What They Don't Want You to Know
Christmas is coming! Of course, everybody knows that. But, have you noticed that there is a lot less talk about Christmas in our culture these days? Christmas break is now often called "Winter Recess". There are a lot of "Happy Holidays" out there. We will hear quite a bit about Ramadan and Hanukkah and even 'Kwanza'. Of course all of these are predictions, since I am writing this before Thanksgiving, but it is the pattern of the past few years. We don't want to offend Muslims and Jews and 'Kwanzarians' (I just made that one up). We have to be 'sensitive' and generic, particularly when it comes to expressions of the Christian faith - - or so we are told.
Frankly, I am tired of being compassionate in a way that silences my faith and forces me to listen to their stuff. That is the "compassion" of the world, better known as subtle persecution. Somehow it is wrong when our faith is prominently displayed everywhere, even as weakly as Christmas in America displays it, but it is okay when our faith is ignored, ripped from the public square, and we are forced to endure hours of their religious practices and beliefs - however bizarre or newly fabricated they may be - being pumped at us by the media under the guise of being 'even-handed'.
The truth is that the pressure to silence Christmas comes from quarters with an agenda to hide the Christian faith and keep people ignorant of the true treasures of our confession. Our religion is viewed by some as so powerful and so dangerous that even Santa Claus (as secular and un-Christian as he has become in our culture) is viewed as a dangerous tool of Christian evangelism! 'THEY', whoever they are, don't want people exposed to the dangerous truths of Christmas. But I think it is time that these truths be uncovered and displayed before the world!
What they don't want you to know are the earth-shaking realities of Christmas. Imagine if people realized that God was born in human flesh, a person just like any one of us in many ways. Of course, He is God, so He is not sinful. He never showed tremendous strength, like, say, Sampson, but He had all power at His disposal. But the simple fact of the Incarnation is such a startling and amazing thing that many who call themselves Christian cannot quite accept it! God was in Christ! Still is, actually, but those four words are a quote from 2 Corinthians 5:19.
I know, you've heard it before. But have you stopped to think about what it means? When the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, took on human nature and human flesh and blood and deigned (I love that word, it means that He was quite willing to do so) to live among us in this world, He began to put right all that we had messed up by sin. When God created man, He said that the world - and everything in it, and all that He had created - was "very good". Then we sinned and stopped being good at all. Then God subjected the entire creation to corruption for our sakes. It sounded like a punishment, and it was, of a sort. It made life unpleasant in some ways. But God did the corruption-thing to the world so that we would not be forced to live, dying and decaying, in a world of perfection, in which even the plants and the insects were more permanent and glorious than us. I imagine living in such a perfect world would drive sinful people around the bend, so to speak, and make saving us far more difficult and unlikely.
Jesus came, however, and took on human flesh and blood and lived in this world, not just redeeming us by the cross (although that part is the best part and is surely wonderful beyond description!), but redeeming the created world a bit by His choosing to participate in it in the way He did. Look at what is made holy by His coming! Feed troughs! We call it a manger, but that is just the word they used in King James' time for the rack that they put hay in to feed the cattle. Not every manger is holy, but without Jesus, could you imagine people setting up hay-racks in their homes and churches?
The simple stuff of the world is all-of-a-sudden more precious because He used it. Water is blessed in Baptism. Bread and wine, the staples of the diet of the middle east in the first century, is elevated to holy use by the Lord's use of them in His Supper. Physical reality itself has been clarified as something God-pleasing, for it pleased Him to dwell in it as one of us, for a time.
That is a bigger deal than you might imagine. There have always been religions that called the stuff of this world, the physical 'stuff', evil. Today the Christian Science religion still teaches that physical reality is not real. It is a set of false beliefs into which we have been misled. Death and sickness are considered delusions and mental confusion, to be corrected by right thinking. Gnostics throughout history have tried to teach that the physical world is a bad thing, a trap into which mankind - a spiritual race without physical substance - has stumbled and is being held captive by the evil god of this world. Even the asceticism of some Christian groups teaches by implication, if not by explicit doctrine, that the material of this world and of this life are evil and bad for you.
Jesus came and set all that straight, for anyone who might be paying attention. This world is still good. And God intends for us to enjoy it as we live in it. He doesn't want us to worship it, or get too attached to it, but He intends us to use it and find the use of it, and His provision in it, a good thing, for which we also can give thanks! This life in this world is not a bad thing, but a thing filled with blessings from God, and validated by God taking a turn in it, too.
Food is not evil. It can be abused, but it is not something we should consider undesirable. Jesus fed people, and fed them until they were satisfied, and had an abundance left over as though to say, eat your fill and be content. Drink is not necessarily a bad thing. Jesus even made wine for a wedding celebration, once. By doing that, Jesus not only made it clear that the use of wine is not evil, but He also showed us that the celebration of the good gifts of God (such as marriage) is not a bad thing either. He knew where He was and what He was doing. Some people like to pretend that Jesus would never have anything to do with alcohol, but, clearly, He did. He even admitted that He drank; "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." That is from Matthew 11:19. You might note that Jesus faced the same prejudices against these things in His day, and He knew what He was doing. And He was without sin. His sharing in these things sanctified them. True, there are those who reject this witness of Jesus, but then, unbelief tends to work that way, even among those who pretend to be Christians.
Those who oppose the Christian faith in our culture are not really troubled by the law. They like to accuse Christians of taking their fun away from them, and making them toe the mark of righteousness. The truth is, however, that they know what evil is, and when the law is proclaimed to them, they understand it and can sense the very rightness of it. They don't like the way that it sometimes makes them feel guilty. They really dislike the idea that there is a God who will hold them to account on the last day. But the world around us likes law. When they discard the Law that God gave, they always substitute some of their own in its place. So they don't want to hear about chastity, but they forbid you to enjoy alcohol, and they make smoking a great evil, and they become enraged by the ability to distinguish between right and wrong (in a moral sense) and make a great sin out of discrimination - which actually means being able to tell the difference. When the danger comes in one package - say, middle eastern (Arab) Muslim terrorist males between the ages of twenty and forty - then it is the evil of "profiling" to pay too much attention to such people, in spite of the danger they may pose.
No, it isn't the law that they hate about Christianity. It is the Gospel. We have to shut down Santa Claus for fear that people will discover that Jesus Christ is true God, and that God loved them so very much that He humbled Himself to be born a human being in order to save all mankind.
Now at this point I should make it clear that it is actually the devil who hates this and finds Jesus and the Incarnation and the Atonement so dangerous. Those who work for Him - slaves of sin and death - are merely his helpless pawns. Their hatred of God and salvation is the product of their bondage to the old evil foe, the great serpent of the Garden of Eden. But, while they work for him they find the Gospel intolerable.
What a horrible thing! God understood that we could not save ourselves, or straighten up by our own effort or devotion, so He set out to rescue us. He began to repair the damage that the devil had managed to inflict by becoming a man in Jesus Christ. He sanctified life, food, celebration, and the physical stuff of this world by participating in it, and refusing to condemn it outright. He had friends. He cried when someone died, even when He knew He was going to raise that person from the grave right then. He had favorites. He ate, and enjoyed it. He drank with His buddies - okay, they were disciples, but they were still friends. Jesus said so. He gave us prayer, and He made short prayers okay. You don't need the skill of praying long churchy-sounding prayers to be heard. He told us about God's love for us and focused upon us, and taught us how precious we are to Him. He made each individual significant, not just classes of people. He made what you do important, and invited you to do it as though you were doing it for Him.
Then He died the death that you have earned by your own sins, and rose from the grave to make sure we understood that sin was taken care of, paid for, and forgiven. He promised to give us His own righteousness in exchange for our sins, and give us eternal life - and raise each of us from our graves just as He rose out of His. And it is all a gift!
What they don't want you to know is that everyone qualifies. You don't need to pass a test. There is no board of admissions rating your application. You cannot be so messed up that Jesus won't deal with you. He pleaded for the forgiveness of those who pounded the nails through His hands and feet. He promised the thief who hung next to Him that he would be in heaven with Jesus that very day, even though the thief had been mocking Him and adding to the misery of the day of crucifixion at the start of the day.
The physical world is not a bad thing, but a blessing from God, even if distorted by our sins. The pleasures of life are not evils to be scorned, but good things to be used appropriately. The fact that they can be abused and used for evil is a reflection on us, not the things God gives us. All of the deceits of the devil taught by the world to rob us of life and of joy and of pleasure are just that, deceits. Jesus proved that by living an extraordinary ordinary life. Then He redeemed us, and proclaims the free gift of everlasting life, a gift which is received by simply taking God at His Word and trusting Him to do what He has promised to do for us and with us. It is so free and easy that those who serve the old evil foe cannot tolerate it.
So, they try to shut down Christmas. Thanksgiving becomes a turkey and football day. Easter is about bunnies and candy. And everything that might remind somebody about Jesus and the gift of salvation is marginalized. They freely make crude jokes about us and our faith, but we cannot speak or act with sincere piety - ooh no, that is prejudicial. That is discrimination. That is lack of sensitivity.
I simply no longer accept the premise that their unbelief is worthy of greater respect than my faith, especially by me! I freely grant them all the right to believe whatever nonsense they want, and I will cling to Christ and forgiveness and life eternal - and I will talk about it, and display it and celebrate it all I can. If they don't like it they lump it! The spooky part is that one day, they probably will!
What they don't want you to know is what we want everyone to know. Jesus Christ is true God, and His coming into our world has changed everything! And we don't want any of it to change back. Merry Christmas!
Yours in the Lord,
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