Away with the Manger
As we approach Christmas, liberal attorneys (such as in the ACLU) will be on the alert in public schools and buildings to make sure that there is no sign of Jesus to be found. Although the word Christmas might still be used, its meaning cannot be explained, nor can its events be recounted. Imagine students in school being told that they can celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday, but must do so without mentioning his name, talking about his achievements or displaying a picture of him!
Even worse, liberal churchmen have been teaching for decades that it is not necessary to believe the Christmas story in order to be a Christian. “What do we make of the story of the stars, wise men and angels?” a liberal minister here in Chicago asked his congregation last year. “It is not necessary to believe that these events happened” he went on to say, “we must simply believe in the spirit of Christmas!” Thus, whether Jesus was born of a virgin and laid in a manger; whether He actually encountered Satan and later died for sinners—all of that is negotiable. What you have left is the shell without a kernel, a cup without the water.
The Christmas story, like all of the New Testament, is a whole piece of cloth. We cannot believe that Jesus was the Son of God and then dispute whether He was born of a virgin, for a supernatural Savior necessitates a supernatural birth. If Luke was wrong about the star, then we cannot believe the story of the wise men; if he was wrong about the detail of the manger, then he might well have been wrong about everything else.
About sixty years ago, H. Richard Niebuhr gave a description of American liberalism that is even more true today. “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
But lest we be critical of others and not ourselves, keep in mind that there are many true believers who have long since buried the Christmas story amid the pressures of life and the lure of secularism. Admittedly, they celebrate Christmas, pay lip service to the story of Bethlehem, but live as if these events do not really matter very much.
It is my firm conviction that Christmas is our best and easiest opportunity to share the Gospel with friends and neighbors. We must tell the story as it is in the New Testament, with the Magi, the star, angels, shepherds and all. Such details remind us of the humiliation of Jesus when coming to rescue us from our sins. Let the joy of the baby in the manger never leave our hearts.
Don’t Let Them Take Christ Out of Christmas!
We asked Pastor Lutzer to comment further on the way our society, and even those who claim to belong to Christ, want to remove Christ from Christmas. We hope that his answers will inspire you to resist even more strongly the world’s efforts to rob Christmas of its meaning this year!
Q: In your article you mention two different groups that want to take Christ out of Christmas: the ACLU attorneys and liberal churchmen. Which, in your opinion, has had the greatest negative impact on Christianity?
A: I’d say the theological liberals who have failed to preach the Gospel to their parishioners; these unbelievers undercut the essence of the Christian faith. Liberalism contributes to a weak form of Christianity that accounts for the tepid impact of the church in the world. Interestingly, these churchmen have a great influence, but their churches are declining in attendance.
Q: We’ve heard a lot recently about The Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who debunk the New Testament. What is going on?
A: Yes, these scholars vote on what passages they will accept as authentic and which are to be regarded as myth. The problem, of course, is that they make these decisions based solely on a naturalistic view of the world. In other words, since they don’t believe in miracles, they discount them. They are determined to make Jesus into a mere man, and so they subjectively emasculate the New Testament accounts to fit their agenda.
Q: Now, there are many other groups who claim to believe in Jesus, but He is a different Jesus, right?
A: Yes. Paul warned that the false teachers of his day were presenting ‘another Jesus’ and ‘another gospel.’ We are not sure exactly what these heretics taught about Jesus, but please note that this false Jesus was so much like the real one that Paul feared that the believers might not be able to tell the difference.
Today we have the Santa Claus Jesus, the All-inclusive Jesus, the non-judgmental Jesus. And all of this is passed off to us by some TV preachers as if it were evangelical theology.
Q: Given the fact that America is increasingly populated by diverse religious groups—might it be best if the church does remain separate from the state, and thus give equal rights to all citizens?
A: Yes, there is a sense in which the church should be separate from the state: no one should be coerced into believing in any specific religion, but should have freedom of conscience. However, the opposite side of the coin is that the state should not interfere with the free exercise of religion.
Groups such as the ACLU stress that Congress shall not establish a religion, and interpret that to mean that the state should be without religion. We insist that it is time to stress the other side of the statement, “nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Today we see the free exercise of religion prohibited, particularly at Christmas time.
Q: How do you and your wife celebrate Christmas with the family?
A: We like to be together with our children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve. Before we open the presents, we always read the Christmas story. There is a tradition we inherited from my parents where the youngest child always gets to read it (assuming that he or she is old enough to read). After that we pray, and then we don’t just dive into the gifts, but open them in an orderly way, one by one so everyone can see what others are receiving.
Q: Do you take advantage of the season for special witness?
A: Yes, even apart from personal opportunities, we have an evening when we invite our neighbors and friends over to our home. Then I share the Christmas story. You know, of course, that the best gift we have to give at Christmas is the news that Jesus came to die for sinners!