It would seem pretty obvious that when a major Christian calendar event comes around, then Christian leaders of all people should be quite happy to use that occasion to forthrightly proclaim the Christian message. But sadly great opportunities to share the gospel often go missing, and are wasted when believers for one reason or another fail to stand up for their own faith.
Another Christmas has come and gone, and so too an excellent opportunity to tell people what the Christmas message is all about. It is of course about the birth of Jesus. But why was Jesus born? Why did Jesus come? Get the answers to those right and you have the Christian gospel. Fail to properly answer those questions and you fail to communicate the gospel.
Jesus himself of course was perfectly clear as to why he came to planet earth. He left absolutely no one guessing as to his mission. He stated clearly the reason for the incarnation. Let me offer just a few of the things he and his disciples said about his coming:
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 18:37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.
1 Tim. 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 John 3:8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
That is why Jesus came and that is why we celebrate Christmas. But you wouldn’t know this if you read many of the commentaries on the meaning of Christmas by our religious leaders. Indeed, for some years now I have been tracking what they have said each Christmas in Australia’s most read newspaper, the Herald Sun.
Each year some leaders are asked to give their spin on Christmas, and each year they largely disappoint in terms of clearly articulating the gospel message. Thus for a number of years now I have been writing articles about their messages, and each year it is pretty much the same deal.
Indeed, I could simply recycle one of my older columns from a previous Christmas, and most people would not even know I was using an older piece. That is because year after year these leaders seem to think that trying to be “relevant” or trendy or cool is better than actually stating what the real gospel message is all about.
This year again in the December 24 Herald Sun, we had a Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Church leader give their commentaries. And again, the gospel basically went missing. All gave Jesus a brief mention, but none of them spoke of why unto us a saviour was born. None mentioned sin, our estrangement from God, and our desperate need for a saviour. The cross and resurrection were not mentioned at all.
Instead, it was often just more sentimental humanist mush. The Catholic spoke of love, peace and tolerance – something any New Ager or even atheist could speak about. It was your standard fare, Christmas pep talk, almost stripped of any theological content, and filled with feel-good generalisations.
The Anglican too gave us a very generic spiel about love and giving. At least he did mention that Jesus was the Messiah – without however explaining what that term means to his largely secular audience. And of course he also gave the now mandatory pitch about asylum seekers, as if they somehow encapsulate and exemplify the Christian gospel.
But not to be outdone of course was the Uniting Church leader. As always, her message was the most completely PC of the three. Indeed, it was almost entirely about the issue of asylum seekers. It would have made for a perfect political speech by a Labor or Greens MP. But it was a completely dreadful rendering of the true meaning of the Christmas message.
Equally sad was a larger piece by another Christian leader given on the page before. Here several folks offered opinion pieces on the general theme of Christmas. This leader had a great opportunity to redress the shortcomings of the other leaders on the following page, and give a clear Christian message. Yet he failed absolutely to do so.
Indeed, incredibly, Jesus Christ was never mentioned even once! Instead, this head of a charity group simply took pot-shots at the government over their refugee policy. That was the extent of his take on Christianity and Christmas: a completely PC trendy message devoted to politics. Wow.
It seems rather mind-boggling that the Christian head of a Christian charity organisation cannot bring himself to say even one word about Jesus Christ on this hugely important day of the Christian calendar. It beggars belief really. Political point-scoring seems to be more important than telling a lost and needy world about the saviour Jesus Christ.
But I of course do not mean to pick on just this one group here. Many other groups of course which had great intentions as aid or charity groups have moved away from their origins. But other commentators have also noted how various charities have shifted over the years. One English writer has just penned a piece about how so many charity groups today are getting deeply involved in politics and political lobbying, often moving away from their original aims.
As a byline in the English Telegraph newspaper says, “Charities used to channel our money to a specific ‘good’ cause. But now too many have morphed into pressure groups, writes Cristina Odone.” This is how she begins her article:
“Christmas is for giving. But to whom, and for what? I wonder if the animal lovers whose legacies sustain the RSPCA would have left their money to that charity if they had known it would be spent on a £300,000-plus court case against the Heythrop hunt? Similarly, the Amnesty International supporters, for whom the name is synonymous with campaigning to free political prisoners – do they know that their money is funding abortion-rights campaigns?
“I put money in the collecting tin now only for charities that fulfil their core mission: writers in places like Iran imprisoned because of their ‘subversive’ work (PEN) or beleaguered Christians (Aid to the Church in Need). Charities used to channel our money to a specific ‘good’ cause.
“But now too many have morphed into pressure groups that pick and choose campaigns that may be only vaguely related to their original mission. They shed the tiresome tasks of looking after the needy – whether disabled, poor, ill or abandoned. Instead, they campaign against the ‘system’, meaning, usually, they want more government spending on their cause. The only constant is that they still use our money to do so.
“I may or may not support pro-choice legislation in Ireland, or protests against ‘cuts’ in government spending. But that is political campaigning, not the charity’s business. I detect a sleight of hand: the nabobs of the charity industry raise money for good works, but spend it on the enjoyable business of lobbying.”
Christians of all people should be quite discerning as to who they are giving their hard-earned money to. As I wrote in a previous article, many of these aid groups for example will use part of your money to promote abortion around the globe. See here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/16/do-you-know-where-your-money-is-going/
And as one follow-up to that story, I recall one Christian actually telling me that he and his wife “prayed about it” and felt that they still had the full green light to give to one such group, even though it was clearly involved in some pro-death activities.
My reply to him with more evidence was met with complete silence on his part. I felt like telling him: “OK, so let me get this straight. You prayed about whether you should keep giving money to this group, even though part of it will be used for killing babies? And what exactly did God tell you in response to your prayers? Did he say, ‘Yes my son, that is just peachy. Feel free to use the money I have blessed you with to finance the death of the children I have created. No probs’?”
But with our own Christian leaders sending out confusing if not opaque messages, even at Christmas time, as to what the gospel is really all about, then no wonder so many in the pews are absolutely clueless, and can actually say with a straight face that God told them to keep subsidising baby killing.
Our leaders have an awful lot to answer for here. As do many folks in our churches.