Christmas: Sentimentality or Reality

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When I first became convinced that Christianity was true at the age of 17, I had many intellectual questions that required honest answers. Here are a few. Why does God allow suffering? Who am I? What does it look like to live a truly human and meaningful life? What happens when you die? The most striking question that emerged, though, was, “Who is God and if He exists, how can you find him and know him?” This quest for answers took me to the very heart of Christianity. “Who is Jesus?” “Is he really who Christians claim he was/is?” “Did he claim to be God?” “What basis do we have for viewing him as an utterly unique human being?” 

The following quote is from John Stott.

The most striking feature of the teaching of Jesus is that he was constantly talking about himself. It is true that he spoke much about the fatherhood of God and the kingdom of God. But then he added that he was the Father's 'Son', and that he had come to inaugurate the kingdom. Entry into the kingdom depended on men's response to him. He even did not hesitate to call the kingdom of God 'my kingdom'.

This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. They were self-effacing. He was self-advancing. They pointed men away from themselves saying, 'That is the truth, so far as I perceive it; follow that' Jesus said, 'I am the truth, follow me.' The founder of none of the ethnic religions ever dared to say such a thing. The personal pronoun forces itself repeatedly on our attention as we read his words. For example:

'I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’

'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'

'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die/

'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.'

'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me....'

 The most remarkable feature of all this self-centered teaching is that it was uttered by one who insisted on humility in others. He rebuked his disciples for their self-seeking and was wearied by their desire to be great.

Basic Christianity pp. 23,25 by John R.W. Stott

As I pondered the central aspect of the Christian faith, Jesus, I began to become more convinced that Jesus was the Christ promised all throughout the Old Testament. He truly was the Son of God who came to save sinners like me.

This Christmas, as with every Christmas, there is much to focus upon. All of them are good, too; family, generosity in gift giving, peace, love, and hope to name a few. I would not argue for the opposite of these, but if Jesus is not who he claimed to be, Christmas is simply an exercise in wish fulfillment and sentimentality.

But if Jesus is who he claimed to be, then it changes everything.

Below are some helpful books you might want to read if you are seeking to make sense of Christmas and the person of Jesus.

The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, F.F. Bruce
Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
Basic Christianity, John Stott
Who is Jesus, Michael Green
Reason for God, Timothy Keller

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.