Apologetics and Christmas. Not the most common pair, is it? In fact, for most, you’d be pretty crass to be practicing apologetics on Christmas. But is it really that odd a combination? A few thoughts.
We all know there is an all-out assault on the Christian faith that is manifesting itself in the demand to stop saying “Merry Christmas” (lest you “offend” someone–evidently, the only folks who are insensitive to offense are Christians). The major news media have been rolling out their tired, but seemingly obligatory, attacks upon Christ and the Bible, assuring us that we celebrate nothing but a myth at this time of year. Indeed, one is more likely to see Barry Lynn or John Shelby Spong at this time of year than a picture of the manger. But these attacks upon the historicity of the Christ event and the Bible require apologetic responses. How many believers will be prepared to give a cogent, clear defense of their faith in the historicity of Jesus over Christmas dinner when unbelieving family members raise the issue? And can that response be offered without the all-too-often accompanying hyper-ventilation?
Many today will gather with a religiously “mixed” family. Many of you are former Roman Catholics who have come to know the freedom of the gospel of grace, the power of the finished work of Christ. You do not bow this day to statues or seek the intercession of saints. You do not pray to Mary, but recognize her as a fellow redeemed sinner. You instead this day remember the incarnation of the Son of God, whose sacrifice on the cross of Calvary is perfect in and of itself, and does not need daily re-presentation to bring about salvation. You have been freed from the endless treadmill of works and merit, the fear of purgatory, the oppression of indulgences. Such things cannot help but change you, and place you at odds with those would be constantly calling you back to Rome’s servitude. They may not understand your unwillingness to attend midnight Mass because you cannot submit to the imperfect sacrifice it presents. Christmas brings apologetic dialogue to the dinner table, and once again, can we present the foundations of our faith with gentleness and reverence?
Think of the millions of Latter-day Saints today who celebrate Christmas, even though (if they know their faith), they think the “real” Christmas is April 6th (that’s when Jesus was born according to LDS teachings). And yet what Jesus is this? He has not eternally been God, is the firstborn spirit child of Elohim (an exalted man from another planet) and one of his spirit-wives. And even then, the incarnation is a completely different concept in historic Mormon theology. As Brigham Young said,
When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it. The Saviour was begotten by the Father of His spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits, and that is all the organic difference between Jesus Christ and you and me. (Journal of Discourses 4:218).
Or, to use a more recent citation from James Talmage,
That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law, but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and, the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the “Son of the Highest.” In His nature would be combined the powers of Godhood with the capacity and possibilities of mortality; and this through the ordinary operation of the fundamental law of heredity, declared of God, demonstrated by science, and admitted by philosophy, that living beings shall propagate-after their kind. The Child Jesus was to inherit the physical, mental, and Spiritual traits, tendencies, and powers that characterized His parents – one immortal and glorified – God, the other human – woman. (Jesus the Christ, p. 81).
The Mormon Jesus is not the Creator of all things, was not truly Virgin Born (as Christians have believed from the beginning), and is incapable of saving with perfection the way the true Christ can. Celebrating that Jesus’ birth cannot be a fulfilling experience. So…if you have been blessed to know the truth about Christ, are you prepared, and willing, to share the truth with LDS? It’s a great time of year to do it.
Your Jehovah’s Witness neighbor has it a lot worse. Not only are they deprived of the joy of the season, but why would anyone wish to celebrate the birth of the Jesus of the Watchtower in the first place? You cannot even trace a firm connection between Michael the Archangel, a spirit creature, and the babe in Bethlehem anyway, so the very term “incarnation” makes no real sense. And after the death of Jesus, he is “recreated” as Michael the Archangel anyway. His death gives only what Adam’s transgression lost, nothing more, and you have to look to the Anointed Class to have the benefits of his death anyway. Truly, if you know one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are enslaved to a system that offers no true salvation and no true joy. Pray for them, and then put actions to your prayers by doing the very hard work of preparing to witness the truth to them.
Most of my readers do not have mixed families involving Islam, but with the influx of Muslims into western societies, you may now work with many a Muslim who, at this time of year, is quiet and probably even respectful. Yet, with all the nonsense that goes on in the name of Christmas, they may well need a clear and compelling testimony concerning the real meaning of the Incarnation. Keep in mind what they have been told in the Qur’an:
O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Apostle of Allah and His Word which He bestowed on Mary and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah nor do the angels those nearest (to Allah): those who disdain His worship and are arrogant He will gather them all together unto himself to (answer) (Surah 4:171-172).
And don’t think I have forgotten the majority of folks in Western society: plain old “I believe there’s a god, sorta, but don’t give it much thought, I’m too busy collecting material wealth and ignoring the fact that I’m getting older every day and will someday die” Americans, Brits, and Aussies. These are the folks who do not mind Jesus in a manger at all: but they really don’t like the grown-up Jesus, the Jesus of John 10, the Jesus of the cross, the Jesus of the resurrection, let alone the Jesus of Revelation, the coming (and conquering) King. Jesus is “OK with them” a couple of times a year, as long as he doesn’t “get in the way” of their lives. They might even ask you to pray over dinner (just keep it brief, please, the food is getting cold). But they will also buy and read The Da Vinci Code and eat up its battery acid breath of unbelief, too. And if you speak of the historicity of the Christ, or His lordship over all flesh, you will be experiencing an apologetic Christmas indeed.
So, you see, apologetics and Christmas go hand in hand, in reality, for we have, at this time of year, the opportunity to speak of our faith in a Christ who truly became flesh, and whose Word we have to this day. And what greater gift could you give, in truth, than a clear witness to the gospel, and so be used by the Father to draw His people unto the Son (John 6:44-45)?