Last year I went to visit a well-known seminary. It was a wonderful evening. The camaraderie at the dinner table was effusive and delightful, the food was of superb quality and the president’s speech was exemplary of the scholarly prestige that he holds among his colleagues. Driving home I kept asking myself what was missing from this wonderful evening. As I reviewed the speech I concluded that this seminary president has left our any reference to Jesus Christ. This meeting was not an ecumenical meeting where I am used to the avoidance of Christ’s name – this was a gathering of Christians!
Then the Christmas letters started to come in. I was surprised to see how many cards and letters written by my Christian friends are pretty tepid about the real celebration of Christmas. Generalizing on the idea, it seems that the wider the social circle of my friends it, the less often Christ appears in their cards and letters.
This week, a big surprise happened in Europe. The European Union published a calendar for all of their schools and managed to leave all of the Christian holidays out. It is hard to believe that this group of educators, who were careful to include all the Jewish, Moslem, and Sikh holidays, had instant amnesia when it came to Christian holidays. For the past ten years, there has been a battle going on in Europe to leave out any mention of Christianity or Christ from public documents. It is sad that Europe, which was so crucial to the spread of Christianity on a global scale, has allowed the leading intellectuals to empty its history of anything of Christian significance.
What is more puzzling to me is to see Christians who have created this real or imaginary world that will be offended by Jesus Christ. There are Christians who have created the image of uber sensitive atheists, agnostics, pagans and any religion that one can think off. You mention the name of Jesus Christ and their psyche has been jolted and their friendship and respect towards you have evaporated. In one of the debates between Christopher Hitchens, the great new atheist, and Dinesh D’Souza, the Christian apologist, Hitchens mentioned that one of the reasons he likes to debate D’Souza is the fact that he is one of the few Christians who intellectually and passionately believes in Christianity!
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossian Church in a passage that can be interpreted as an extended Christmas story, says: He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. (Col.1:15-17). Reading this epistle and others, one can see the supreme importance of Jesus Christ in the creation scheme and in the redemptive scheme. The New Testament and the message of the church is always Christ focused or Christo-centric.
Christ knew about this embarrassment that some people have about Him. In the Gospel of Mark, we read, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). For that reason, Paul writes, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:1,16).