for what they are.

The best that a sincere blind man can do will be terribly imperfect.  But God is in the business of redeeming and transforming things.  And when He redeems and transforms someone or something, it is taken back to Himself.  The devil loses his power.  Darkness is pushed away by the light.  What looked like a defeat is suddenly a resounding victory.

Merry Christmas to all!  Enjoy your holiday with all of the fixings!