The Irony of Christmas in an Increasingly Anti-Christian Culture
Whether Jesus Christ was born on December 25th or from mid-September through October, perhaps even on the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) as some Bible scholars propose, doesn’t really matter. The Son of God and God the Son came into this world on Christmas Day.
According to God’s prophet, Messiah would be born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Mary was that virgin, and Jesus was that child.
The prophet Micah pinpointed the exact place of Messiah’s birth—Bethlehem Ephrathah—for there were two towns in Israel named Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Yet Micah’s stunning prophecy encompassed more than just the place of Messiah’s birth and his divine origin from the ancient past. It also foretold of Messiah’s people, the Jews, returning to Israel even before their exile to Babylon and long before their second exile to the four corners of the earth in 70 A.D.
“But you O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth. Then at last his fellow countrymen will return from exile to their own land (which began to take place in great numbers in 1948). And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace…” (Micah 5:2-5a, parenthesis mine).
Micah’s prophecy was sweeping in scope, from the time of Messiah Jesus’s birth to his Millennial Reign on earth, which is soon to come. When that happens, “Then the remnant left in Israel will take their place among the nations” (Verse 7). That remnant is already taking shape in our generation.
Has the name of Jesus, which the Scriptures say is the name of above all names, been “highly honored around the world?” Yes, but not like he will be revered upon his majestic return to the earth.
And, also no, as the name of Jesus Christ has been scorned more and more in our generation, as have believers who bear his name.
According to Messiah Jesus, there would be a time just before the (last days) Day of the Lord—set into motion by the imminent Rapture—when true believers in Christ, “…will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other… Sin will be rampant everywhere and the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:9-12).
Reliable statistics tell us that more Christians have been deprived of property and jobs, imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or forced to flee their homes in the 20th & 21st centuries than in all preceding centuries combined including the 1st century. This unparalleled brutality has been noticeable (documented) in at least 50 countries such as North Korea, China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria; and in several Middle East Muslim nations like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
Although not (yet) in the form of physical cruelty, we’ve seen an alarming surge of anti-Christian legislation and hostility in our halls of government, our schools and universities, the military, and private businesses in the United States of America … supposedly the greatest sanctuary of liberty and individual rights on this planet.
Wrote the Jewish Apostle Paul: “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (II Timothy 3:1-5).
Scoffing at God … nothing is sacred … loving pleasure rather than God.
Many unwittingly and some deliberately are preparing the way for a New Age; an utopian era that will nevertheless be established and led by an (the) Anti-Christ who, “…will have no respect … for any other god, for he will boast that he is greater than them all” (Daniel 11:37). He will satisfy their desire to, “…break their chains … and free ourselves from slavery to God” (Psalm 2:3).
They will embrace to the point of worship, “This man (who) will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them” (II Thessalonians 2:9-10).
The opposite of truth is untruth (lies).
“And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist” (I John 2:22).
This spirit of antichrist is facilitating the reappearance of The Antichrist (Nero). Among other things, it has begun to suppress and swap the true spirit of Christmas. Our humanistic, relativistic society has redefined Christmas, and relegated the Christ of Christmas to what is considered an irrelevant distant past.
Is the Christ of Christmas Relevant Any Longer?
Beginning some 50 years ago and accelerating in the last decade, nowhere are these prophetic end-times’ characteristics more exemplified than in the decline of the real meaning of and purpose for celebrating Christmas. Individuals, groups, businesses, and entire (so-called) Christian nations all over the globe are trivializing and even removing Christ from Christmas, both passively and actively.
Which, if you think about it, is preposterously perplexing. No different than saying that George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays have no relevancy to President’s Day in February. Or that the 4th of July Declaration of Independence has nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of a nation … the United States of America.
(Memorial Day: Should We Not Even Give A Passing Thought to the Brave Men and Women Who Died or Were Disabled While Serving the USA?)
What if your parents and other loved ones ignored the “you” of your birthday?
Here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article, Merry Christmas … What’s It All About? Posted 12-20-14 (in italics, with non-italic words italicized in that article):
Historical figures, nations, and events other than Christ Jesus and Christmas have their own recognized anniversaries. Does anyone demand that observance of these special occasions be religiously generalized and socially or politically expanded to embrace other religious or national figures or events, so as not to be inclusive of just one person? So as not to offend those of other faiths or ideological persuasions?
Even an ordinary birthday or event merits the minimum consideration of that day belonging to an individual or a city or a nation and, therefore, acknowledged as such. What would you think if I refused to wish you a Happy Birthday because I didn’t want to offend someone else who wasn’t born on the same day, and who didn’t share the same enthusiasm for your birthday? Or who believed differently from you, or belonged to another race, or was left-handed? Ridiculous? Of course. It’s your special day. So Happy Birthday already! I mean that sincerely … unless it’s not your birthday!
Might we be more politically correct never to say Happy Thanksgiving? After all, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is much closer to Thanksgiving than it is to Christmas. Shouldn’t it be: Happy Thanksramadan?!
Perhaps we should no longer wish someone a Happy Valentine’s Day in case they take an exception to anyone who has a Saint in front of their name? It is Saint Valentine isn’t it? Might we say, “Happy Heart Day” or “Merry Chocolate?”
…It isn’t whether we use the word happy or merry. It’s that word, Christmas that causes all the fuss.
More than that: it’s the name Christ that gets so many people all up tight. That’s right … all it takes is a mention of his name. That is, unless it’s used as profanity … no problem then.
Why? Because His name is who he is (Yeshua in Hebrew, Jesus in Greek/English, both mean Savior), and a lot of folks just can’t handle that. They don’t want or need a Savior. Certainly not one who claims that he is the Son of God, that he alone is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life” (John 14:6). How exclusively narrow-minded can anyone be? The fact that he was born of a Virgin, performed amazing miracles, and then arose from the dead to validate his claim as Messiah who alone can redeem, can forgive sin; is an affront to those who maintain that self-enabled good works and innate self-worth is the only way to God.
…No other holiday causes anything close to the angst experienced and consternation expressed by the secular among us or those of another religion who take offense at hearing the very name of Jesus or even a special representation of his name—Christmas. What relevance does the birth of a Savior (no man-made religions have a Savior … did you know that?) any longer have to the last holiday of the year? In fact, the very name of Christ and Christmas is an embarrassment to many. It’s just not politically correct.
A Hallmark Christmas
Hallmark Cards is one of the largest corporations in the world. From this greeting card giant came the Hallmark Television Channel in 2001, having begun as the American Christian Television System in 1984; then changing to the Faith & Values Channel in 1993 and the Odyssey Network in 1996.
According to Wikipedia: “The Hallmark Channel is an American cable and satellite television network that is owned by Crown Media Holdings, which is owned by Hallmark Cards. The channel’s programming is primarily targeted at families, and features a mix of television movies and miniseries, original and acquired television series, and lifestyle programs. As of February, 2015, Hallmark Channel is available to approximately 85,439,000 pay television households (73.4% of households with television) in the United States.”
Subsequently the network created Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, a separate channel dedicated almost exclusively to movies especially Christmas films (shown year around), with the newest sister channel debuting just this year … Hallmark Drama.
For women between the ages of 25-54, the Hallmark Channel was the most watched network during the 4th quarter of 2016. Included in Hallmark’s archives are 136 Christmas films produced since the movie channel’s inception. With 33 new Christmas movies aired in a marathon that began in October, 2017 and continuing as this week’s Eye of Prophecy article is being posted.
According to Crown Media’s CEO Bill Abbott, summarizing Hallmark’s underlying philosophy and objectives especially through movies: “We are a place you can go and feel good.”
Although Hallmark is becoming progressively secularized (in contrast to its early beginning of Christian-oriented programming), it still purports to convey the virtues of family and faith.
But faith in what? In whom?
Faith in “feeling good.” Or faith in “the spirit of Christmas.” That phrase or something similar is emphasized in the majority of Hallmark’s Christmas movies, and is often the passionate pursuit of one or more of the characters; no matter what that spirit of Christmas means to them, as long as they find it. I say this first-hand, as I have watched about 15 of these movies over the past year. And in the four to five years before that, perhaps 7-8 Hallmark Christmas movies. I would assume they’re a cross-section representation of all their Christmas films.
So, what is the spirit of Christmas?
Is it just to feel good for a few days at the end of every year? Not that there’s anything wrong with feeling good. Unless it becomes an obsessive goal in life at all cost. A relentless quest to feel good, no matter the repercussions, can sometimes result in others feeling bad (hurting them). Particularly when such a pursuit excludes the very source of what is absolutely good and right and true and eternal—God who created us and who has given us so great (good) a salvation through His Son, Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong. The intent of today’s article is not to bash Hallmark Christmas movies; in general terms, they have improved considerably in the last 2-3 years (personal opinion). Especially with their scripts—as a writer, I appreciate and look for a well-written screen-play—with the acting, and with the plot. There is more substance and depth to (some of the) recent Hallmark movies, Christmas or otherwise.
However, Hallmark Christmas films have become so secularized (politically correct) that rarely do they mention the name of Jesus or Christ. And certainly not Jesus Christ in the same breath. Seldom do we hear the hallowed Christmas hymns and carols, excepting an occasional Joy to the World or Silent Night. But they are replete with secular Christmas songs that convey the sights of Frosty the Snowman, smells of Chestnuts Roasting by the Fire, and sounds of Jingle Bells.
What does the true meaning of Christmas—the real significance of the Savior’s birth—have to do with children getting their two front teeth at Christmas, or a reindeer running over grandma, or wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas (for only a hippopotamus will do)? For sure, these images are cute, warm, and fuzzy (except for poor grandma) and probably would make even the Grinch feel good about himself and others.
(If Ebenezer Scrooge Had Only Watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, I’m Sure He Would Have Changed His Ways Long Before Seeing the Ghosts of Christmas Past!)
And, would Christmas be Christmas without Santa Claus? I’ll let you answer that question for yourself. But remember, Santa Claus believes in Christmas! Which begs another question: Could Christmas survive without Santa?
Invariably, the “spirit of Christmas” entails one of the main characters in a Hallmark movie discovering the “meaning of Christmas” that they never knew or had lost somewhere along the way. That true meaning is normally found by someone who has been down on Christmas because of business, or family, or personal setbacks. Or meeting and falling in love with someone who loves Christmas for any number of feel good reasons. Or believing again or for the first time in the “miracles of Christmas.”
With the miracles unfolding in various ways such as: mysteriously arranging or reuniting the paths of star-crossed lovers; resolving otherwise irreconcilable disputes of family members or friends; or getting an impossible career promotion … all worthy of successful conflict-resolution storylines. Yet, omitting the very miracle of Christmas itself—the Virgin Birth of the child Jesus. And never mentioning the miracle of his Resurrection as the triumphant conclusion to why Jesus was born in the first place—to sacrifice his life for the sins of humanity, and to establish the everlasting Kingdom of God on earth in his Second Coming.
Hallmark Movies in a Broader Perspective
As indicated, this week’s article is not about denigrating Hallmark Christmas movies. To do so would be to focus on a symptom, not cause and origin. The problem is much more pervasive than a few secular-stained Christmas movies. In fact, I personally like some of the (more) recent Hallmark productions. Who doesn’t like a good story with a happy ending? It’s just that these stories are wrapped in disguise of the real Christmas spirit, discarding the Christ of Christmas who was gift-wrapped for us in God’s amazing grace.
One of my favorites is, Journey Back to Christmas (2016), starring Candace Cameron Bure, Oliver Hudson, and Tom Skerritt. Yet, even that Christmas miracle is based on a “Christmas comet” which mysteriously strikes Bure; catapulting her into the future where she encounters first, second, and third family generations of those she met during World War I. And then is reunited with her husband thought to be killed in the war, when the comet returns (now 71 years later) and transports her back to the present. The movie was skillfully written, produced, directed, and acted … one that will tug at the strings of your heart.
Obviously the primary purpose of a movie is entertainment. As a Christian, I certainly can and will remember the real reason why I love and honor Christmas, without Hallmark Christmas movies affecting that reverence for the birth of Christ, whether in a positive or negative way. There are two reason why I have watched more Christmas movies in the past few years: (1) For the entertainment, enhanced even more with a narrative that emphasizes morality and Judeo/Christian ethics. (2) To see what’s happening with and in those movies concerning the real meaning of Christmas.
Unfortunately, what I have noticed is that—unintentionally or intentionally (I would hope the former)—the portrayal of Christmas has tainted the message and purpose of Christmas itself. By and large, the movies present a (vague) “spirit of Christmas” as an end unto itself, without any need for the Christ of Christmas. Which is equivalent to redefining, or at the very least minimizing, what the spirit of Christmas is really all about.
The undermining end result is that the media’s “spirit of Christmas” is competing with and even contradicting the Christ of Christmas. Which is, sadly, a representation and repetitive reinforcement of what’s happening in America and all over the world in two ways, and not just at Christmas time: (1) an intense agnostic style attack on Christianity and the authority of the Bible as the Word of God; with increasing antagonism toward “born-again Christians” who have a personal relationship with the One Person who exclusively claims to be the Way, Truth, and Life, thereby, the ONLY way to God. (2) Or, a superficial show of religion—acting religious but denying the real power and authority of God by refusing to consider Christ as the exclusive source of salvation.
I think we would all agree on one thing: the immense influence of the entertainment media and also that of literature and journalism in our daily and seasonal lives. They reflect, but also restructure society’s attitudes, preferences, morality, and belief systems.
On the plus side, there are three things that Christmas movies and Christmas specials contain. All three of which are a bona fide reason to celebrate this joyous time of the year.
They are: (1) Lights/decorations; (2) Giving and receiving of presents; (3) Harmony and togetherness of family.
However, on the minus side: all three in our post-modern society are conspicuously empty of the real reason for the season—Christ Jesus himself.
*Note: Despite the modern-day emphasis of Christmas without Christ, there is still a sense of awe over the entire earth that something very special happened 2000 years ago. As for me, I never get tired of the Good News: from beginning to end—the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and soon to be glorious return of the greatest man to ever walk the earth.
“For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” (I Timothy 2:5-6).
And when was that time? Might it have been Christmas Day!
The Honored Tradition of Christmas Lights
Beginning with an incidental what if: What would we call Christmas trees, or Christmas lights, or Christmas presents, or the holiday (Holy Day) itself if we deleted the name of Christ? Silly question … perhaps. Actually, many have devised an answer to those questions: Holiday trees, lights, and presents. If so, then are we really celebrating Christmas as Christmas?
The problem with that mentality is that we should then call all of our holidays by no other name than holiday. So New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Resurrection Day (Easter), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving should be dropped. Instead, we would number the holidays chronologically on the calendar and designate them as Holiday #1, #2, #3, and so on!
What do Christmas lights represent? I trust that you know the answer to that question; however, there are some who don’t. Or don’t want to know. Or, worse … don’t care.
Jesus the Christ (we just say Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus the Messiah) bears many wonderful names and titles, signifying who he is and what he has done for mankind. Such as:
He is the Good Sheppard and the Gate for the sheep … all of us who have been saved by believing and receiving him, the one who sacrificed his life for the sheep (John 10:7 & 11).
He is the Lord of all lords and King of all kings, who will soon return in power and great glory (Revelation 17:14 & Matthew 24:30).
He is the Living Word of God, who existed from the beginning with God for he is God the Son the second Person of the Trinity. Jesus himself said he is “I AM” … Yahweh, the Holy Name of God (John 1:1 & John 8:58).
And, in keeping with today’s theme: “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life’” (John 8:12).
Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Such as: “…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined” (Matthew 4:16, quoting Isaiah 42:6: “…And you will be a light to guide the nations”).
When Christ first set foot in the rebuilt Temple, after God’s presence (glory) left Solomon’s Temple that was subsequently destroyed, he accomplished—temporarily, with final fulfillment upon his glorious return—another prophecy of the Messiah:
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
Why else do we put up lights at Christmas time? The beautiful lights of Christmas illustrate the magnificent light of salvation that illuminates our minds and hearts through Messiah Jesus when we personally trust him for our salvation. Christmas lights brighten our homes and communities.
The Giving and Receiving of Presents
Can you think of anything about Christmas more treasured than the giving of gifts, then the receiving of those gifts by our loved ones? Especially the children. To watch their eyes light up as they brim with excitement, and eagerly unwrap their package. To listen to their squeals of delight or shouts of joy when they see what you have given them. To cherish their gratitude, “It’s what I’ve always wanted. Thank you Mom!” Or, “Thank you, Dad. You remembered.” Or a husband to his wife, “It’s not what I expected. It’s even better. I love you, honey.”
Christmas without lights and also without giving is like the 4th of July without fireworks. Or like Thanksgiving Day without giving thanks. Even if your only gift is wishing someone a Merry Christmas, it is as they say, “the thought that counts.” If all you can do is to revere the very reason for the season and whisper a prayer of gratitude, then that’s a sacrifice of (thanks) giving to God (Psalm 50:14).
Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? It is cherishing the greatest gift of all time. Born fully human and fully God; Christ freely gave his life to purchase our redemption, a complete pardon for all of our sins.
There are no conditions, except to simply accept that gift by believing and receiving Christ as our personal Savior. Do you know of anyone who receives a Christmas gift and then says, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t earn this gift. I can’t accept it.”
No one can do enough or be enough or even give enough to earn redemption. For it is Christ who willingly paid the price, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
“So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21, italics for emphasis).
The time-honored celebration of Christmas reminds us of the brightest light to ever shine on this dark and dreary planet—Messiah Jesus. His light was snuffed out through the greatest sacrifice ever made by the highest price ever paid. But in three days, his glory shone brighter than ever; the resurrected Christ now seated at the right hand of the Father, awaiting the appointed time to return and make all things right in this wicked world. To brilliantly light up the world with righteousness, justice, and peace.
No matter the size of your immediate family or extended family or even if you are alone this Christmas and limited to calls or emails or Christmas cards; Christmas is for family, including a family of one. If all we do is pray for our loved ones, that is still the best gift of all.
Even if your parents or children have “disowned you” you are still a member of their family. Once born on this earth you can’t be unborn, no matter what you do or what is done to you.
So, too, with the family of God. Once you are born again, you cannot be unborn. You are an adopted child in God’s family with all the rights of God’s magnificent inheritance for his children.
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God’” (John 3:3).
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Writes the Jewish Apostle Paul:
“God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him” (Ephesians 1:12-14).
Things to Ponder
Whether you put up Christmas lights or not, whether you give or receive a single present or not, whether you are with immediate or extended family or are all alone. The gift of God’s salvation shines as bright as ever, and gives birth in God’s family for simply believing and receiving God’s gracious gift of His Son. That is what Christmas (or any time of the year) is all about.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every true believer on earth and maybe even some unbelievers would open their Bible or at least get online and read one, two, or all of the following Christmas passages … the Greatest Story ever told. A story that began long before Jesus was born, one for cause to pause and ponder the core of Christmas.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
To Joseph, the angel said: “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
To Mary, the angel said: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33).
To the shepherds guarding their sheep that night an angel suddenly appeared and said: “…Don’t be afraid … I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11).
He came to us as the light of the world, the greatest gift ever given … his precious blood and life for our sins. To give us the awesome privilege of birth in the family of God that leads to everlasting life.
Christ Jesus is the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room…
“For God so loved the world…” (Go ahead, finish the verse)
It’s all about JESUS!