For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Of all the passages of Scripture which refer to the birth of Jesus none is so well known as Luke’s account. Some people have only heard those words through the voice of Linus in the quite wonderful A Charlie Brown Christmas (1964). Some think of Luke’s words as a quaint story not meant to be taken as the record of actual events. Others see the words as a threat; something which must be carefully expunged from any and all public settings.
Of those options, I most resonate with those who wish to silence the words from being spoken in public. Not because I agree with them, mind you. But short of believing the words, the next most appropriate response is to fear them. The account of the birth of Jesus Christ is not meant to be a warm but ultimately inconsequential story. Luke describes nothing less than the coming of the God-man into the world. He records an event which is singular in cosmic history and a mystery which rises above all other mysteries: the incarnation of the eternal God into frail human flesh.
But the mystery of incarnation is not the reason for the hostility arrayed against any public mention Luke’s words. No such hostility accompanies the reading or recitation of ancient Greek myths about gods consorting with humanity. No one worries that the tales of Hercules (born to Zeus and Alcmena) or Perseus (born to Zeus and Danae) somehow threaten to unfairly indoctrinate the unsuspecting public into the religion of the ancient Greeks. And even if folks did believe that Zeus still more or less ran things from Olympus, so what? To each his own, right?
Yet, those who claim that the account of Jesus’ birth is no more grounded in truth than that of the birth of Perseus, only tremble at the former. Why such hostility? Why such vigorous attempts to remove all public reference to the birth of Jesus?
Please don’t read my words as a campaign for civic religion. I am not pushing for the state to be the church or even the cheerleader for the church. But the reason the story told in the second chapter of Luke is treated to such intolerant opposition is because, unlike the stories of Perseus and Hercules, the story of Jesus reminds sinners of their sin. Jesus stands as a constant reminder sinners need a Savior.
Luke tells us that the birth of Jesus was heralded by a multitude of angelic beings. They did not declare merely that a child was born but that a Savior was born. They did not break open the night sky to announce that mankind had a new and better moral example to follow. They shouted out the news that the One born in Bethlehem came to make peace between God and sinners. There are only two things you can do with that truth. Either you will hate it and seek to silence it for the comfort of your sin-haunted conscience. Or, you will worship your Redeemer.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!