I am old enough to remember the early broadcasts by CBS of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS’ which began in 1965. It has been a beloved part of our culture for the past 50 years. In the special’s climatic scene Linus relieves Charlie Brown of his anxiety over the over-commercialization of Christmas by reciting a passage from the Gospel of Luke, reminding him of the true meaning of Christmas: Luke 2:10–15 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; (11) for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (12) “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (13) And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, (14) “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (15) When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened.”
This past week students from W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County, Kentucky were forbidden from using Linus’ speech in their production of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. School Principal Jeff Cochran censored Linus’s lines from the production even though there was protest by parents and students in favor of it. To get around the censure, the characters paused during the scene while the audience went ahead a recited the passage themselves. Did it do any good or was it just an archaic battle in the perceived “war on Christmas?” Is it really worth the effort in stirring up controversy? Christians vary in their opinion.
Maybe those trying to remove the traditional Christian perspective of Christmas understand the provocative danger of the message of Christ more than some Christians. Herod did and had all the babies killed two years old and under trying to stop what God was bringing in the earth through Jesus (Mt 2:16).
Danger in the Manger
When Jesus was born the shepherds and wise men came to see Him. The thing that compelled them to come wasn’t just to see a cute baby. When they came they brought gifts and fell down and worshiped. This awesome thing had been announced to them by angels.
The part of the passage, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men” makes most Christmas cards because who would have a problem with that? The second part “with whom He is pleased” usually doesn’t, yet it defines something that is part of the issue. Other translations render it in a similar way: NEB “on earth His peace for men on whom His favor rest.” Living “and peace on earth for all those pleasing Him.”
The pleasing of God and the favor/peace that rest on people has to do with their posture towards Jesus.
Luke goes on to mention the account of Simeon seeing Jesus and blessing Him and His parents. He makes statements that reveals the dividing line reguarding the peace He brings in Jesus.
Luke 2:25-35 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon…. (33) And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. (34) And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed– (35) and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
This definitely doesn’t make the Christmas Cards. Simeon prophesied that there is something about Jesus coming that illicit s opposition and a sword that pierces souls. I remember hearing a message years ago titled, “Danger in the Manger.” We don’t often think about the coming of Jesus in that way. We don’t see the manger as a dangerous place, only a harmless place.
Jesus coming wasn’t just about God sending a cute baby into the world. God was sending His only solution to the problem of sin and His judgment that is upon all mankind. His coming into the earth will bring reconciliation, peace, and favor to those who receive His only solution, Jesus. For those who don’t it will ensure separation and opposition.
Jesus understood His radical nature and spoke about it clearly. Luke 12:51-53, Matthew 10:34-37 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; (36) and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. (37) “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
There is an element of division that comes as Jesus is revealed in the earth. Not everyone wants to receive God’s only solution in the way He desires. That is why the angels included the phrase, “peace on earth for all who are pleasing Him.” Pleasing God is in the posture of receiving eagerly His only solution to the problem of sin and judgment that separates people from God. For others who trust themselves, their own logic, or who don’t want “any god” to get in their way, Jesus is a “sign to be opposed.” Instead of peace they will receive a sword that separates. To them He is the stone of stumbling, the rock of offense, but for those who believe in and receive Him there is not disappointment only peace and rejoicing at His wonder birth!
Rom 9:33 just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
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