It’s Time We Told the Truth About Christmas
Christmas poses a fundamental problem for followers of Jesus in 2019…or at least it should. Let’s name this reality; our country is becoming increasingly hostile to the message of the Gospel. There is an escalating intolerance of those who believe we should live out that message faithfully, much less have the audacity to share it. Our sacred beliefs and uncompromising doctrine don’t fare well in the current hyper-sensitive national psyche and its penchant for being offended by everything with which they don’t agree.
So, how are we to celebrate Christmas in this environment of growing animosity? The temptation might be to lay low, keep our heads down, soft sell the celebration and practice passive tolerance for those who reject or even hate the holiday. We could gather quietly in our cloistered churches, little candles flickering while we sing Silent Night…silently. And soon it will all be over for another year.
Here’s the problem, let’s call it Christianity’s stunning little secret. Let me say this as boldly as the Bible says it, as unequivocally as the church throughout the centuries has stated it, as clearly as followers of Jesus must proclaim it; the incarnation is the single most important occurrence in the history of humanity, and it fundamentally changes the status of every human who’s walked the face of the earth.
Can we truly be followers of Jesus and keep this a secret? This is the greatest news a human being can or will ever hear. You can live to be 100 years old and in all those years this is the single most important message you will ever be told, the greatest hope you will ever know. It is the ultimate purpose of life which every person who was ever conceived was meant to know and embrace with joy.
God with us, God for us, God bearing our humanity, God one of us, God coming to save us in the fullness of time. There are no words too triumphant, no phrase too lofty to express the cosmic significance of this event. When God took on human form, when in the baby Jesus there dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 1:19), every human was changed forever.
Take a moment today to gaze out at the traffic. Look at the faces of the people you pass on the sidewalks and the shopping malls of your city. Watch the news of people across the country and around the globe, people of every color, race and tribe. Consider especially those who reject God, ridicule us as believers, scoff and curse at our faith and assemble and scheme to drive our voice from the public square. Now consider this, Christ assumed their humanity, each of them and all of them! So great is His love! That is the Christmas story, the miracle of the Incarnation!
People are free to reject this fact. They can hate it, ignore it or deny it altogether. They can deny their way into hell, but they can’t undo it! They, and we, are forever marked as ones whose humanity was assumed fully and completely by Jesus Christ in the incarnation.
The question for us is, will we tell them? Will we refuse to shrink away onto our sequestered ecclesiastical huddles and instead take up the challenge to ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is Born’? Do we truly believe that Christmas is ‘Joy to the World’ because ‘The Lord is Come’? Do we hope that, ‘every heart prepares Him room and heaven and nature sings’?
If this seems audacious, even scandalous in the frenzy of our politically correct society, listen to a few other voices.
Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. (Gregory Nazianzen)
There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the incarnation. (Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water)
God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas)
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C.S. Lewis
This is the great problem, and supreme opportunity of Christmas. Will we tell the world the truth about Christmas; which is the truth about themselves, the truth about their humanity and the truth about the purpose of their very existence? Will we be so bold to share the staggering love of a God who is so for us that He became one with us in order to save us?
My prayer for us this Advent season is twofold. First, that we will look carefully at every person we encounter in the next four weeks, and as we do, we will say of them, ‘Jesus bore your humanity that you might be redeemed. Do you know this good news?’
The second is that the Holy Spirit will give us a spirit of love, grace and truth to introduce them to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem who became their redeemer on Calvary and their risen Savior. May it be said of us what the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)