“…and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” Revelation 1:13-16
I love the Christmas season. Like you, I relish the extra time with family, cherish all that the holiday means, and praise the Lord for sending his son to this earth. It is an event unique to history, unique from all other religions, and one — God becoming man — that made possible the sacrifice that saved wretched sinners like me.
But, for the Church, this can be a dangerous time of year. Though the holiday helps fill our sanctuaries and affords great opportunity for advancing the Gospel, there is a great risk when we emphasize the babe in the manger at the expense of Christ the King.
You see, the babe in the manger makes for a nice cartoon, a heartwarming nativity scene, or cute children’s Christmas play, however He is essential for the rest of the Gospel to unfold. But, alone, the babe in the manger does not save sinners. And, that is where our churches are at great risk this season.
It is easy for pastors to talk about the precious babe, to tell the story of the poor young couple thrust into this grand picture, how they couldn’t find a place to lay their head, and how even wise men came from far away to kneel before a cute little baby. It’s a lot more palatable for those depictions of Jesus to be taught than the man who called the hypocritical Pharisees a “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs.” The babe is not as controversial as the Christ who violently overturned the tables in the temple.
Kneeling before a precious baby is a lot easier than kneeling before the Christ that calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.
So, this Christmas, YES, celebrate that Christ came to earth. But, pray for the Church!
Those of us, like you and me, who see our culture in a rapid downward spiral, understand that THE solution to those woes is the Church taking its role as salt and light. I would further put forward the idea that the revival needed in the Church is not more people in the pews (though that is always welcome) but more Christ in the Christian! We are not called to be palatable, uncontroversial, or easy. We are called to be starkly different than the rest of the world!
Cultural or nominal Christianity is far more dangerous to the Church than religious persecution. You see, while anyone can say “Amen!” to the children’s play at the church; many will rise and exit the doors at not only the passionate sermon on repentance but also the life Christ calls us to lead, and the level of counter-cultural engagement we are required to wage against the world.
Does your church place too much emphasis on the babe in the manger? Are the “uncomfortable” portions of Christ’s life eschewed in favor of the easy ones? Does your pastor devote far more time to the preciousness of the baby than to what He came on the earth to conquer? Does he spend any time at all discussing the more “controversial” cultural issues that are UNAVOIDABLE in a full reading of Scripture such as of God’s valuing of the pre-born baby, His design in gender assignment, His perfect creation of the world, His institution of marriage, and the roles and responsibilities He has ordained for parents?
As we enter the Christmas season, I hope our churches offer the full Gospel, not simply the easy one.
What to pray for— Please pray for our churches and for the Body of Christ here in Georgia to be the Lord’s instruments in changing the culture of our state.
In His Service,
President and Executive Director