by Scott Smith
Recently, I ran across some notes I made several years ago in the days following Christmas. I’m not sure what inspired all my scrawling, but I had over a page of ‘notes to self’ as well as questions I jotted down for later research. That “later research” turned out to be done in 2012. Already being in the mindset of reading the Bible properly and with Christmas so close, I remembered my notes and dug them out. After a lot of my own careful reading of the firsthand Christmas accounts as well as reviewing a number of writings by experts on related topics, I came up with the following. This is a long post, but there’s really no way around that. I did my best to summarize the high points below while still doing them justice. I have listed a number of references if you want to do continued study on the topic. Also, feel free to leave me a note in the comments if you would like any clarifications or additional sources.
Also, in the years since I initially posted this, whether on blogs or after a public presentation of the talk, on Facebook or in person, I’ve run into a number of questions and objections. Some of my responses have been added to the Challenges section of the TCA Apologetics website, and I’m sure I’ll continue to add more. So feel free to poke around the site, or just ask a question in the comments. This is a new topic for most, so having questions is understandable!
I’m not trying to destroy your traditions, decorations, or carols. My goal is as always to encourage you to think critically and read the Bible properly so we are able to “rightly handle the word of truth”1, and “not be (…) carried about by every wind of doctrine”2 . In addition, there are aspects of the Christmas story that are routinely attacked by skeptics. We would do well to defend that which is defensible and willingly dismiss tradition and mythology. In other words – choose wisely which hill you are willing to die on.
Here’s another way to think through this: “What would a person with absolutely no exposure to the gospel conclude from their observations of what goes on at Christmas?” I don’t just mean the consumerism, or the fat man in the red suit. I’m talking about what they would see in the average Christian church or home. Think about that next time you look at a nativity scene. Consider their likely takeaway as contrasted with the message that I believe the Bible leaves us. Keep this question in the back of your mind as we go through these issues and see which you think leaves an unbeliever with a more helpful picture of the gospel…
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