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Religion

Unpopular Christmas

By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted December 27, 2013

EDGEFIELD – Christmas is a polarizing event. Each year there is talk of a war on Christmas. Each year there are more nativity scenes taken down, sacred carols banned, and even some corporations that ban employees from saying “Merry Christmas.”  And while I am not in favor of all this, it does not get me all upset. To me, the opposition to Christmas by those who do not worship Jesus is Biblical.

Think about it, Jesus says very clearly in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Jesus says because I was born, I have divided all people into two categories going toward two different paths.  This is a big statement; one Jesus knew would be wildly unpopular.
 
Furthermore Jesus said very clearly in Matthew 10:24-25 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  (25)  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” He also made it clear on the night before he went to the cross as He gave a kind of farewell addresses to his disciples in John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  (19) If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
 
In both these verses there appears to be given a correlation in that the closer one is to Jesus, the more animosity one will draw from the world. We are clearly seeing this unfold in the whole “Duck Dynasty” affair of the past few days.  I am not a prophet of doom, but a prophet of love. But I have heard for years that the day would come when simply believing what the Bible says about salvation (exclusive in Christ to all who believe) and morality (right and wrong defined by Scripture) would be considered hate speech.  These days are not yet here, but we all know “tolerance” is a joke when any disagreement with establishment ideals is put down.
 
Christians have lost any favored political or social status that might have once been enjoyed in our nation. To say that you are a Christian in coming days will mean something. I am not glad to see Christianity on the apparent decline, but there can be much good to come out of it. You see, I do not fear for the health of the church. Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  The church is going nowhere. Hard times make a church strong; the reason why the church in America has become weak is because there has been no opposition. Like a muscle that is not used the church has greatly atrophied.
 
I for one applaud the coming death of social religion. Social religion is the idea that one merely speaks of religion or holds some set of ideals and can be right with God apart from a life altering relationship with Jesus. The pressure that will be placed on people will cause them to no longer merely claim to be Christian, as to do so will mean rejection or scorn from others. Nominal (in name only) Christianity is what makes Jesus vomit in Revelation 3:15-17 “'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  (16)  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”  He says this to a church that has lost identity of being focused on Jesus!

So, what do we learn from all of this about Christmas? God is not afraid of being unpopular. The events of Christmas are absolutely scandalous. Think about it, it begins with an unwed teenage girl who is engaged and claiming God as the father. Her fiancé, Joseph, is forced to believe her or put her away to public scorn. He does receive angelic confirmation, but this does not lessen the humiliation. Nazareth was a backwoods place, but they could count to nine.  The people would have either thought Mary had been unfaithful to him or they both had been unfaithful to God and had sex before marriage. As many know in this small town of Edgefield, scandal does not die easily. People would have flocked to judge and put down this young couple.

Joseph knew this, but he chose Jesus. His kissed his reputation good bye, to kiss the Son of God that he held in his arms.  We, as believers, must be willing to do the same.  You can protest on Facebook and boycott whatever you wish, but the world is not going to like you.  That is fine, Jesus said in Luke 6:22-23  "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  (23)  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

In fact, when the world does like us we should be worried. A few verses later in Luke 6:26 Jesus says "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” So what should we do when find ourselves as Christians out of public favor and mocked and belittled as closed minded bigots? Jesus addressed that as well in Luke 6:27-28  (27)  "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  (28)  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

So, the marginalization of Christians will most likely continue. But will you continue? Will you continue in faith when to do so means you are the oddball? Will you stand for what is right when no one else does?  Jesus also addressed this scenario in Matthew 13:20-21 “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  (21)  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”
 
Don’t forget the words of Psalm 118:6 “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Also “Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”
Have a great Christmas, enjoy it, stand strong in the faith, relax, and pray for those who oppose Jesus that they would see His acceptance of them and experience His life changing love of them. 

Pastor Phillip



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