CHRISTMAS, AS A SHOCKING REMINDER…

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I were at the Warrenville Public Library.  She was doing some research for a paper she was writing for her English class at NIU, and I was preparing a sermon to be preached that weekend.  As we were on our way out of the library I had noticed some featured books placed on top of the shelving within the “Children’s Books” section.  One section featured books under the title “Happy Hanukkah!” and the other “Happy Kwanzaa!”  Figuring I had overlooked the “Happy Christmas!” section, I set out to see where those books had been displayed, interested to see what kind of Christmas literature the public library had set aside for the kids.  After about 5 minutes of checking almost every aisle…my growing suspicions were verified…  There wasn’t a “Happy Christmas!” section after all.  Honestly, I wasn’t all too surprised.  Mostly saddened.  Because the good news of Christmas is truly the happiest of all.  But happy only after one has come to grips with how shocking it truly is…

N.T. Wright, in his book, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church, writes:

“For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream.  It’s a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred.  It’s nostalgic, cosy, and comforting.  But real Christianity isn’t like that at all.  Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children.  But that misses the point completely.  Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place.  It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart.  Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight.  You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are.  The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Christmas, then, is not a dream, a moment of escapism.  Christmas is the reality, which shows up the rest of ‘reality’.  And for Christmas, here, read Christianity.  Either Jesus is the Lord of the world, and all reality makes sense in his light, or he is dangerously irrelevant to the problems and possibilities of today’s world.  There is no middle ground.  Either Jesus was, and is, the Word of God, or he, and the stories Christians tell about him, are lies.”

For similar thoughts, see C.J. Mahaney’s post on William H. Smith’s article in WORLD Magazine.

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