I’m still mulling over Sinclair Ferguson’s article Should Christians Abandon Christmas? because I believe there is a more serious danger in his reasoning than in the issues he addresses in the article.
One of his main points is that if a church ignores Christmas, then pastors might not ever get around to the Christmas story. He writes:
But ask the question the other way round. When churches “ignore” Christmas, how much preaching and teaching are they likely to receive on the incarnation? Somewhere between four and twelve messages? I doubt it. Such non-scientific investigation of preachers I have done indicates that, in fact, by and large, the incarnation will be ignored. Is that a more biblical approach?
I don’t buy either of one of his premises. First, I don’t accept the incarnation as Christmas. It’s not. What Christmas has become, what it truly is, not what they say it is supposed to be, but what it truly is, has nothing to do with the incarnation. Christmas has nothing to do with being a Christian. It has nothing to do with spiritual maturity. It tends to be a carnal celebration that focuses on the lights, the sounds, the smells, family traditions, and the accumulation of material goods.
A friend wrote me this past week and asked me to listen to a recent sermon by her pastor. I typically only go to one place to listen to sermons, SermonAudio.com* because most sermons today are more inspirational chats from a qualified life coach and rarely resemble the preaching of God’s word. (Just the fact that pastors are referred to as life coaches and team members at all, shows us the desperate state of the church).
The reason my friend wanted me to listen is because at about minute 43, the man complained about suffering from making the Bible an idol. I know what he meant, but it really disturbed my friend. There are some times when we revere the Bible so much that we exalt it above the God it exalts. I have no reason to believe that this is a major sin in the church, given that most don’t even open their Bibles. But that is another post.
“It is legitimate to speak of “receiving grace,” and sometimes (although I am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misusing language) we speak of the preaching of the Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as “means of grace.” That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — “Christ clothed in the gospel,” as Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself….Grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a Christian’s life. So while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.” – Sinclair Ferguson