This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, and all that it implies to Christians around the world. Here in the UK many churches and chapels will greet visitors to their services who feature in the lists of those who attend only on what they regard as 'Special Occasions', yet is it not true that EVERY service is a special occasion?
Of course nowadays the numbers get fewer rather than increase, largely because of the efforts by successive governments to secularise society and sideline Christianity in their attempts to win the votes of the huge numbers of non-Christians, particularly amongst the immigrant population. The fact that our society has a Christian-Judeo base seems to be irrelevant.
A week today will be Good Friday. When I was growing up, and indeed for much of my life, this was always a day when shops were closed and it was treated as the Holy Day that it is. It's the occasion for the world to remember all that God has done for mankind; the occasion when He suffered the most abominable pain at the hands of His own creation --- man; the occasion when God's love was poured out upon the world in a demonstration of utmost sacrifice. This was not for the benefit of the few but of the many, for God's love embraces mankind in its entirety. Jesus died to conquer sin for everyone, believer and non-believer. The difference comes when people choose to acknowledge Him as their Saviour and accept Him as their Lord. God's forgiveness is not selective. It offers people of every race, every colour, every religious group, the same opportunity to come to Him through Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
How sad then, that so much of what is regarded as the 'civilised' world chooses to reject God's undeserved offer of reconciliation and redemption. This Good Friday the shops will open across the United kingdom by and large, and their owners will be rubbing their hands together to the tune of the cash tills as people rush to spend, spend, spend. Many stores will have 'Special Offer' signs plastered across their windows, in the stores, and in their advertising programmes in the lead-up to Holy Week. Many of their customers will be the same people who pay a guest visit to church on Easter Sunday. Make of that what you will!
As we celebrate Palm Sunday we will recall Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the way in which the people waved palm branches as they shouted out 'Hosanna!' at the top of their voices. They feted Him as a king on that day, yet only a few days later the same people were almost certainly amongst those who cried at again at the top of their voices, only this time it was the phrase 'Crucify him!' that spewed out of their mouths.
So, here's a thought or two for the coming week:
What does it all mean to you, personally?
What will you be (metaphorically at least) shouting out on Palm Sunday?
What will you be doing this Good Friday?