Blessed Xmas to everyone out there from Joel and I.
But before you open presents, go to church, and eat too much turkey and ham, please have a read of these five articles:
1. Peter Leithart on First Things on How N.T. Wright Stole Christmas.
I suggest a moratorium on new Christmas hymns, until we all learn the Magnificat and the Benedictus and the Nunc Dimittis so much by heart that they seep out our fingers at the keyboard, until we instinctively sing of Jesus’ birth like Mary, like Zecharias, like Simeon.
2. Justin Toh of CPX on Decaf Christmas.
It’s understandable why people go for a decaf Christ at Christmastime. Some people don’t believe in God, and so they emphasise Jesus’ human nature. Others are open to the idea of God, but the notion that God enters the world as a baby fails to convince. Then there are those who have been burnt so badly by the Church, or Christians acting appallingly in the name of God, that they want nothing to do with God and his people ever again. That’s understandable. But I suspect that for many it’s mostly the idea of true belief that is discomfiting—just like too much caffeine can make your insides squirm. The fear is that belief always gets taken too far and is guaranteed, like nothing else, to turn ordinary folk into fanatics.
3. Adam Ch’g at ABC Religion & Ethics on Have Yourself a Politically Correct Christmas.
So acute is society’s rejection of Jesus Christ that even mentioning his name is considered ‘insensitive’, ‘offensive’ and ‘politically incorrect’. It looks like Lord Voldemort has stiff competition – Jesus Christ is the new ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’. But what is it about the explicitly Christian Christmas card that we find so offensive? Why do we feign moral indignation at the mere mention of Jesus Christ? Indeed, there must be some plausible reason why we seem so offended by and even afraid of a Jewish baby born in a cattle trough over 2,000 years ago.
It is time for the evangelists of unbelief to give up the nonsense that the figure at the heart of Christianity may have never even lived. There are plenty of good arguments against the world’s largest religion, but claiming Jesus never walked the roads of Galilee isn’t one of them. To make such a claim is to turn what should be a world heavyweight contest into a lightweight sideshow. Let me press the boxing analogy a little further. A story is told – and I hope it is true – of three young men who hopped on a bus in Detroit in the 1930s and tried to pick a fight with a lone man sitting at the back of the vehicle. They insulted him – he didn’t respond. They turned up the heat of the insults – he said nothing. Eventually, the stranger stood up. He was bigger than they had estimated from his seated position – much bigger. He reached into his pocket, handed them his business card and walked off the bus and then on his way. As the bus drove on the young men gathered around the card to read the words: “Joe Louis. Boxer.” They had just tried to pick a fight with the man who would be Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World from 1937 to 1949. Today’s ardent Jesus-deniers remind me of a reckless gang throwing puerile insults at a gentle giant, oblivious to the fact that they are way out of their league.
5. Justin Toh (again) on Embodying Grace: Les Miserables and the Meaning of Christmas.
“It is either Valjean or Javert,” the embittered inspector soliloquises in the musical version of Hugo’s story, right after Valjean spares his life. For Javert, there can be no compromise. Either the law (which he represents) will prevail or grace (signified by Valjean) will reign. The tragedy of Javert is that he can’t see that the victory of grace is no loss for the law. Les Miserables and Christmas show, rather, that grace wins not by abandoning the law that convicts us but by fulfilling it in love.