“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
No, I'm not channeling my Grinch right after I posted about repenting from such a thing. Instead, I am recognizing that while the angels proclaimed the Christmas message is a message of "great joy" it is also a message of the sword. I don't want to give away my sermon this Sunday, you'll have to listen to that at gfol.org to get more details. That said, we ought to recognize that the baby born in the dwelling place of animals and placed in a feeding trough doesn't stay a baby. He grows up and faces significant hardship, creates division, and ultimately dies on a cross.
Christmas is a message of joy and peace with God. Nevertheless, in recent years many have complained about "the war on Christmas." It's a real thing. Don't get me wrong, most of the time it isn't a collaboration of conspirators, but the general direction of society. The message of Christmas with all its nativity scenes, religious songs, and stars of David is being pushed aside in the name of tolerance. I am not suggesting that we start picketing or any such thing. Instead, let's just recognize the division the message of Christmas brings.
Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Mt. 10:34). The message of Christmas is foolishness to many, a stumbling block to others, and offensive to still others. It requires people to come face to face with the reality of their own sinfulness and their own inability to save themselves. For many this message is anything but hopeful. This message damns them to hell because they refuse to accept the truth of their own fallenness and the grace and mercy required for salvation from sin. Yes, those are blunt words, but sometimes a little bluntness is needed.
No wonder some would rather make Christmas about a fictional, jolly, old man who likes to give gifts to all the kids than make it about sin, and redemption. There is joy in the Christmas story for those who receive the offering of peace that is found in this baby that became a man, that went to the cross, that was buried in a grave only to rise from death to life eternal. But that joy is for those who believe and is fleeting for those who do not believe.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.