CultureWatch

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Christmas: When God Visited This Planet

Dec 22, 2009

When noted philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell was asked how he would respond if he found himself standing before God asking him, ‘Why didn’t you believe in me?’, Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God!’”

In 1927 he delivered a speech entitled “Why I am Not a Christian”. There he also sought to show that the evidence was lacking, and that Christianity is to be rejected. While Russell was a brilliant mathematician and philosopher, his understanding of Christianity was very poor indeed.

Atheist Richard Dawkins’ understanding of religion in general and Christianity in particular is equally shallow and misinformed. He too argues that the evidence is just not in for faith in God. The Christian of course will argue that there is plenty of evidence for those who are seriously seeking.

Indeed, the bible itself makes such claims, and dismisses atheists as fools. Twice this line is found in the Old Testament: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The biblical writers assume that the evidence is there for those who have not already closed their minds to it.

Paul in Romans 1 and 2 argues that we are all without excuse as to God’s existence. The created universe without and the moral universe within are both clear indicators of the God who is. This general knowledge about God is enough to condemn us, but not enough to save us.

That is why the Bible was given to us and Jesus lived among us, to provide that special knowledge of who God is and what he expects of us. Between the general revelation of God and this special revelation of God, we have all we need to know about God.

Indeed, that is the unique message of Christianity. God has come among us, living a human life, showing us what God is all about. We are living on a visited planet. God has visited us, and so we are now without excuse. That is why Jesus could make such grandiose claims about himself.

Consider just a few passages from the Gospel of John. They make it clear that Jesus regarded himself as the supreme revelation of the Father, and to know Jesus is to know God:

John 5:22-24 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

John 6:29 – Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

John 8:19 – Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

John 12:26 – Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

John 12:44-45 – Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.

John 12:49-50 – For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

John 14:1 – Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

John 14:9 – Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

John 15:23 – He who hates me hates my Father as well.

Christmas is the story of God visiting this planet, revealing himself, and providing us with all we need to know him, follow him, and have relationship with him. Thus while many people anxiously await a clue or sign of life from another planet, they can stop their search.

Life from outside this earth does exist, and it has already arrived and communicated to us. Those searching for alien life forms from elsewhere need look no longer. Our visited planet has forever changed as a result of this heavenly visitor.

The God of the entire universe has manifested himself in human form, showing us what his character and attributes are like. We have not been left in the dark, but now have all the evidence we need. Thus we are without excuse when we claim there is no evidence. The evidence is there, but we have simply rejected it.

And people were no more gullible or superstitious back then as they are today. Many doubted that Jesus was God incarnate, despite his many miracles and supernatural acts. Even his own disciples were often sceptical, although they had been with him for three years and seen all his signs and wonders.

Thomas was the classic agnostic, who still would not believe Jesus, even during his resurrection appearances. He had to demand physical proof. And that he got, when Jesus offered him his nail-pierced hands and wounded side. Doubting Thomas could then only respond, “My Lord and my God”.

Jesus extends the same nail-scarred hands to us today. We have the same evidence that those in first-century Palestine had. Some of them back then believed, and some did not. It is the same today. Some will follow the evidence where it leads, while others will close their minds to even the possibility of God’s existence.

God of course is a gentleman who will never impose himself upon us. He has given us all free will to either believe in him or reject him. That decision is entirely of our own making. No one else can make it for us, and no one can be coerced into believing.

Contrary to the claims of Russell, there is evidence aplenty. The question is, are we diligent seekers or casual inquirers? God always promises to reward the former, while he ignores the latter. As Yahweh said through Moses, “If you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

Or as Jesus promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8).

Merry Christmas.

[1116 words]

24 Responses to Christmas: When God Visited This Planet

  • Lovely, thank you Bill.
    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • I guess I’m currently ‘between churches’ at the moment, so I went to see what a few different churches were doing for Christmas, since carols and productions and the like are always on this time of year. The three I went to were all quite different:

    1. Carols by Candlelight organized by a handful of local churches in conjunction with the local council at their outdoor venue.
    2. A small to medium sized church doing a very simple production explaining what the story was by a drama punctuated by a variety of songs (mostly carols) and couple of basic videos starring parishioners from the church in Christmas ‘mode.’
    3. A larger church production with an original script, and whizzbang lights and technology.

    I enjoyed the first two immensely because both of them put the story of Jesus’ birth front and centre, but the third left me somewhat underwhelmed. It didn’t tell much of the Christmas story, which I felt was a missed opportunity. Perhaps that particular church had made the mistake of assuming that everybody already knew the story? Perhaps they got too wrapped up in what they could do technically rather than ensure they cover the reason they are even doing it? I’m only speculating, bit it just seemed to be lots of cleverness of production, but way too little of the message. I was just a bit sad at that – the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Years ago I was involved with a church that excelled at doing both and it was a joy and a privilege to be involved in.

    I wish we shouldn’t think we can improve on the fundamental thing that God wants us all to know! It really is quite simple. He sent His Son to come to Earth for us as a gift! That original story is still the best story. Whatever we do, people should be told it every year at least!

    Thank you, Bill, for your incredible work this year, and especially this reminder of the veracity of this great act of mercy of God to send his Son to save us from our sins. He absolutely did not have to do that. As the lunacy of this anti-God world continues to become even more deranged, it is wonderful to remember solemnly the way God stepped into history and brought us great hope.

    May the blessing of a merry Christmas be yours and your family’s.
    (And the same to everyone who reads this blog.)

    Mark Rabich

  • Blessings, Mr. Muehlenberg!
    Thank you for your website, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I have read so far. I looked up Nonie Darwish’s book-“Cruel and Usual Punishment” and your review was listed. After reading it, I continued reading comments by, mostly, others, and was really impressed with the knowledge I was able to glean from them as well. What a well read and educated group you have sharing their input with your blog! Well done! I pray you stay the course and hope others from my country, USA, will learn from history before it’s too late. Vaya con Dios!
    Vicki Bowman, USA

  • Many thanks indeed Vicki

    It is always encouraging to get a bit of positive feedback – especially as one gets a fair amount of criticism along the way! Blessings to you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes, thank you Bill for your incredible work this year. Your work is so faithful to the Word and to the Lord and spot on.
    Tasman Walker

  • Right back in the early days of the Christian Church, Melito, Bishop of Sardis, gave an amazing Passover sermon in AD ~170 that expresses the astounding event of the Creator becoming flesh:

    And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!
    He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
    He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
    He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.
    The Sovereign is insulted.
    God is murdered.
    The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.
    This is the One who made the heavens and the earth,
    and formed mankind in the beginning,
    The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
    The One enfleshed in a virgin,
    The One hanged on a tree,
    The One buried in the earth,
    The One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven,
    The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
    The One having all authority to judge and save,
    Through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time.
    This One is ‘the Alpha and the Omega’,
    This One is ‘the beginning and the end’
    The beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible.
    This One is the Christ.
    This One is the King.
    This One is Jesus.
    This One is the Leader.
    This One is the Lord.
    This One is the One who rose from the dead.
    This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
    He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.
    ‘To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.’

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • – I would wish to echo Tasman’s words, and add my own thanks. To me, above all you have the ministry of encouragement – so necessary and valuable.
    John Thomas, UK

  • Talk to Muslims and they’re like: Jesus never said He’s God.

    Sigh. They can’t see!

    Much like atheists I guess.. willfully ignorant fools.

    Nathan Keen

  • Thanks, Bill. What an appropriate & timely message for sharing with all my friends during this Christmas season! I shall forward/email the article to all my friends, and hope this message will reach many hearts!

    Thanks also for your challenging & heartfelt message at Perth CLC a couple of Sundays back. We needed it!

    God bless you and wish you a joyous and restful Christmas!

    Richard Chieng

  • Indeed, the Muslims have to ignore “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), since the Greek ??? ???? (eg? eimi I am) parallels God’s revelation of his name to Moses (Ex. 3:14, LXX, translated c. 250 BC, has ??? ???? ? ?? (eg? eimi ho ?n I am the being). Furthermore, Jesus contrasted Abraham’s ???????? (genesthai) denoting that he came into existence, with His own “am” which avoids the past tense because He just exists. It is very clear that He is claiming to have pre-existed Abraham, who died long before He was born, but even more: that he didn’t even come into existence. That’s why Jesus’ enemies planned to stone him—they understood exactly what He was claiming!
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thank you Bill for your wonderful work. I am a regular reader. Your blog keeps me up to date on what is hapening in the world; all from a Christian perspective. I often send links to your site to family and friends and many comment they have never heard about some of the issues you cover from the MSM.
    Keep up the good work.
    Have a richly blessed Christmas.
    Des Morris

  • With consumerism seeming to take over the celebration of the Birth of the Christ Child these days, once again Bill has ‘hit the nail on the head’ when he asks the question : “are we diligent seekers or casual inquirers?”

    Out of the mouths of babes, a 4yr.old while at the Drs to get an injection was asked by the Dr.- who is coming to your house at Christmas – Rosie’s answer was…”Baby Jesus”. The Dr. admitted that that was the first time she had ever received such an answer. As people of Hope
    sometimes it only needs a little child to remind us of this.
    God Bless you Bill.

    Madge Fahy

  • I would like to ask all of you a question regarding Christmas and the accompanying celebrations. It is something I battled through the past few years and which still disturbs me in the church a bit. I take it most of would also have investigated the matter in the past.
    I became a Christian in early 2005 and ever since then I was deeply irritated by Christmas each year-just the absense of Jesus in it all and so on. Later on I picked up literature at our church’s office on the origins of Christmas and investigated the matter further and even saw secular documentaries on it. I now understood why I was so irritated by it: Jesus aren’t in it and He’s not even supposed to be in it, it’s all pagan celebrations. The next challenge came in telling my parents I’m not taking part in the symbolic celebrations anymore because I find it God-mocking and unnecessary. They thought I was being silly but was totally cool with me not joining in to that extent in the day’s get together. Thankfully, as time went on, the minister in the church they attend also pointed out the origins of Christmas and rather preached the gospel message during the “Christmas service” which lead to them now also deciding we should rather not do the whole Christmas thing anymore.
    I am just generally concerned about the way in which many churches (scriptually sound ones even) embrace Christmas Day celebrations and symbolism. Yes, preach the gospel and use the 25th to do so but is it not better to acknowledge the pagan aspects and let go of it? God does not ask of us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let alone through pagan customs, why do many Christians then insist on doing so? There are even churches erecting Christmas trees in the building while having their anual Christmas service-it is almost like putting up a large statue of Buddha on the 25th and then continuing with the Christmas story. Would like to here your opinions on the matter? See material on the “Origin of Christmas” for the history of Christmas.
    Servaas Hofmeyr

  • Thanks Servaas

    No, Christians simply countered the pagan events of the time. As Hank Hanegraaff has noted, “The real question that must be addressed is, ‘What was the church’s intent in choosing December 25 for the celebration of Christmas in the first place?’ The answer may surprise you! The early church chose this date to point to the triumph that Christ’s birth represented over the pagan traditions of the Roman Empire. In other words, the church was not endorsing a pagan ceremony but establishing a rival celebration. Today the world has all but forgotten the pagan gods of Rome. But at least a billion people on planet Earth celebrate the Christ of Christmas.”

    So no big drama here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Well, if unbelievers are touched by such celebrations it makes sense and I’d agree it is a good thing to counter the world’s Christmas. There is definitely a place where you use the day merely to connect with unbelievers in a fully Christian (“non-Christmas”) environment.The problem with many celebrations by Christians on that day, however, is that it differs not much from their unbelieving counterparts and many times the pagan elements are maintained as well. Great, if one celebrates Christ in a decent manner on that day but does it really cause a triumph over the rival, more established, traditions? In my own culture it is definitely more God-glorifying (and effective) to let go of Christmas and encourage/preach an everyday commitment to Christ. Seeing that it is an extra-biblical practice as Hanegraaff notes, should we at all feel obliged to do so today stil, considering the way in which is practiced by most Christians? Trees, decorations, and other ungodly traditions, representing very disgusting practices? My point is just that if it is not absolutely effective and truly challenging the pagan ways, we should not practice anything out of the ordinary on the 25th of December, there is no need to and the practices and what it represents is an abomination to God. That is how they countered the pgan events of their time, how do we counter the pagan events of our time?
    Servaas Hofmeyr

  • Hope you have a good and restful Christmas Bill. Thanks indeed for your ministry this year, providing both vital info, vital insight and vital encouragement.
    Blessings, Mike Baimbridge

  • Thanks again Servaas

    No one knows exactly when Jesus was born, but I see no problem in picking a day to celebrate his birth. Presumably you celebrate your birthday. Yes the event can be abused and misused, but that can be true of anything worthwhile. And of course no one is forced to celebrate the day if they think it is inappropriate.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes, I think we mostly agree on the matter, I just hope to see less abuse within the church in the future and a doing away with the pagan elements and practices. On a lighter note,I am actually not to keen on celebrating my birthday but when I do, my friends don’t erect billboards of my enemies, give eachother presents and perform other strange practices, normally peformed at my enemies’ parties, in my honour for their own pleasure. I prefer to meet up with friends as often as possible and have a meal and a great laugh. We celebrate eachother where ever and whenever we feel like it. I like to take the same approach with Jesus. Anyhow, enjoy your holiday and thanks for the great service you are providing in keeping the church informed and assuring we don’t die because of a lack of knowledge. 2010 will be a big and defining year for the church and it is great to have someone like you always on the watch.
    cheers
    Servaas Hofmeyr

  • Servaas

    There are some people in Australia who agree with you and do not celebrate this pagan xmas.

    Jeremiah 10:1-5: ‘Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”

    Donna Opie, Australia

  • Dear Sevaas, The best way to counter pagan practices at Christmas these days is to keep out of the shops as much as possible and don’t tune in to the secular TV stations at all.Also try and prepare yourself spiritually for Christ’s birth by doing something constructive in Advent. It is as neccessary as preparing yourself for His death during Lent. Jesus had to be born sometime you know and there would have been no Resurrection without His birth so December is as good a time as any. As Bill says Christmas replaced the old pagan festivals with Christ’s – Mass which couldn’t be better. We are blessed to have a Philipino parish priest who has started a beautiful tradition in our church. It started in the Philipines in the Spanish era for the farmers who wanted to get up an hour earlier and go to mass for the nine days leading up to Christmas. We assist at mass just after dawn has broken – at the freshest and loveliest time of the new day which is five o clock here. We sing carols and afterwards everyone meets in the parish hall for breakfast and fellowship. No matter how many turns up and there have been a church full sometimes there is always enough food to satisfy everyone although the priest has stressed we don’t go just for the food. After the novena of masses is completed there is a great sense of achievement that one has truly prepared in the best way possible for the Birth of Christ.Our city is always crowded with holidaymakers, day trippers and shoppers who are interested only in the shopping and food aspect of Christmas which can seriously divert your attention from its true meaning. At home we also have EWTN which can be turned on at any time of day or night for beautiful Christmas devotions, talks and singing. We CAN counteract the paganism which has infiltrated Christmas if we really try. Sevaas. I hope my comments are useful and a Happy New Year to all.
    Patricia Halligan

  • Bill, many thanks for attracting so many great contributors to this sight. This demonstrates that you have a role of ‘great’ significance.
    Stan Fishley

  • Col 2:16-17 helped to free me in the area of whether or not we should celebrate Christmas: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” It’s true that Christians are grieved by the materialism of the season. Each person must follow his own conscience and we are not to judge one another in wheter we celebrate or not.
    Marj Lucas

  • Thanks Donna

    But can I respectfully submit that it is anachronistic and simply a bit silly to argue that Jeremiah was thinking about Christmas trees when he penned that passage. He was thinking about pagan idols carved from wood, and decorated with precious metals – a common practice at the time in the ancient Near East.

    And I am not aware of anyone today who bows down before their Christmas tree and worships it as a god. Sure, people worship all sorts of things which can be associated with Christmas, such as materialism, consumerism, greed and so on, but the former does not have to entail the latter.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I hope that your Christmas was full of joy and peace Bill. Your courage is great to take on such topics, your reviews are excellent and your moderation is fair but challenging. You’re such a blessing to the church in Australia.

    So what does everyone think about having Santa show up on Carols night to distribute presents to the kids? I was a bit shocked when I heard that the church I attend was doing this as I see Santa as a worldly, commercialised, and counterfeit figure not in keeping with a conservative church outreach, and was moreso when I learned that as a leader I was expected to be supportive of it. Am I over reacting?

    Garth Penglase

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