Tuesday 21 December 2010

Truth in the Midst of People's Confusions about Christmas

I was amused by the above nativity scene that I photographed on Saturday in someone's front yard. The message of Christmas is actually quite simple, but it's amazing how people manage to distort the central meaning with a vast array of misused symbolism. Some of it is very funny, some unhelpful, some offensive, and other attempts are simply confused. The family that created the above scene was no doubt having some fun with Santa and the garden mulch, as well as representing the birth of Christ in their own way. In the process they had inadvertently (I assume) communicated one of the key truths of Christmas. While Santa Claus is irrelevant to the biblical meaning of Christmas, the nativity scene uses remarkably appropriate symbolism; for John's Gospel tells us that in the coming of Jesus, it was if God came down to earth and pitched a tent in all of our front yards. John 1:10-18 describes what happened on that first Christmas.

10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

When John wrote that Jesus ('The Word') came and 'dwelt among us' in verse 14, the Greek from which this was translated, literally God “pitched his tent”. This was an allusion to how God dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (see Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7). God's rescue plan for his rebellious people was to send his own Son into the world. The eternal and holy Son of God took on human nature and came to live amongst humanity. He came both as God and man at the same time, and in one person. While the tent in the front yard and the 'humble' representation might not match our sense of the wonder of God, in a strange way its simplicity speaks powerfully of what God did for us.

The Bible teaches that our response to God's amazing act in sending his Son into the world, is that we should acknowledge it, repent, and believe that Jesus was and is the saviour of the world.And that his death and resurrection (which we remember at Easter) is sufficient to remove the debt we owe God due to our sin and rebellion. If we do this, then we need not fear death, for God promises us eternal life as his adopted children.  As John's gospel reminds us:
12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
My prayer is that readers of this blog might grasp something new this Christmas about the story of Christ. Whether you see yourself as a Christian or are simply curious about him, I pray that you might look afresh at the teachings of the Bible and see new truth in the simplicity of the message.


Rev John Smuts gave a great sermon titled 'The Wonder I Never Saw' on this passage at Petersham Baptist Church last Sunday.  You can listen to it HERE.

A simple explanation of the Christian faith 'Two Ways Lived' HERE


Timaahy said...


You said that "the message of Christmas is actually quite simple".

What do you think the primary message of Christmas is?


Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Tim,

I thought I'd given the gist of the message but I'm sorry if it wasn't as clear as I thought. The Bible is a big book but it has one central narrative (as I've written before on this blog). It is all about God and man’s relationship to him as his creatures. It has a central narrative tracing both the history of Judaism and Christianity and God’s redemptive plan for his people.

The Bible begins with Genesis that offers an explanation in poetic form of how God created us, why he did this, who he is, and what our purpose is in being here. In the beginning God created…and it was good. But sin entered the world, man rebelled against him and as a consequence, God placed a curse upon his creation that one day would end in judgement (Revelation speaks of this as do other books in the Bible). But God always had a plan for such rebellion; a plan of redemption motivated by love. An amazing gift of grace; his own son sent into the world – God dwelling with us and ready to die for us. Jesus came as both God and man to die as a sacrifice for our sins. But three days later he was raised to life defeating sin and death. A plan that provided a just way for God’s creation to be restored to a relationship with him. Salvation is offered for those who repent of their sin and believe in him; who seek the mercy of God and in faith commit their lives to following Jesus who one day will come back to judge the living and the dead. At that time a new heaven and new earth will finally be revealed (Revelation 21).

This is the central and simple story of the Bible.

Have a great Christmas.


Bathurst Evangelical Church said...

Enjoyed this post, Trevor. Great picture and I like your interpretation.
It would look good on a Christmas Day church news sheet ... such as our church's, [with a little explanation].

Could I use it, please?

Trevor Cairney said...

I'm happy for Bathurst Evangelical Church to use the post with acknowledgement.


byron smith said...

You assume that the juxtaposition of the inverted Santa and the humble tent as a modern equivalent for a stable provides an "inadvertent" reflection upon the Christmas message. I read it as quite likely deliberate and wouldn't be surprised if this household is Christian.

Thanks for the post.

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Byron,

Nice to hear from you. Yes, good point, I did wonder if it might have been deliberate too. I hope that you're correct. It got my attention, so hopefully others driving along got the message too.