Summary: Why is Christmas seemingly under attack? Why would a seemingly harmless story of a baby in a manger stall elicit such anger and opposition?
OPEN: James Martin (in an article in the devotional "The Upper Room") wrote the following:
On a trip to the Holy Land, I bought a nativity set for my Sunday School. It was carved out of olive wood in Bethlehem itself, and had all the traditional figures - sheep and oxen, wise men and shepherds. Mary and Joseph and, of course, the baby Jesus.
On the return trip, security at Tel Aviv airport was very strict. I remember thinking they wouldn¡¦t trouble to examine my nativity set; it was obviously innocent. But they did. Each figure was carefully scrutinized and even taken away for x-ray examination.
The security officer apologized as he explained: "... we must make sure there is nothing explosive in them."
APPLY: On the surface - Christmas hardly seems "explosive". In fact it seems extremely innocent. How could something as gentle as a baby in a manger be threatening. I remember watching a Christmas pageant in my home church and seeing the host of angels crowd the balcony, the children dressed as sheep make their way to the front where Mary and Joseph and the baby were displayed. It was cute and gentle and touching all at the same time.
Everyone was smiling
Everyone was at peace
Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright
But nowadays, there are those - who quite literally - hate Christmas
They’ll threaten lawsuits if there’s a manger on the public square
They’ll sue school districts that dare to sing about Jesus
And this season (for a time) there were those who successfully convinced many businesses to forbid their clerks to wish anyone a "Merry Christmas."
Not everyone is smiling
Not everyone is at peace
And you get the impression that it may only be a matter of time before you won’t be hearing "Silent Night" played at places like Wal-Mart and Target
What’s happened? Why are so many people so all-fired set on getting Christ out of Christmas? After all, it’s just a non-threatening story a little baby in a manger. A story about God’s Love, and a story about the power of hope of more mankind.
So, why would anyone object?
Simeon declared the answer to that question nearly 2000 years ago: Look with me to Luke 2:34-35
"Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ’This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’"
The manger IS an explosive place.
Because of the manger - many would rise AND fall
Because of the manger - the baby child would be spoken against and the true nature of people’s hearts would be revealed.
This BABY Jesus wasn’t going to be harmless... and He wasn’t intended to be "safe."
ILLUS: In C.S. Lewis’ book "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", the Lion in the story is Aslan - the rightful King of Narnia. Aslan is the heroic figure that Lewis intended to represent Jesus in his story.
We’re first introduced to Aslan during a hushed conversation in a beaver den:
Mr. Beaver sternly says "Aslan a man... Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion--The Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan. I’d thought he was a man. Is he---quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie..." said Mrs. Beaver, "if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn’t safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "Who said anything about safe? "Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you."
When C.S. Lewis attempted to portray Christ in his book, he wanted to make it quite clear - Jesus was NOT "safe..." but He’s good. Lewis wanted us to understand that if you or I ever found ourselves in the presence of Jesus, our knees would literally knock.
That was the reaction the Apostle John had when he encountered the risen Christ:
"I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw... someone ’like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.