Dear Friends, I don’t want to burst any bubbles or shatter any Christmas ornaments, but Christmas, at least the meaning of Christmas, might not be what you think it is. At least I know this, it is not what the President of the United States’ speech at the 2013 lighting of the National Christmas Tree made it out to be.
Why do I make such a bold and controversial statement? I say it because the message of Christmas is too important to have pluralists, universalists, and atheists redefine it – even if they occupy the White House.
Below is an excerpt from President Obama’s December 6th speech at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. Please read it, then my comments.
Each Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who came into the world with only a stable’s roof to shelter Him. But through a life of humility and the ultimate sacrifice, a life guided by faith and kindness towards others, Christ assumed a mighty voice, teaching us lessons of compassion and charity that have lasted more than two millennia. He ministered to the poor. He embraced the outcast. He healed the sick. And in Him we see a living example of scripture that we ought to love others not only through our words, but also through our deeds.
It’s a message both timeless and universal — no matter what God you pray to, or if you pray to none at all — we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to make a difference that is real and lasting. We are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s keeper.
When I recently shared my thoughts about this on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with the following words: “[The] president is simply making an appeal to shared values– that even if you don’t believe in God, that you still have the responsibility to make a positive influence in the lives of others– which is exactly what Jesus did.” Oh, I completely understand the reason why a national leader would want to make a universal appeal to “shared values” and the “responsibility to make a positive influence.” However, just for comparison’s sake, listen to what former President Ronald Reagan had to say.
Why don’t we look at the things Obama said about Christmas? Let’s see if we can square what he said with Scripture and try to determine if the President clearly defined the TRUE meaning of Christ’s birth – the “message” of Christmas.
“Each Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child…” I know this may sound like grasping at straws, but Christmas is not about celebrating “a” child’s birth; it is about celebrating the birth of THE child of whom the prophets foretold…God in flesh, Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23).
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6 KJV
“Christ assumed a mighty voice…” Christ did more than “assume a mighty voice” as a result of his life of humility, sacrifice, and kindness; Jesus did what he did to prove he was not only the Voice, but the literal Word of God made flesh.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
“He ministered to the poor. He embraced the outcast. He healed the sick. And in Him we see a living example of scripture that we ought to love others not only through our words, but also through our deeds.” Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus, and He did do all of these things. But why? A social gospel is wonderful, except when it leaves out the fact that Jesus did good works to fulfill Scripture (see Isaiah 61:1-2).
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” – Luke 4:18-19
“It’s a message both timeless and universal…” This is where we get into some serious, pluralistic territory. What, exactly, is the “message” that is “timeless and universal”? Obama said “It’s” a message. What’s a message? The birth and life of Christ? Christmas?
I will agree with Mr. Obama on this one thing, that is certainly our responsibility “to ourselves and to each other to make a difference that is real and lasting.” The fact that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers is most certainly a “timeless and universal” message, regardless whether or not we are pagans or atheists. But is this the message of Christmas? Is caring for others the message of Christmas? Simply put, no. It’s so much more than that.
The reason we celebrate Christmas with generosity, usually expressed with the giving of gifts, is because on that morning of which the angels sang (Luke 2) the most extravagant gift ever bestowed upon mankind was delivered, wrapped in the same cloth used to coddle newly-born sacrificial lambs, and laid in a manger. It was the Gift of God to desperate souls. THIS is the reason why we should “love one another.”
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” – 1 John 4:9-11
In Luke 19:10 Jesus stated that the whole reason he came was not to set an example, be a good role model, or even start a religion…he came to save sinful men and women, boys and girls.
“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:9-10
Truly, the real message is meant for all, for God so loved the world (John 3:16). So, if President Obama wants to call that “universal,” then so be it. But the message of Christ coming to save the lost is NOT “one of many ways to God,” or one of many ways to unite the brotherhood of man. No, the message of Christmas is that Jesus came because there was no other way. The message of Christmas is exclusive to the core (which is the real reason why so many want all vestiges of it removed from public life).
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” – John 14:6
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
America is a nation that accepts people from all walks of life and from every religious background. With rare exception, Lady Liberty will turn no one away (the Department of Immigration is another story). So, the “spirit of Christmas,” that common feeling of generosity and good will we all enjoy this time of year, should be a blessing enjoyed by all. But let us be careful, Mr. President, when we define the Reason for the season as anything other than what the Scripture says.