I remember when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired in 1965. It was extremely primitive by today’s media standards, but it captured 50 percent of American viewers on its first broadcast and has since become a timeless Christmas classic.
I love where Linus recites Luke 2:8-14, ending with, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” But according to Wikipedia, network executives at that time felt an audience wouldn’t want to sit through passages of the Bible. God bless Peanuts creator Charles Shultz, who insisted on keeping the scene and said, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?”
The true meaning of Christmas is hard to see in today’s overabundance of politically correct observances for happy holidays, season’s greetings and winter festivals. Christmas carols are too preachy; let’s push the fun stuff such as “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Nativity displays are offensive; the world needs more blow-up elves, Santas and snowmen. The Salvation Army bell ringing causes headaches and makes people feel intimidated to give — they should be banned. It’s enough to make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Pollyanna.
Paul summed up the true meaning of Christmas in 1st Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” He has a lot of company, because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). ALL.
We all like to think, “I’m a respectable person. I do lots of good things and I don’t sin.” Have you ever sworn at the person who cut you off in traffic? Intimidated someone into doing something? Lost your temper with your kids? These sound bad, but if the driver couldn’t hear you, you were just helping someone step up to the plate and do what they should be doing anyway, and you don’t beat your kids, then everything evens out, right?
Who decides what’s good or bad? What criterion is used? What gives anyone the right to criticize anyone else, whether it’s the co-worker not working up to your standards or the parent you feel drove their kid to do drugs? ALL have sinned. 1st John 1:8 warns, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Sin is the great equalizer — we’re all in the sin pit together. It’s what separates us from God. Because he’s perfect, God can have nothing to do with sin. Sin and corrupt human beings can’t live with God, and can’t live forever. There’s nothing we can do in our own power to connect with him, either. Salvation is a grace gift through faith. We can’t earn it or work for it, lest we brag about it (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So between us and God is this huge sin chasm. The only one qualified and able to bridge this gap is the man Christ Jesus, the one mediator between God and men (1st Timothy 2:5).
I love the Greek description of Jesus — poci non pacari; non poci pacari — able not to sin (in his humanity); not able to sin (in his deity). In his sermons, my father described this hypostatic union of God-man: “In the incarnate person of Christ are two natures, inseparably united, without loss or mixture of identity, without loss or transfer of properties or attributes, the union being personal and eternal.” In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ isn’t one without the other — true humanity and absolute deity in one person forever.
Some years ago I read a few pages of a fictional account of Jesus as a child, written from his perspective. When pushed by a bully, he felt power go out of him and the other child instantly died. Later, feeling sorry for the boy’s family, he raised him from the dead. Granted, this is fiction, but what’s wrong with this picture? It implies Jesus didn’t know who he was and that he had no control over his powers.
There’s a growing trend to focus on the human Jesus, portraying him as weak, fickle, egotistical and selfish, but it’s dangerous to remake him into what we think he is or ought to be. We’re made in his image, not the other way around. He is Emmanuel — God with us. And we have the mind of Christ — the word of God in writing — so there’s no need for speculation about what he’s thinking.
Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (John 14:6). No one else has ever made this claim. Did he say this because he has delusions of grandeur? Not at all. Jesus is clear about who he is and what his mission is — to save the human race, because he’s “not willing that any should perish …” (2nd Peter 3:9).
In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis says, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
What’s your take on Jesus Christ? If you see him as just a baby in a manger, or just another kid on the block or just a decent, kind man to be emulated, it’s time to take another look. In John 8 he said, “The truth shall set you free … If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
“Thank God for His Son — His Gift too wonderful for words” (2nd Corinthians 9:15 Living Bible) That’s what Christmas is all about.