By Phil Harris
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
My next statement is one-hundred percent correct. Not one person who saw my headline thought to himself or herself, "Jesus Christ… who is that?" Perhaps some of you thought I was swearing. Others, no doubt, are offended that I should use the name of Jesus in such a manner. In any case, the name rings a bell for everyone.
The name Jesus is familiar in nearly every corner of the globe. For the Jews, Jesus was a Rabbi who stirred things up at a particular time in history. The Muslim's Quran speaks of Jesus as one of the great Prophets, created miraculously. Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross, but ascended to Heaven while still alive.
Christians believe Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. Then he arose from the dead and ascended to heaven. This is central to the Christian faith, because the entire reason for Jesus' coming was to defeat the consequences of sin, and eternal death. Christians believe that Jesus took the death penalty of sin upon Himself, and paid the price on our behalf.
Of course, there are people who declare themselves to be Christians, but for no significant reason other than an adherence to a social philosophy. Sort of like wearing a tee shirt, that declares an allegiance to the writings of Voltaire or Rousseau.
Other religions (including Islam) have arisen since the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All of them are forced to deal with the name and person of Jesus Christ, in order to make room for their own existence. Jehovah Witnesses declare that Jesus Christ was really Michael the Archangel prior to his birth. Upon his death, they believe that He did not return to Heaven as God the Son, but once again as Michael the Angel.
Mormons believe that Jesus was a created being: the elder brother of Lucifer (otherwise known as Satan, or the Devil). They believe that Jesus was "a god", rather than an inseparable member of the one Godhead, otherwise known as the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). They also believe Jesus was not conceived by the Holy Spirit, but that "God" had sex with Mary as a man, and conceived Jesus just as any other man would have been conceived.
Our secular or atheist brethren deal with Jesus on a sliding scale, from recognizing Him as a historical but insignificant figure, all the way to an absolute denial that there ever was such a person. I presume that agnostics could not care less, one way or the other.
Such is the name of Jesus Christ, known to billions of people throughout history. Yet once again, we see a battle raging in America, simply for the acknowledgment of the reason for the season. The same process is at work as occurs in the peripheral religions, which is to marginalize the importance of Jesus, and to dethrone Him from his identity as God the Son.
This is why I continue to speak of the religion of secular purity. There exists a burning need to cleanse the "public square" of Christ's name, even while accommodating the special needs of other beliefs, such as those held by Muslims. It is the same dynamic at work. Do you hear the howls of protest, coming from those who wail at the wall of separation between church and state?
The commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ has been observed for centuries as Christmas. There is no scriptural commandment to celebrate Christmas, but the significance of Christmas should be obvious to anyone. It roughly marks the day to remember, when God gave to us the greatest gift ever given in the history of mankind. He gave Himself as God the Son, Jesus, who would choose to die in our place. His unique blood was destined to wash our sins away then, now, and forever.
Faith is believing without the benefit of seeing. Jesus suffered and died horribly on the cross for our benefit. Believing, without seeing, should not be much of a burden to bear. The name of Jesus does not demand death for those who use it inappropriately, but offers life for those who write it upon their hearts.
As we move through the Holidays, let us love one another and share what we have with those who have less. There truly is a wonderful spirit of peace and joy in this season for the whole world, as was so beautifully set to music in George Frederic Handel's Messiah… "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."