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If you think that the average “Christmas message” doesn’t move non-believers, you’re not alone. The goal of this article is to help pastors and churches reach more.
It’s that time of year! During this season over the years, I have heard several Christmas sermons on the birth of Jesus. Now, in our Western culture that is rapidly losing its once-Christian worldview, Christians and Christian leaders need to use this time, more than ever, to challenge non-Christians. But will they give the vital message people need to hear at this time of history?
I was thrilled to be able to bring a friend who has struggled with the Christian faith for his entire life to church this Christmas season. Just before we arrived, he asked me a question that has been troubling him. I was fascinated to note that he didn’t ask about Jesus and the manger, or about the shepherds or the angels who proclaimed the birth of Jesus on earth—instead, he asked, “Why do many Christians use organ transplants to prolong their life or try to prolong the lives of their children when they’re born with problems when God has deemed it was their time to die?” He continued, “Why wouldn’t a Christian accept their death that comes from God? Shouldn’t they just accept it if they are true Christians and want to go to heaven instead of trying to survive on this earth?”
War on Christmas
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Now, why would he ask questions like that? The answer is that the culture is increasingly losing the true meaning of Christmas because the education system and the media continue to indoctrinate people to reject the Bible as absolute truth. Instead, the Christian faith and the Bible is attacked and ridiculed and condemned as a “book of stories” because so-called science has supposedly proved it cannot be true—particularly in its history in Genesis.
I’m sure my friend wasn’t expecting an answer. After all, such questions as the ones he asked have been leveled at Christians for years. (Sadly, many Christians don’t know how to answer such questions because they, like him, have not believed the true history of the world from Genesis—which explains the origin and meaning of death.)
Now, I was sure the Christmas sermon we were about to hear would be from a pastor who assumed people believed the Bible. I thought he would remind them of the babe in a manger and why He came to earth. I realized that my friend needed answers, so he would know that he could trust the Bible before he even heard the sermon. I was pleased he had asked me what was on his heart and what was obviously stopping him from considering the Christian faith.
My friend had viewed death, suffering, and dying as something God must be responsible for. He did not understand that death was an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), an intrusion due to sin. Death wasn’t something that God made and declared “
very good” in Genesis 1:31, but a result of sin. I explained that God created a perfect world, and because the first man Adam sinned, death entered the world as the punishment for sin. I had to explain that the earth was not millions of years old as he had been indoctrinated to believe, and thus there was not death, disease and bloodshed for millions of years before man’s existence.
I continued: When man sinned, God as a righteous and holy Creator had to judge sin with death. He also withdrew some of His sustaining power to cause man to experience a taste of what happens without God. Thus God is permitting things like disease, suffering, etc., to happen, but He isn’t the one to blame for this—man is. Then it was like a light bulb came on in my friend’s head. With this new view of God, the Bible started to make sense to him.
Sadly, there are many people within the church who accept the supposed millions of years, instead of the truth as given in Genesis. Because of this, they don’t have valid answers for people like my friend, but instead they would ignore his questions and relate the story of the babe in the manger in the hope my friend would start believing this seemingly irrelevant message. (See “The “god” of an Old Earth.”)
Many people struggle with accepting the truth of Jesus and the Bible because they have the wrong view of history. They, like my friend, have been indoctrinated to reject the Bible as a true account of history and the meaning of life. This is a major stumbling block for so many people believing God’s Word and being saved.
Knowing that many non-Christians view God like this and also knowing that they only set foot in church about once a year, I’m praying that Christian leaders and pastors will take advantage of this opportunity and address these issues (i.e., the relevant issues for where the culture is at today) while preaching Christmas sermons. This could make such a difference in the lives of many who have a faulty view of God, and thus challenge them concerning the truths of the Bible.
In one Christmas sermon that I already heard, the minister said, “Let’s turn in the Bible to the foundation of Christmas.” Then he said to go to Luke chapter 2. I immediately thought to myself, “That’s not the foundation of Christmas. That was the first Christmas.”
The foundation of Christmas goes back much further. It starts in the first book of the Bible—Genesis. The initial reference to the birth of Jesus is in Genesis 3:15.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (Genesis 3:15)
The prediction of the Virgin Birth of Jesus (the Seed of a woman) came immediately after Adam and Eve sinned. Though they were sentenced to die, God in His mercy gave a promise of redemption through the one who would be born of a virgin—Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Ultimately, the foundation of Christ’s birth goes back to Genesis.In fact, many references to Jesus Christ’s birth have their foundation in Genesis, such as Jesus being a descendant of Isaac (Genesis 28:13–14). Ultimately, the foundation of Christ’s birth goes back to Genesis. This is where Christmas sermons should start—particularly in a culture that has been brainwashed to believe this part of the Bible cannot possibly be true. Why would these people listen to a sermon about Bethlehem, the stable, the shepherds, and the Wise men—if they already think the Book this all comes from cannot be trusted.
Genesis is where we first learn about the bad news of Adam’s sin that allowed death to enter into the creation. In today’s culture, people continually preach the good news of Jesus but fail to teach the bad news in Genesis. This is why many don’t listen to the good news—because they fail to understand the bad news in Genesis.
We need to teach people to understand why they need Jesus before they’ll understand their need to receive Jesus. They need a proper foundation—they need to be taken back to Genesis and first of all be taught that modern science has not disproved this historical document but actually confirms it. Then they need to be taught the foundational truths of Genesis that enable one to understand what the babe in a manger is all about. To understand more about Christmas and its foundation, please see the article What Is Christmas?
Back in Genesis, the bad news of Adam’s sin was punishable by death (Genesis 2:17). Romans 6:23 confirms that the wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve sinned, so something had to die to cover that sin. This is why God killed animals to cover Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 3:21). Although we don’t know what animals were sacrificed, we have often pictured it as a lamb as a foreshadowing of the Gospel. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the final sacrifice to cover people’s sins on the Cross.
The Israelites followed this pattern by presenting sin offerings to cover their sins by sacrificing an animal life for their disobedience to God. But an animal can’t take away the sin of a man, as humans are not related to any other creature—man was made in the image of God.
But God is a God of grace. When someone rightly decrees punishment to someone for their crime, then, out of love, takes that punishment upon themselves—that’s grace—and mercy. This is why our Creator, in the person of Jesus Christ, had to come into the world—He became a human (but remained God) so He could pay the ultimate penalty for our sin.
God sentenced man to death because of our sin. He showed His love for us by exercising grace and took the punishment upon Himself. Jesus, being God, came into the world just like any other person—by being born. Yet Jesus lived a perfect life so that He could be the final sacrifice to cover all people’s sin. This is why Jesus was born and why Jesus had to die. This is why Jesus is called “
the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45)—He in effect became a “new Adam,” a “perfect Adam,” so He could die for the descendants of Adam and offer them a free gift of salvation.
The Bible says the greatest act of love is when one lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The God of the Bible displays this kind of love.
Beside Genesis 3:15, Isaiah also predicted that a virgin would bear a child and this would be a sign.
Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:13–14)
These prophecies were manifested in Mary, a virgin. She delivered a baby boy who was called Immanuel—meaning “God with us.” For more on the virgin birth, please take some time to read Is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary a Biblical View?
Besides, Joseph couldn’t be the father of Jesus! The genealogy of Joseph in Matthew 1:1–16 yields that Jeconiah (variation of Jehoiachin) was a direct ancestor of Joseph.
Why is this significant? Please read the curse given to Jehoiachin from Jeremiah:
Thus says the Lord: “. . . For none of his [Jehoiachin’s] descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:30)
Jesus, sitting forever on the throne of David, could not have been Jehoiachin’s descendant since no descendant of Jeconiah, and thus no descendant of Joseph, could inherit the throne of David. Therefore, Mary had to be a virgin. Isaiah confirms that Jesus will reign on the throne of David.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)
How many wise men were there? We simply don’t know; we just know there was more than one and that they brought three gifts. (See We Three Kings for more information.) The passage in Matthew 2:1–11 make it clear that these Magi traveled from the east following a star that led them to Israel. (See What Was the Christmas Star?)
These wise men were searching for the Christ, the promised Messiah. From the account of the wise men, they were from the “east.” This is likely Persia but possibly the orient. The fact that men came from such a vast distance to honor the baby Jesus with gifts give a powerful testimony to the history related in Genesis and the faith of these men.
How could men that far off have known about a promised Messiah? When people groups were scattered from the Tower of Babel, they went to all parts of the earth. Their descendants continued migrating until people were living on six continents (see Flood Legends). Also at the time of Solomon information about God was disseminated to many parts of the world.
The “east” was no exception. The Chinese, for instance, have records of the Genesis account and the message of Christ written in the symbols of their language. They even have records indicating that they were to sacrifice animals to the one true God who was the Creator and the one who rescued man during a huge flood. Please see The Original ‘Unknown’ God of China.
This confirms that people from the east knew much of the biblical account at some point after the Tower of Babel. While many lost this precious information in the east, we know that some still retained it—the wise men (perhaps even through Daniel’s influence in Persia). These men from Persia or beyond were no doubt wise. Unlike many of their contemporaries who had lost the history in the Bible, they knew that Jesus was coming. This confirmation of biblical history and trust in the Scriptures is a testimony of the accuracy of the biblical account and the Tower of Babel.
Many in today’s culture have also lost the true history in the Bible. They have accepted the history of “millions of years” and, just like the contemporaries of the wise men, have failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
The entrance of Jesus into the world was fascinating! Fulfilling prophecy, having gifts brought from afar, having local shepherd men honor Him, having a king attempt to assassinate Him (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16–18) and fleeing to Egypt in the middle of the night (Matthew 2:13–15) were a few signs that hint at the importance of this child.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
God, the Son, left His sanctuary to be made lesser in the form of a human. He left behind heavenly perfection to live as one of us. This child restored the broken relationship, due to Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, between man and God.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
Jesus came to earth at a very significant point in earth history too. Let’s consider the past and get the big picture of this significance. Please see the diagram below:
In Genesis when Adam and Eve were the only people on earth, 100 percent of the people believed and trusted in God. As time progressed people stopped believing and trusting in God.
In Genesis at the time of Noah, his family was the only ones on earth that still believed and trusted in God. So the percentage was rather low considering the population had continued to grow.
After God sent the Flood, Noah and his family members were the only ones on earth, so the percentage was again nearly 100 percent of people believing and trusting in God.
As time progressed, God kept calling the Israelites back to Him. Ultimately, though, as the population of the earth regrew, the overall percentage began to drop. Just before the birth of Jesus the bulk of the world’s people were not believing or trusting in God. The diagram above illustrates this general principle.
Even the Pharisees, Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus, were not trusting in God but following traditions and not what God was actually saying in the Bible—otherwise they would have been expecting the Messiah.
The wise men knew, and John the Baptist, who prepared many in Israel for Jesus, knew. This is still a very low percentage of people believing and trusting in God when Jesus was born. Jesus came when few believed and trusted in God.
When Jesus came to earth it was a low point in earth history, so His timing was very significant, but the mission was completed perfectly and we now have the opportunity to return to God as a free gift in Jesus Christ.
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
According to Archbishop Ussher, Christ was born around 4 BC. What day was Jesus born? We don’t know nor does Scripture reveal this date. So the date selected as Christmas (December 25 by the Gregorian calendar) was probably not the date Jesus was born (see The Origin of Christmas). The issue though isn’t about the actual date but about taking time to remember Christ’s entrance into the world.
There are criticisms from skeptics and criticisms from Christians. Please take some time to read The “Defense of Christmas” for more on this subject.
Some people have even suggested to me that Christmas is evil and we shouldn’t partake in it. What follows is my personal view, not an official AiG position, but I note the Bible says the following:
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)
If we give thanks and honor God (Ephesians 5:15–21) on a day that is already His, then how can Christmas day be evil?
Some have reminded me that the day Christmas is celebrated was born out of a Roman pagan holiday. Then I remind them that we should honor and celebrate God on every day of the year. Why should we, as Christians, refuse to celebrate God on this day? We can serve God on any day and at any time. In fact the Bible encourages this:
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore. (Psalm 86:12)
“Forevermore,” includes the day we celebrate Christmas.
Some have reminded me of the decorated trees in Jeremiah 10:1–6. Then I remind them that it wasn’t the tree that was sin but the hearts of those who used them to honor false gods. If they had done it to honor God then the outcome would have been different.
If someone honors God with a decorated tree (as opposed to false gods) then how can it be sinful?
Some have reminded me that Christ never told people to honor His birth with a holiday. I remind them that Christ never forbade it either. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not here to force anyone to celebrate Christmas. But there is no reason to forbid anyone from honoring God on this day by remembering the birth of Jesus.
For Christian leaders, pastors, and anyone else honoring God in a special way during this holiday season, please remember that:
It is a time for us to answer the questions that non-Christians are asking when they come to church this holiday season. Please visit our Answers section to be prepared to answer the questions people need to hear.
Any Christmas message, whether Christmas sermons, in everyday conversation, and so on, needs to explain to people who don’t know God the bad news in Genesis as well as the good news in the Gospels so that they too can understand and prayerfully enjoy the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Please take some time to read the Good News.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on December 6, 2013.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.