12/22/10

Confused about Christmas

Last Christmas, Kerby Anderson wrote a post for Worldview Times about the confusion surrounding Christmas.

Anderson wrote, "How many people really understand the meaning of Christmas? School administrators do not when they prohibit teachers from using red and green napkins at the school party in December because of the so-called 'separation of church and state.' Well-meaning Christians do not when they mistakenly believe that the Bible teaches that Christ was born on December 25th."

Anderson got it right. It's not just secularists who misunderstand the origins and implications of this holiday. "Critics of Christmas rightly point out that much of what we associate with Christmas is not even tied to the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ," he said. "Unlike many other festivals or celebrations in Christianity, there is no corresponding festival in the Old Testament (such as Easter and Passover)."

He went on to describe the pagan festivals that were eventually transformed into celebrations by the church.

Though I am concerned that we don't elevate pagan celebrations to the level of the truth surrounding the birth of the Savior, I am even more concerned about the confusion surrounding who Jesus is. In the past few weeks, I have talked to or read about people who call themselves Christians who have some cockeyed ideas about Jesus Christ.

One said, "Jesus became God on the cross so he could die for our sins. Before that, he was just a human." Another said, "Jesus was really God before he became a man, but then he had to give up his God-ness, and God gave it back to him after he rose from the dead."

How did we get so confused? Doesn't anyone teach Christology in churches anymore?

My friend, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, has been studying The Incomparable Christ by missionary statesman J. Oswald Sanders in preparation for a radio series in 2011 about Jesus. I've been studying along with her, and want to quote just a few statements about this One who came to Bethlehem so long ago.

"It is just as heretical to affirm the deity of our Lord while omitting the reality of His humanity, as it is to affirm the humanity while omitting the deity," Oswald wrote. The scriptures speak of this great mystery, that God was "manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16).

The scriptures testify to the attributes of Jesus' deity (Matthew 28:18; 8:27; Luke 4:36; Matthew 26:53; Luke 4:40; Mark 5:41-42). His omnipresence (Matthew 28:20), self-existence (John 5:26), and work in creation (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10) and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-8) also point to His deity.

Yet the details of His humanity are also clear ~ His human appearance and heritage are obvious. But He also hungered (Mark 11:12) , grieved and wept (John 11:35), and was weary (John 4:6). And can we doubt the pain and physical distress he bore in the whippings, or on the cross? The nails of Calvary tore real flesh, and real blood streamed down his forehead from the crown of thorns.

Whatever we believe about Christmas, we have to be careful to understand the dual nature of Jesus, this One who was born to die for the sins of man.

The British pastor and author W. Graham Scroggie wrote, "Had He (Jesus) not been man, He could not have sympathized with us; and had He not been God, He could not have saved us." I am thankful that the Jesus of Bethlehem is the God-man ~ God in the Manger, as John MacArthur described Him ~ and this same Jesus is my Savior.

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