No religious event in Western civilization has so affected the world as Christmas. This Christian tradition has been celebrated for about the last 1700 years or so in the Church and around the world. And while the birth of our Lord didn't start out as the tradition we call "Christmas," it did evolve over the centuries into the holiday we know on December 25. There is virtually nowhere on earth today that Christmas is not celebrated in some form or at least acknowledged as Jesus' birth. People may even be atheists, but they celebrate Christmas as a holiday to have a party, drink with friends or take a day off from work or school. So even though Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is still enjoyed by people all around the world, whatever their beliefs, as a time of winter festivity, peace on earth and good will toward all.
Did you ever wonder how Christmas became so influential, especially in the West? The answer of course is that all of this is connected to the Lord's plans for world evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. As a result, the public celebration of our Lord's birth is connected to areas that have been evangelized with the Christian Gospel. Those areas included Europe and Russia, along with the western hemisphere of North and South America. Christmas is now growing in other areas like China and Asia, along with Africa and the rest of the world. So, the spread of Christmas has directly following the Lord's plan of world evangelism.
Now the interesting thing about Christmas in America the last 25+ years is that the holiday is slowly but surely being pushed out of our society by political correctness. The rapid growth of secularism and multiculturalism has made Christmas a holiday that can't really be celebrated openly because it is about Christ. So, in a clear attempt to remove Christ from America, a movement has been underway to eliminate Christmas from our lives. This has resulted in legal battles to remove Christmas from our schools, manger scenes from the public square and even creating pressure not to say "Merry Christmas" in stores or workplaces. Sadly, what people have failed to see today is that just as the spread of Christmas was part of the Lord's plan to evangelize the world with the Gospel, so too the removal of Christmas from the public square as a religious holiday is a major sign of the Lord Jesus Christ's return and His plan to finish world evangelization.
But perhaps the greatest issue of concern surrounding Christmas today is the growing reality that many of the people in the Church world today have no idea what Christmas is even about. Forget for a moment that America and Europe are being rapidly secularized. Forget that political correctness is silencing many in the public square about the religious aspect of Christmas. Forget that such secularism is destroying the moral fabric of our nation. The really shocking thing that is happening today is that the Church is rapidly losing the real meaning of Christmas.
The Church is losing Christmas as a meaningful holiday because people really don't know who Jesus is anymore on a massive scale that should shock everyone. This massive confusion about who Jesus is, like the growing political correctness about Christmas, is a major sign of our Lord's return that is largely missed. After all, if people don't understand who was lying in the manger, the Christmas holiday is meaningless from a spiritual standpoint and the world is open to spiritual and religious deception of the highest order. And while many may sing traditional Christmas carols like "Joy to the World" that proclaim the "Lord has come," what does that mean? What does it mean to say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior? These are basic questions about which we at one time thought the Church knew. But it turns out that our assumptions are really optical illusions of what is really going on today in our rapidly changing world of Biblical illiteracy and loss of basic Christian doctrine.
All of this has been confirmed by a recent poll and study of what the evangelical Church supposedly believes about their faith entitled, "The State of Theology." This poll and study was commissioned by Ligonier Ministries in conjunction with LifeWay Research. Evangelicals were defined by LifeWay Research as people who strongly agreed with the following four statements:
• The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.• It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.• Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.• Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation.
It should be said that what is being defined as "evangelicals" in this poll represents the more serious brand of Christianity out there. The above 4 statements reflect the most committed elements of Christianity in America. And it was to this group that the poll asked people to "agree" or "disagree" with the following statement,
Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.
According the poll's findings in 2018: 78% agreed vs. 18% disagreed. This has changed from the 2016 study that found 71% agreed vs. 23% disagreed. If this study is true, then 78% of the evangelical church in America has no idea of who was lying in that manger because our Lord is not the "greatest being created by God." Our Lord is Lord of all and Creator of all. Biblical orthodoxy teaches that the Babe in the manger was God in human flesh and a vessel for the Lord to enter the world to be our Savior.
The idea that "Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God" is a belief first espoused by the ancient heretic Arius in the 4th century A.D. Arius' false belief about the Person of our Lord was not only condemned by the Church, but the Nicene Creed was written to reinforce Christian orthodoxy. That universally accepted Creed reinforces the Divinity of Christ and that our Lord was the Son of God and the 2nd Member of the Holy Trinity. That Confession of Faith has been traditional Christian orthodoxy for the last 1700 years. The only group today that openly believes that Jesus is the "greatest being created by God" is the modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses that brought back the ancient heresy of Arius from the 4th century A.D. Almost all traditional, and surely evangelical Christian groups in America, have labeled the Jehovah's Witnesses as heretical or even a cult. And yet sadly, their views are now seen as "orthodox" by a vast majority of professing Christians.
The profound meaning of this issue is that the modern evangelical church is largely confused and/or clueless about the Person of Christ and the entire Christmas Story. And yet, it was our Lord Himself who told Peter and the disciples that knowing Who He was, was the key to being a Christian and having a relationship with Him. In Matthew 16:15-18 our Lord said,
But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Once again, if we don't know who Jesus is and think He is but a created being like the Jehovah's Witnesses believe, then the Christian Faith and basic Gospel message is lost. That is true because if Jesus is not God, then He cannot pay the debt for our sin. If Jesus in not God, then there is no true union and fellowship with God; there is no Emmanuel or God with us as described in our Lord's birth narrative in Matthew 1:23. If God and Humanity are not joined and sin is not fully paid by God Himself then there is no story of redemption and hence no Good News or Gospel. Without the Gospel there is no Church and all of us are dead in our sins and trespasses and Christmas is a meaningless holiday from a spiritual standpoint.
And so, as we come to another Christmas Season we come back to the well-known Christmas Carol, "What Child is this?" The classic carol's chorus answers its own rhetorical question this way,
This, this is Christ, the King,Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:Haste, haste to bring Him laud,The Babe, the Son of Mary!
The carol answers the question by telling us that Jesus is not only THE King, but a King that receives "laud" or praise and worship that only belongs to God alone. The Babe in the manger turns out to be God, the Creator, not a "created being" as much of the evangelical Church believes today. Christmas, it turns out, is the clearest celebration of God becoming Man and the great Biblical story of redemption. Without that story line clear in the minds of the Church, the Church has lost the meaning of Christmas and its ability to share that message with others.
As Christmas approaches this year, it is an excellent time to ask ourselves if we really know who was lying in that manger. Without a crystal-clear understanding of that truth the Church has lost its way and has no Gospel to share with the world. Our Lord said in Luke 6:39 that when we are blind, it can only result in more blindness for others. You can't give someone what you don't have.
Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?
In closing, there is no holiday like Christmas. Whatever people might say about it, Christmas is a holiday that God put on the calendar to announce our Savior's birth. The great English writer and author C. S. Lewis said that the Christmas Story of God becoming Man was the greatest miracle of all. May each of us enjoy that miracle as God's clear and unmistakable sign that His love, fellowship and redemption arrived that 1st Christmas in a manger in Bethlehem. Let's spread that amazing Good News during this time with the people in our lives. May we experience the miracle of Christmas for ourselves in new and fresh ways to the glory of God.
Merry Christmas to all!!!